Letters to the Editor: The end of eBay Live auctions

How will the end of eBay Live Auctions affect your buying?

Since former eBay CEO Meg Whitman stepped down and new management took over, there has been a host of well-publicized changes at the online auction giant. Changes in fee structure, limits on selling "digital" items and now, the latest, was an announcement from the company that it will, by the end of the year, end its "Live Auction" affiliations.
 
What does this mean? Exactly what it sounds like. No longer will eBay be partnering with brick and mortar auction houses, both big and small, to broadcast auctions live over its interface. This will surely have some smaller houses shaking a little bit, and the bigger ones not so much. EBay has also stated that the live auction segment is not too big a part of its business, thus the end of the experiment. What exactly does "not too big" mean? To a juggernaut like eBay, probably $100M or so … Pocket change, really.

The question this week for AT readers is this, then: How much have you used the eBay Live Auctions feature, and will this change affect your online auction buying?

Reader responses to the question of the week:

Editor:

It appears that no stones are being unturned in our global economic situation.

I just read the article about eBay Live auctions and I’m very disappointed. My experience with this venue has been more on the seller side than on the buyer’s side. While I have participated in both segments, I have sold more than I have purchased. Personally, I had an eBay Live auction of my personal collections, and one of a nice estate that required a three-day sale.

As in the case of any auctions, there are always a few items that fall through the cracks. However, because of eBay Live, I realized prices on many items that were incomprehensible. Nothing on a grand scale, but many items that should have brought $200-300 sold for $1800-$2200, etc. Several of these types of sales can change the course of many an auction.

Personally, I feel that eBay brings many "serious" buyers to the table that would normally shop there anyway, due to the magnitude of categories. As a rule, eBay Live weeds out much of the "stuff" and adds a level of prestige to the sales.

Once again, the progress and the direction of Corporate America prevails!

Best regards,
John Sauls
Tyler, TX


Editor:

You guys keep reporting on this stuff like we all have a choice in anything eBay does.

When are you going to wake up and smell the coffee? We who eBay for a living, after the death of regular auctions, flea markets and shows, have no choice.

It’s either eBay or nothing. Believe me, I’ve been a doll dealer for 31 years. There is no more making a living from auction houses, flea markets or doll shows. EBay has a monopoly and they set the rules, they make the laws. Either give in to its illegal price setting or you lose your account.

Not too long ago someone emailed us about starting a boycott on eBay. This person did not live in the real world. EBay is (like) a dealer and we are all addicts, like slaves. We have no choice. None!

Paul David
31 Years a Dealer


Editor:

It is indeed unfortunate that eBay decided to end its Live Auction experiment. There is no question that many buyers have come to enjoy the easy, true worldwide search ability that eBay offers and, of course, the thrill of the hunt itself. The hunt will now become more rewarding for those who prepare for the end of eBay Live Auctions in December.

If one wants to stay on the cutting edge of acquisition, now is time to get on the mailing lists of those licensed Auctioneers now selling on eBay Live and who will continue to present true, estate fresh antiques to the marketplace long after eBay Live has left the arena. Estate Auctions will continue; you have to make it easier for yourself to find them.

EBay won’t tell you where the business has gone. Stay in touch with those houses. Visit eBay Live today and garner all the contact information you can, and plan stay in touch.

Many auctions have and will be developing their own Live Auction software and the sales will continue. Don’t be left out, get on those mailing lists today!

I personally feel very fortunate to have met so many great people from so many different parts of the world through eBay Live.

Thanks eBay!

Jeffrey A. Burchard
President, Burchard Galleries Inc.
St. Petersburg, FL


Editor:

Never used it… I refuse to pay a buyers premium! I wish people would get smart and not participate in these auctions live or online!

They would not exist if they were not attended. The buyer should never be charged a fee to buy, and I’m both a buyer and a seller!

Cricket Lapins


Editor:

We are a small specialty auction offering antique clocks in two auctions every year.

I was actually pleased that eBay has made the decision to withdraw from the live auction segment.

We have had an Internet presence since 1995 and offered goods through standard eBay listings since 1996, just to get our name out there.

When I signed up with eBay live 5 years ago, I imagined a lot of additional customers and instead I got a lot of additional headaches, most from small beginning collectors who chose not to honor their bidding commitments, and other sad comments from customers who said they "clicked" their mouse, but their bid was not received by our clerk. Still others claimed they never received our invoice, since it went into their "Bulk Mail" folder.

This change will allow us to use either "in-house" bidding software, or to link up with one of the several Internet bidding companies that specialize in this service and are proud of both their quality customer base, and quick tech service if you need it.

The bottom line is, we are glad to leave the broad public segment behind and concentrate on our core of serious collectors.

I’m sure not everyone will agree, but that’s why you asked, right?

