Strike That–eBay Sellers Protest Unfair New Policies

 

Monday marked the beginning of an unusual protest. eBay sellers are on strike.

The recent announcement of upcoming changes to eBay fees, feedback, and searches came on the heels of a year fraught with seller dissatisfaction, and has proved to be the proverbial last straw.

As a seller of my original art in eBay’s art community, I’ve watched these events unfold. eBay has a strong advantage in name recognition, customer base, and format, as well as a sense of community among sellers. However, much like participants in an unhealthy relationship, these sellers have stood by the auction site through the years, forgiving frustrating changes time and again. The fact is, the percentage of sales on eBay usually outweigh those on other sites. So sellers stay.

But with a resounding call of “eBay is not fun anymore,” buyers and sellers alike are leaving the auction site in droves. And from February 18-25, many sellers are striking in protest.

Beginning February 20, changes will be made to eBay’s fees, feedback system, and search functionality, among other things. While changes in fees and PayPal payment policy are sources of frustration, the majority of complaints are centered around the auction site’s newly discriminatory attitude towards sellers.

Written in the Stars

Feedback and searches are two areas which will be altered under the new rules. Previously, both buyers and sellers were ranked by the same feedback rating system. Participants in a transaction would leave positive, neutral, or negative feedback, together with a short description of the transaction. It was the same on both sides. eBay members relied upon a person’s feedback rating and descriptions—buyers placed confidence in a seller’s good feedback, while sellers felt reassured in seeing good feedback in a buyer. By the same token, negative and neutral feedback and dissatisfied descriptions were cautionary flags to anyone.

Under the new system, “Buyers will only be able to receive positive Feedback.” However, Sellers will still be able to receive negative and neutral feedback. In addition, a star rating system has been added to the seller’s feedback page. After leaving feedback for a transaction, buyers are asked to go a step further and rate the seller with one to five stars in four categories. What isn’t made immediately clear is that “4 out of 5” is considered “low” and adversely affects a seller’s overall record.

The stars will be tied to search engine rankings. Whereas before the eBay search default sorted items by “ending soonest,” results will now be listed according to sellers’ star ratings.

I encourage measures to help the shopper feel safe and comfortable. I spend a great deal of my own time trying to do just that, through clear listings, one-on-one communication, prompt shipping, and customer service. I’m a buyer as well as a seller. I understand what it’s like to pay hard-earned money to a stranger and hope you get what you pay for.

But I take offense at discrimination.

The new rating system places an unfair emphasis on sellers. People are people on both sides of a transaction. There are honest sellers and stellar buyers. But at the same time there are also dishonest people on either side. Under the new policy, sellers are at an increased risk of theft. With no fear of negative feedback, a dishonest buyer could say they never received the item in the mail, and request a refund from eBay. Fearing negative feedback and damage to search engine rankings, a seller may be inclined to issue the refund without complaint, and chalk up the item as a loss.

Fraud of this nature has happened many times before—except now, without the veil of protection from equal feedback, the potential for a seller’s risk is increased.

Where Else?

The eBay home page sports a new tag line: “Where else but eBay?” Apparently that’s not a rhetorical question, and eBay has taken it upon themselves to answer it.

While sellers are working hard to keep their stars from being tarnished, the search ranking they’re aiming for actually cuts into their potential for profit.

eBay search result pages now carry ads for other, off-site retailers.

How does a seller in eBay Motors feel when they find an ad for Toyota.com on the eBay Motors search results page? Or someone selling a lamp, who has to contend with a banner ad for LampsPlus.com above their listing? Why buy a video, when an ad encourages you to rent it from Netflix—with a free trial? How about the person trying to sell their iPhone. What goes through their mind when they see an off-site ad for the Apple Store?

Hmm….”Only $399 Free shipping” from the Apple Store itself, or $400 plus shipping from some person I don’t know.

What would you choose?

Following the “About” link near the ads opens a window that states:
“We think these relevant AdChoice ads will personalize and improve your eBay experience.” For a second, maybe, until I click one and wind up off-eBay.

Here’s an example. My sister is a 19-year-old photographer. While she pursues her college studies, she’s also trying to get a head start on her career by selling her original, limited edition photo prints in an eBay Store.

