eBay Everywhere: Overheard on a train

Tonight, on the train home. I sit down next to a man I don’t know, who’s already jabbering away on his mobile telephone to someone else I don’t know, about things that don’t interest me. Then something piques my interest. I pause my iPod and listen in. And remember, I only have one side of this conversation. But it went like this:

– Didn’t you know I’m working for eBay now?
– Yeah, X months now.
– It’s fucked.
– Maybe a year ago. But it’s fucked now.
– Total lost cause.
– I’m a Senior Manager, XXXX . Yeah, dealing with XXX.
– They had me in for 13 interviews.
– Yeah. Fucking ridiculous.
– Fucking stupid.
– Haven’t got a clue.
– The Managing Director’s an idiot.

X = details I have edited to protect the indiscreet.

12 thoughts on “eBay Everywhere: Overheard on a train”

  1. If it were any other company than eBay, I’d say “meh, everyone always thinks senior management are idiots”. But eBay seem to be much better than average at making their employees like them. Or they used to be.

  2. I know a manager at Accenture who used to sit at client sites in an office with thin walls next to a competitor. He Learned a lot.

    I know people at Accenture who got fired for that kind of indiscretion.

    Anyway, expect a full update with names at next vzaar team meet.

  3. Adrian,

    On quite a serious level, I’m an eBay shareholder (I have two, and they’re worth nearly a third of what they were when I bought them – I’m good at this stocks and shares shit, I should work for Lehmans). And I was hardly covert. I was quite obviously listening in. It doesn’t inspire confidence in a corp when your own staff slag you: leave that to the press.

    I’m fascinated by corporate espionage, as explored in Joel Bakan’s The Corporation. One great tactic was to to pose as a head hunter: what people reveal in interviews would appear to be astonishing.

  4. Interesting Dan,

    Your experience coincides with numerous reports of high level and low level defections from the eBay campus in San Jose. I discussed the pressure managemnt is placing on the IT department with these fast & furious untested changes over the last year in an article about the new FP30 format on the Trading Assistant Journal here: http://snurl.com/3rtsx

    I wouldnt be surprised to hear the kind of conversation you did, even in California.

  5. Scott,

    A certain level of disaffection is normal and expected. But when I think back to the days when eBay was riding high, there was a genuine buzz and excitement about what eBay was doing: I for one was really, really proud to be part of something that was genuinely changing the world (yup, it felt that).

    It makes me really sad to hear this sort of diagnosis from staff. And more than that, I’m really concerned that eBay may be burning out. That would be bad.

  6. Pingback: “eBay - the stuff Dilbert cartoons are made of” : TameBay : eBay news blog and forum

  7. Sad to say Dan, and I’m being completely honest that this gives me no pleasure if it seems like gloating, but your report and some of the readers’ comments tones are exactly the type of posting that got me banned from the eBay forums.

    OK, maybe I was indiscreet by going head-to-head with the Head of Trust and Safety in the (non-public) PowerSeller forum – shouldn’t have provoked and antagonised me, should he? – but as he is someone who seems to claim the sole ownership of being blunt in forums, he got what he gave.

    What is more interesting (and pertinent to your post) is that since then, more and more eBay buyers and sellers have posted in eBay forums, more bluntly and more aggressively than I ever did – without being banned, and without my ban being revoked (it’s 17 months now, and I’m told it’s lifetime). Even on the TameBay blog, Sue has been as incisively critical as I used to be in the PS forum, but she’s not banned.

    The culmination is that last night, I called PS Support (from Thailand to UK) to discuss an unrelated matter, and was told that as my (correct) registered address is not in the UK, I’m not entitled to any support (email or phone) from either standard CS or PS Support, then they hung up on me.

    I then called back and spoke to a PS Rep called Alexander who assisted me with the current query, but did reiterate that no further support would be forthcoming in future – because my registered address is outside the UK. He also told me that this new policy will remain unpublished, and undiscussed in forums.

    For weeks now, every communication from eBay has been telling me to return my registered address to my UK address, stating that as a UK-registered, non-resident user, I am NOT entitled to the Seller Performance FVF discounts – even if I were to have a flawless DSR-set and account record. I have constantly told them “no way am I changing my address back – that’s entrapment to get me under the incorrect contact details policy, and therefore totally ban me from the site”.

    The whole reason i changed it in the first place was because eBay told me I had to under the Item Location Abuse policy introduced 3-4 years back. Now they want me to return it to a UK address – just how many policy breaches are they trying to create by doing that?

    Nearly six years as a UK-registered seller, four as a PS, over 12,000 invoices issued, and they think I’m dumber than the chairs they sit on.

    Do I agree with the person you overheard?

    Absolutely, in spades, and with bells on.

    eBay UK (far, far more than any other eBay site) has gone to hell in a hand basket.


  8. Hmm. Frankly, unbelievable. To be clear, I’m not saying I don’t believe you, but I am saying the guy’s clearly a massive pillock and shouldn’t have got the job in the first place.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, despite only having a 2.5 year eBay stint under my belt, that watching it go from 4m to 15m users (in my time there) was massively cool and inspirational, so impossible not to be effusive and positive about the business then.

    But, forget the eBay up / down / whatever – anyone who blabs like that on the phone about any business (let alone a quoted business) is not drinking any kind of cool aid and needs to find himself another job asap.

    eBay is still a huge power for small businesses and sole traders – if he doesn’t like it, he should just leave. I’m not saying there are or aren’t issues with the bay; frankly, I don’t really know or think it’s that relevant here. My comment is more general (sorry, eBay-focused folk) – it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and talk trash and throw stones, but rather harder to actually step up and do it. Either way, talking trash on the train is just totally unclassy. He’s the train-riding equivalent of a keyboard hero. Reminds me of that scene in glengarry glen ross with alec baldwin:

    “You wanna work here – close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? You don’t like it, leave.”

    Not my management style (or eBay’s) , but point is logical. You know what you’re getting into. We’re paying you. If you don’t like it. Fine. Leave. Don’t whinge about it on the train, you fucking prat, then take the money from the MD you slagged off. That’s just idiotic and makes you look like a tit.

    Sorry, but I feel strongly about this stuff. What a total idiot.
    Blind loyalty is wrong. Bigging yourself up by slagging off your employer to give yourself a swagger in front of strangers on the train is, frankly, pathetic.

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