Sincerely,
Bob Schmitt
Windham, NH


Editor:

This will have a double impact on the buyer and the sellers who consider selling through the many auction houses.

I would be very hesitant to put things up for auction at any auction house after the live eBay connect has been severed because most of the bids are coming through the Internet.

I have sat in enough auctions with live eBay to know this is where the action is. How else can a collector in Spain bid at auction? Even the big auction houses don’t have enough phones for everyone…

Things will be cheaper for the people in the audience, but the lower price realized will keep people from consigning. It is indeed a serious problem!

Best regards,
Anne Timpson
Dealer for 45 years.


Editor:

I have never used the feature and could give a rat’s behind if it goes away.

Sheila Field


Editor:

I think the point is: The end of eBay Live impacts dealer’s selling.

I’ve found that local auctions posting items on eBay Live is an inducement to consign, and those consignments have the potential to fetch more when simultaneously posted on eBay.

Ending eBay Live is the equivalent of ending phone bidding at such auctions. I think this is a major marketing setback for all involved. EBay’s partnership with the brick and mortar auction houses has been beneficial for eBay, the auction houses, the consignors, and the online buyers.

Online auctions have been a growing trend, so I’m sure another company will seize the opportunity to pick up where eBay is leaving off. Perhaps eBay is forgetting that its sellers are their customers, and the sellers should be rewarded – not discarded – for making it the giant it is today.

Sincerely,

Chris Smith
Christopher Smith Fine Art


Editor:

We have already started using other sites.

Sometimes we go directly to the auction house.

Deborah Smith and Carole Lambert
Altadena, CA


Editor:

The end of eBay Live Auctions will not affect me at all.

I did participate in a couple of Live Auctions. I buy for resale, and with the high shipping fee plus commission to auction house, the cost was way too high.

There is an auction house in my hometown that claims that if it wasn’t for the Live Auctions, it wouldn’t make it in the auction world. Those are the people I feel sorry for, as now they will probably have to close down their business.

Carol O’Hara


Editor:

They’re not ending this at eBay because it wasn’t sufficiently profitable, or because it was too small a part of the business. It’s because the system was inefficient, with plenty of lost or delayed bids, plenty of errors by auctioneers, and trouble with eBay connections, and thousands of complaints of every imaginable kind. 

Everyone will still be able to bid on all the same lots at all the same auction houses, but the bids will be entered as absentee bids and not made as live bids. Most persons who were very serious about buying a lot already knew they needed to make an absentee bid instead of relying on the fallible system to bid live. So the change doesn’t amount to such a big deal.

Mike G. Price
Michigan Center, MI


Editor:

I have used this feature twice and could care less if I do it again. The prices they get are way out of line, then you have to pay a 20% premium, etc.etc. I’ll be happy to see it go.

Barbara Johnston


Editor:

I personally think it about time to stop the online Auctions.

I have never bought anything from one of these auction houses, because the ones I have looked at have horrible feedback. From some of the negatives I have read, I wonder why anyone would buy from them. When you have more than one to three percent negative feedback (and we’re talking 150 to almost 300), you have no business selling on eBay at all.

I know there are some regular sellers who have similar track records, but they are generating so much revenue that eBay just looks the other way. Anyway, the end of these online auctions won’t affect my buying, as I wouldn’t use them in the first place.

Sincerely,
Ed Pailer
Kansas City, MO


Editor:

I have used eBay Live, but switched a few years ago for the most part. I owned an antique store, which I just closed. I wanted unusual and fine items and use live online auctions for select items.

Diane Sibille


Editor:

I have been delighted to find eBay Live Auctions, and to shop some of the best auctions all over the country.

I have bought a lot; I have actually spent too much money. I don’t have the time to travel for such goods. It has been perfect for me, and given me the opportunity to own some things I never could have. My buys from the New Orleans Gallery in February were even mentioned in your pages. Now I won’t have this cornucopia of goods available.

I think this is very sad. Is there somewhere I can express an opinion and protest this? (Though protesting with eBay is a joke.)

Lyn Rogers


Editor:

I’m glad to see eBay Live cease. From the perspective of an online bidder, there always seemed to be a “disconnect” between the auction house real time and eBay published end times. We found it to be frustrating and stopped using eBay Live entirely. We have continued to bid online with eBay.

I hope that the smaller auction houses will find a way to continue offering auction items over the Internet.

Thank you,
Stephanie Melrose


Editor:

I really regret this change by eBay. For the last three years I have used eBay’s Live Auction now to make numerous major purchases from some of the best auction houses around the country.

I collect and buy American art pottery at the auction houses that handle the higher quality and rarer pieces, which bring top dollar. The live auction process gave me access to these sales without traveling around the country. I have probably spent as much on “live auction” purchases as I have on all other eBay purchases, since the items purchased there were higher priced than the typical eBay offering.