Say I’m a buyer. I have a wall I want to decorate. I decide I want photography. I enter “photographic print” in eBay’s search bar. This page comes up:

But before I hardly have a chance to see what’s there, I notice an ad for JC Penney’s Home Sale. That makes me suddenly remember I have an email discount from Penney’s. So I click on the ad, enter “photographic print” in their search bar, and here I am.

And an aspiring photographer paid her fees for nothing.

I have to tell you, that doesn’t “improve my eBay experience” in the least.

What’s more, this is in direct opposition to eBay’s own links policy:

“Non-permitted links include, but are not limited to: Links to websites or pages that offer to trade, sell or purchase goods or services outside of eBay.”

Like JC Penney?

“This policy promotes a more level playing field by ensuring sellers do not link inappropriately thereby creating a disadvantage to those sellers who link appropriately.”
(http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/listing-links.html)

Every seller I know agonizes over links, making sure they fit within eBay’s listing policies. They “link appropriately.” Yet eBay itself undermines the “level playing field” by linking to off-site retailers.

It gives the impression that eBay is happy to collect sellers’ fees, then turn around and sell buyers to other vendors for additional money. Ouch. That’s not fair. And we pay fees for what, exactly?

Tangled Website

The workings of the eBay site have become convoluted and perplexing. The problems with the new policies are not just going to go away. Many good sellers will leave. New, short-term friends aren’t going to stick around very long to play. How is that a way to strengthen a business?

Why would anyone stay?

Before, I’ve had many reasons—chief among them being the market visibility, customer base, and community atmosphere of eBay.

But that’s actually a good question. Why stay with eBay after all, when other opportunities are growing stronger and looking better? With options like Etsy.com, Amazon.com, and Onlineauction.com, what reasons do sellers have to stay with eBay?

I wonder how many sellers are asking themselves that very question right now:

“Where else but eBay?”

…And then answering it.

 

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34 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well no wonder the sellers are on strike!
    This is unfair advertising.
    Does Ebay not realise they are hurting their own sellers??

  2. […] Original post by mousewords […]

  3. […] Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine blogs wrote an interesting post today on Strike ThatâeBay Sellers Protest Unfair New PoliciesHere’s a quick excerptHow about the person trying to sell their iPhone. What goes through their mind when they see an off-site ad for the Apple Store? […]

  4. WOW! Thank you, for this AWESOME blog. You have clarified things, so well! I didn’t know about the strike, but I only have one listing up, that went up before the 18th. I won’t list again, until after the 26…if I stay at all. I have an Etsy store that needs more attention. I think I’ll focus on that, later this week. I’m also at ArtByUs, where you can list art for FREE. It’s a nice site and if more artists would go there, we’d have a better chance at exposure.

    Lots to think about. Thanks for turning our heads!

    Bettina

  5. YOU ROCK!

    PERFECT article – I will share the linky to here!

    find me on ETSY
    same ID everywhere: blueyeduckstudios

    joyfully,
    katey-D
    Psalm 46

  6. Excellent article and examples!!

    Where else do we go?

    It’s a HARD task to take on the BIG guy… but artandcraftauctions.com is giving it a go!

    http://artandcraftauctions.com

    Anyone reading this article – come give it a look. At least we can TRY to take on the big E!

    Applause Christine!

  7. This is an incredible article. You need to have this published far and wide. I am going to link it from my blog. A standing ovation to you, Christine!

  8. It’s a timeless story, as close to a Shakespearean tragedy as capitalism can provide: the hubris of a perceived monopoly. The only thing surprising is our surprise. In a few years, we’ll be reminiscing about eBay as the Microsoft of auction sites. Google, you’re next.

  9. Wow, Christine. Wonderfully written. I’d love to link this article in my blog. Could I?

  10. I agree with 99% of what you said. Except the feedback. The feedback system needed overhauling. I learned the hard hard way not to leave justified negative feedack for sellers that I bought from. When I was honest, they turned around and left negative feedback for me. So, I learned to just keep it all to myself. I ended up with 9 or 10 negatives over the years and I seem to have only hurt myself by being honest. And, the other day I wanted to buy some mailers and a man who stills sells on Ebay had 83 negatives. Didn’t seem to make any difference on his auctions. Oh yes, and if you want to try to get feedback removed—–well—that will cost you 35.00 and the other person may STILL not remove it, even for retaliatory feedback. So, I think that the buyer not receiving feedback will mean more honesty. The rest of what they are doing is bad. I fled there over a year ago as a seller and went to Etsy.

