If eBay sellers go away … so will the buyers
I’m attaching a copy of a letter I sent to a top eBay executive regarding their anti-seller policies. Maybe if eBay’s sellers beat on them hard enough, they might listen to us. If space allows and you think it would be of interest to your readers, you have my permission to print this letter. Thanks for considering it for possible publication in “Readers’ Letters.”
Dear Mr. X:
I felt compelled to write this letter to you after reading an AP news release out of San Francisco which appeared “In The News” in the Oct. 13 issue of Antique Trader. There were a number of subjects discussed in the release. But the comment that concerns me the most reads: “…eBay is trying to improve its flagship website to lure and retain more shoppers.” Regarding this subject, you need to hear directly from a seller. I ask that you read this letter with an open mind and accept it as constructive criticism.
I’ve been a registered eBay buyer/seller since November 1998. If I remember correctly, at that time it cost 50¢ to list an item, there was no such thing as a Reserve Price, and the fee for a sold item was 2.5 percent. Whether I’m right or wrong about the statistics doesn’t matter because that was all in the past. If we’re going to keep up with the times, we have to accept change. Generally, change comes about with the intent to improve. However, change doesn’t necessarily produce improvement.
You are supposedly concerned with trying “to lure and retain more shoppers” – that’s all well and good. However – without sellers, eBay will be out of business. Without products to sell – there will be no buyers! The sellers are the source for eBay’s business. The sellers pay all the fees – not the buyers.
EBay does nothing for the seller without charging a fee and you are often referred to as FEEBay. EBay’s fees have drastically changed my selling success for the collectible product that I sell. Adding approximately 14 percent onto my profit margin, to cover eBay and PayPal fees, does affect whether a buyer will pay the price or not.
If shipping and insurance were added into the listing price, which sellers are encouraged to do, it would inflate the item price beyond what I know the buyer would pay – even with these incentives to buy. EBay’s Final Auction Value fee is calculated on the net price of the item, exclusive of shipping costs and other charges. However, PayPal’s fee is calculated on the gross amount of the sale. This is one area where sellers’ fees can be cut – calculate the fee on the net sale.
No negative feedback for buyers
In the real world, it’s “Buyer Beware.” In eBay land, it’s “Seller Beware.” EBay displayed an outrageously discriminatory policy toward sellers when they instituted no-negative-feedback for buyers. Buyers, on the other hand, are allowed to leave negative feedback for sellers. Where is the logic and sense of fair play in this policy change? Even if the buyer and seller mutually agree to cancel the transaction, or the buyer receives a full refund – the buyer can leave negative feedback for the seller which eBay will not remove from the seller’s feedback.
When a seller makes right a problem by giving a full refund, negative feedback is not justified. In either of the above circumstances, a negative should be removed from the seller’s feedback. I have not experienced any problems with buyers but decided to stop selling on eBay when this grossly unfair policy was instituted. I resumed selling this past summer because free auction-style listings were offered. The first item I listed sold to a nonpaying bidder. Within a three-month period, I dealt with four nonpaying bidders who failed to pay for a total of six items. I telephoned customer service to inquire about how many unpaid item strikes it takes to remove a buyer from eBay. It was disturbing to hear that a buyer can walk away from their obligation to pay a seller five times.
Why does eBay allow this irresponsible attitude to happen five times – why not stop it on the third offense? If there is one instance where a seller is justified in leaving negative feedback for a buyer – this is it. Your buyer protection policy needs revisions to include some seller protections as well – then rename it accordingly – Buyer/Seller Protection. Under your current policy, the seller is guilty until proven innocent and, of course, the seller must provide proof of their innocence.
Anti-seller policies need revising
- not allowing a seller to ask the buyer to purchase insurance separately from the cost of the item. The seller should not be responsible for protecting the buyer’s investment.
- not allowing a seller to put a disclaimer in their listing stating they are not responsible for the way a package is handled after it leaves their hands. If the airlines can do what a 200-pound ape can’t do – dent and crack a Samsonite suitcase (I had to throw one out in that condition) – what are the chances for a corrugated cardboard box and its contents? I received a box with a puncture so large, the styrofoam packing was falling out and I could put my hand through the hole! No doubt in my mind, the box was not in that condition when it was given to the shipper. Nevertheless, you expect sellers to ensure the merchandise is delivered in the described condition.
- not allowing a seller to say they have no control over the time it takes for a package to reach its destination. You say the seller is responsible for the package arriving in a timely manner even during holiday periods when mail delivery is notably slower due to volume and weather conditions, which are beyond the seller’s control.
Buyers are teachers – sellers are children
In keeping with their venerated status, it is the buyers who determine whether sellers are valued members of eBay. Sellers, like school children, collect stars from buyers for performing well. And if the children do not perform well enough by maintaining a certain grade average – they fail (they may be denied the privilege to sell on eBay). My personal opinion regarding this policy is that it is demeaning.
When are you going to stop demonizing sellers and start recognizing them as the source for your business, your livelihood. No one is obliged to sell their product on eBay. Some sellers have few other choices given the type of merchandise they sell and have opted to set up their own websites, as I have done. For the antiques and collectibles market – there is another venue which is gaining in popularity – it’s Ruby Lane.
For now, sellers are rolling with the punches – but for how long?
Too many commercials packed into TV shows
Reference the “Next Generation of Antiques-Themed Shows” (Dec. 22 edition, page 12). While the concept of “Storage Wars” and “Auction Hunters” is interesting, I find that I lose interest during the broadcast because of the over abundance of commercials.
I enjoy the diversity of the major players, although the cut throat bidding is a little disconcerting, i.e. bidding on units that you don’t want just to drive up the price, the end results are always a surprise.
But really, 28 commercials in a 30 minute show is a bit much — 15 Dec. episode of “Storage Wars”; “Auction Hunters” wasn’t much better with 22 commercials in their episode this week.
Next season they need to expand the content and have fewer commercials or once the “new” wears off they are going to lose their audience.
More from Antique Trader Readers
- ‘Behind the Gavel’ hits the mark: “If dealers sit on old merchandise there is no reason for the customers to return.”
- Serious collectors back ‘Antiques Roadshow’: “Twice we’ve declined to be on Roadshow … not to “get on TV”
- Stash found in walls floods railroad market: “Too many of a rare thing showing up at once raises a big red flag …”
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Steve Encell has been running his own successful antiques, art, and collectibles business for more than fifteen years and has over five years of experience selling items on online auctions. He has averaged earnings of at least $100,000 a year exclusively via online auctions.
Si Dunn is a veteran freelance writer whose credits include newspaper articles, magazine articles, screenplays, and a book.
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