I was already disenchanted with eBay since many of the recent changes have taken a lot of the “fun” out of the online bidding process. This additional change means I must look for an alternative means of accessing the pottery that I am interested in. Surely something will emerge.

Glenn Ducote
Baton Rouge, LA


Editor:

Ending eBay live auctions will not affect me much at all for a number of reasons. Live auctions have exorbitant buyers premiums, and even more for the online buyer. The shipping fees are sky high, and the item descriptions are very poor, or nonexistent.

The communication skills are also quite lacking. Caveat emptor needs to be especially heeded when buying in this fashion. I’ve bought a few antiques via eBay live, but won’t miss it at all.

David Tuxill


Editor:

I have used the eBay Live Auctions process but not in the manner it was intended.

When buying for resale, the additional 5% in buyer’s premium would have put me in a competitive disadvantage with respect to live auction floor bidders. So, I used eBay Live Auctions to scan auctions worldwide and then arranged for phone or absentee bids directly with the auction houses.

I could also monitor trends and fine-tune my phone bidding. This tactic does not contribute revenues to eBay nor does it shift very effectively sales from bricks and mortar to the Internet, which should be an eBay long-term business objective.

I always thought it was a matter of time before eBay realized all this and put an end to eBay Live Auctions, now it is happening. For me it means spending more time at the computer scanning online catalogs one by one. This is still preferable to physically traveling long distances. If others are (hopefully) not prepared to spend a lot of time on the computer, it also means less competition.

Best regards
Nicholas Zumbulyadis
Rochester, NY


Editor:

I used it several times and would rather use the traditional method eBay provides.

Glad to see it leave and hope that eBay provides the financial savings for improvements to their regular auctions.

Dennis Ellison


Editor:

The end of eBay live at auctions is great!

Now, I don’t have to compete with the whole world to buy something. Also, I wonder how those people who bought items that were not properly described liked it when they received the item. At auctions there are no returns.

Also, I have talked to several auctioneers who have given up eBay live because like all of us who sell on eBay, there are those problem customers who think they are beyond the rules, and eBay (not realizing that the sellers are their customers) is always taking the side of the buyer in a dispute. This is why I do not take Paypal. Also, I am sure you noticed that there is a new rule that soon negative feedback can only be given by the buyer now, and not the seller. So there is no way to combat the deadbeat bidder.

V. Renschen


Editor:

All I can say is thank god! I can’t buy at local auction houses any more when they run them live on eBay. I can’t afford to pay what the results have been and then try and turn around and sell the item on eBay. I’ve been boycotting the three local auctions that do this. I doubt they even noticed the $200-$1000 drop in revenues per auction. My bank account, though, notices…

I love buying at auction. I don’t like competing with my customers at eBay Live auctions. Besides which, I never won anything either way. If I was live, the eBay buyer got it. If I used eBay, the floor bidder got it. Very frustrating.

All in all, a win-win situation for me.

Beth Cherkowsky


Editor:

EBay’s exit from online auctions is the best news.

I tried participating online once, found it to be too much of a problem. Never did one again. Further, when at an auction in person, the online auction slowed down the whole auction. Instead of the auctioneer selling 100 items per hour (the norm), because of the delay with online, only 60 or so items were sold in an hour.

Thank you, eBay, for stopping this.

Regards,
Dave Williams


Editor:

Although I do not buy as much from eBay as I used to, I have never bought from one of its live auctions.

As a matter of fact, I have found it extremely annoying to look at an item that I might love to have only to realize that it is from a “live auction.” I absolutely refuse to pay what I consider the auction house’s extremely exorbitant fee of 15-20% extra.

I sincerely hope that eBay’s refusal to make these listings anymore will encourage more sellers to post their items with eBay directly, as opposed to going to an auction house to sell them.

Judith McInnis


Editor:

In my 10 years plus of buying and selling on eBay I have never once bought from an auction that was listed as an eBay Live Auction.

I could never get comfortable with the thought of online bidding in conjunction with a live auction floor that I could not see. In those auctions I have to trust the safeguards that are in place to prevent shill and shield bidding.

Kind of hard to feel protected from that with an off-site auction house of bidders and online bidders as well. I have also noticed buyer’s premiums as high as 20% on eBay Live. Shipping can sometimes be very expensive. I would agree that I am possibly a world-class skeptic.

I’m perfectly happy with the regular eBay auction format. Several thousand transactions with zero complaints as a buyer and only a couple of non-payers as a seller.

Cheers,
Fred Farris
Cramerton, NC


Editor:

I never bid on live auctions.

I find that many of the items are a bit over-priced to begin with, and then the auction house charges a buyers’ fee of 15% or more on top, so I just avoid them.

Also, I find many items that are misidentified by the auction houses, which does not make me trust in their competence.

Carole Bess White

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