  11. One of the best write ups I have read regarding the issues.

  12. Well said from an unhappy eBay seller!

    Chris

  13. WOW, Christine!!!… Amazing article!!🙂
    I agree with Bettina… you have made the issues crystal clear!

    I had hoped to sell more as a Self-Representing Artist on Ebay; but with their recent policy changes, I have decided to relocate to a new “art home” on Etsy.

    THANK YOU for speaking out so clearly for fellow artists on Ebay!!🙂

    In Friendship,
    Patti

    PHOLKART*BLESSINGS
    Etsy:http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5629901
    CafePress: http://www.cafepress.com/pholkart

  14. The banner ad thing doesn’t bother me. But the search engine thing does. That definitely gives an unfair advantage to sellers with higher feedback scores (and in turn sellers who do a lot of business on eBay). I sell things on eBay fairly sporadically, and I’m sure I’ll try it again once the new terms are in place. But if I’m not satisfied with the results, I guess I’ll just post things on Craigslist instead. At least Craigslist is free.

  15. ArtandCraftAuctions will never be the big “E” but for Living artists trying to make a Living with their art it is definitely the place to start. There are a lot of categories that eBay has scorned over the years and lets both artists and craftsmen show off their work without emptying their pockets with BIG fees. Come on over and take a look.
    I’m definitely SOLD!

  16. Christine… you did a great job on the article. Nice work!

  17. Well done, I have wondered what all the fuss was about… after all the fees have always increased. But this really puts the problems out in front where we can all see and understand what the changes mean. I have been very interested in the “Art and Craft Auctions” site as it specialises in art (and craft) sales. I will be investigating this amongs others in the coming days and weeks.

  18. Ebay is ALMOST as political as the government at this point! Make things perfect for the top sellers and take away from the ‘little guy’ trying to eke out a living…

    http://artandcraftauctions.com

    was born out of the efforts of ONE PERSON WITH A VISION and the input of MANY with the same dream!

    Works for me!

  19. I don’t use eBay anymore. It used to be a place for people to buy and sell their used stuff. Now it’s extremely difficult to find a listing from some random guy or girl, it’s all just online businesses run through eBay. I’m just looking for Joe Smith’s used widget, not Sav-U discount widget eBay store.

    At this point I don’t even bother trying to sell anything my disgust is so great.

    I like the new feedback rules where sellers can’t leave feedback for buyers. Oftentimes I have felt obliged to leave a lousy seller good feedback despite a poor transaction for fear of retaliation. As someone who buys and sells, leaving bad feedback for someone will cause you to get bad feedback, potentially seriously damaging your overall sales.

    The ads from sites like JC Penny and such are completely ridiculous.

    Also, I’ve found that the overall price for most things on eBay I’ve looked at is just as much or more than on Amazon.com.

    I’m extremely disappointed with what eBay has become. It’s not about the little guy anymore. They don’t get any of my business, buying or selling these days.

  20. Great article (as I knew it would be)
    I have since migrated all of my art over to ioffer and have already made a sale. I am hoping that I will never have to go back to ebay. I made some really great friends, found my best friend (that would be you), and have had some fantastic experiences over at ebay. I guess with all things good though, it was time to move on. I am so happy that you brought all of this information to others’ attention and explained it so thoroughly. Nothing mousey about your words lol Fine job!!!

  21. Interesting. I didn’t even know about the offsite ads; that just further confirms it for me that eBay is no longer a seller-friendly site.

    What is making me leave eBay as a seller, though, is the no-negative-feedback-for-buyers rule, as well as the Paypal-can-hold-MY-money-hostage-for-21-days rule. Oh, and I am REQUIRED to offer Paypal as an option, because I have fewer than 100 feedbacks. Um… no. Buh-bye, eBay. You used to be cool, but you got greedy and shafted all the little guys who made you. And you just made extortion a lot easier for unscrupulous buyers and unethical competitors.

    I am lucky, though, in that I don’t need eBay in order to pay my mortgage or buy groceries. I feel terrible for the people who rely on it, who have built their livelihoods around it. Paying the bills just became a bit more precarious for them.

  22. Thanks for not minding that I referenced your blog post:)
    It’s a great one!
    Take care and good luck with your art.

  23. Excellent summary of the situation with eBay. Being an occasional seller myself, the changes bother me. I hope eBay takes note of the sellers’ response and tries to make the system fair to all parties involved in the auctioning system.

  24. Brilliant article, mousewords! I’m so glad I clicked through to it to read it – I’ve been out of the picture for a few weeks with RL stuff and completely confused by all the kerfuffle when I reappeared – you’ve made it all plain. Great writing!

    I dunno what I’m going to do about it, though, just as I was getting totally geared up with cards, coasters, keyrings etc etc etc Cripes. I’m already at etsy – http://www.susanalisonart.etsy.com and cafepress – http://www.cafepress.com/susanalisonart – but it was definitely ebay that made me see that I could make a living at it – which I need to do.

    Aroo. Aroo. As Monty and Rosie would say. Aroo!

  25. As a small-scale seller with 100% positive feedback and DSR ratings of 4.8 – 4.9 I don’t think I have anything to fear from the feedback changes. In fact I should be getting something from this, But I have had 90 sales in the last YEAR , not over 100 in one month, so I get nothing; in fact I will be worse off. Ebay will drive away people like me, and buyers will not have the variety and choice that they do now. It is not only sellers who will lose out, and this should be more widely known.

  26. Now write an article about the cramp in my side that Paypal is causing by witholding my money for 21 days!! (or until they get tracking confirmation) No money in my PP account means No money for postage means No tracking number. Now I have to find a way to make money WITHOUT using Paypal so I can send the darn thing!

  27. Excellent job writing! I also buy and sell on ebay, and I too am looking for new avenues. I was not aware of the strike, but I will definately join. Thanks. Melicia E

  28. Well said, Christine, well said!!! You rock m’dear🙂

    I put my eBay store on vacation in support of the strike/boycott and have been migrating some of my art over to Etsy. annran.etsy.com

    Thanks for a great blog post li’l mouse!

  29. I think the addition of outsider ads is horrible but …

    It’s way past time for somebody – ebay – to do something about sellers who do a poor job then give negative feedback if the buyer complains.
    There have been several times lately I left NO feedback because I knew if I’d left the feedback the seller deserved then I’d get negative feedback. Lousy seller.

    I think the solution is to give the seller 24-72 hours after receipt of payment to leave feedback. Or to require sellers to leave feedback before the buyer does. In other words, the seller can not leave feedback once the buyer does.
    Or, the seller cannot leave feedback if the buyer leaves negative feedback.

    I’ve been a seller and a buyer and have received three negatives (out of 280), all as a seller and all three from crappy buyers. But – as a seller I left positive feedback as soon as I knew the seller had received the item. I asked buyers to email me on receipt to let me know they were happy with the item. If so, I left positive feedback.
    If I’d waited til I got the buyer’s feedback I could have left them negatives, but I didn’t. That’s just the way it is.
    Sellers should not be able to leave negative feedback just because a buyer does.

    There’s my $0.02

    chip

  30. I’d just like to say how much I appreciate hearing all the different perspectives on the subject! And I’m grateful for the buyer’s take on the issue.

    The thing is, honest sellers feel exactly the same way as honest buyers. They live in dread of being cheated and burned with bad feedback.

    The system is flawed–there needs to be a better way to ensure equality and fairness. People are people–good and bad, on both sides.

  31. You write wonderfully, mouse! Always eloquent, informative and interesting. Thank you.

  32. […] Here’s another oldie but goodie from the drafts folder, if anything more pertinent now that Miss Moneypenny is trying to sell herself as, can you believe it, guberantorial material. Read it and try not to weep. Hell, maybe she is just what the Golden State needs to keep us operating—hello, not. Mousewords writes, “eBay Sellers Protest Unfair New Policies” […]

  33. ebay is unfair, there evil an cruel to sellers

  34. ebay is the devil


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