eBay Picks Buyers Over Small-Time Sellers

from the changing-times dept

Every time we’ve mentioned eBay lately, we’ve received a long list of complaints in the comments about how awful eBay is. It’s become quite clear that there’s plenty of dissatisfaction with the company — and a big part of the problem seems to be figuring out who eBay is really representing: buyers or sellers. In theory, as an impartial marketplace, eBay should be able to serve both sides. After all, you need both sides to be happy to make the marketplace truly effective. However, with growing concerns of fraud on eBay, it seems that the company has recognized that it’s more important to focus on improving the experience for buyers — and less so for sellers, especially the smaller sellers. Witness eBay’s recent change to ban sellers from offering feedback on buyers. Apparently too many sellers were using that feature to “retaliate” against any buyer that left negative feedback, and that was distorting seller ratings, often upsetting buyers.

An even bigger indication may be recent deals that eBay has done with big-time sellers, such as Buy.com, who has apparently worked out a special deal with eBay to list various products at fixed prices, with no listing fee. This has plenty of sellers seriously pissed off, as they can’t compete with Buy.com in those product areas, but it probably provides a better user experience for buyers — many of whom just want a cheap price from a trusted seller, and are getting sick of long, drawn out auctions. Of course, for you dot com history buffs, it’s a bit ironic to remember that before eBay came along, the “leader” in the online auction space was OnSale — who did very similar deals with big companies to sell off their inventory. Then eBay came along and its person-to-person sales model pretty much doomed OnSale. Either way, this makes you wonder if this trend will continue, and how it will impact eBay overall. The big sellers may fill in some of the gaps, but it changes the nature of what eBay’s platform really provides.

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Companies: buy.com, ebay

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Comments on “eBay Picks Buyers Over Small-Time Sellers”

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DK says:

Ebay? Why?

I gave up on Ebay a long time ago as both a place to off load old stuff due to ever rising fees, paypal, buyer protection, scams, etc… I won’t buy anything there now due to inflated shipping fees, mega-sellers the skew the market, etc.. It is a sad demise, but what you get when you become a public company. What a shame, it was such a great place. Craigslist is the place to buy/sell now.

Thom says:

Buy Buy Ebay, courtesy of Buy.com

Buy.com is going to hurt Ebay more than help because it’s little different than Ebay to start. On Ebay, if you deal with a good/honest/fair seller all’s anyway but if you don’t you are pretty much on your own and screwed. The same thing is true of Buy.com and its merchants… Buy’s on your side until something goes wrong then it’s nowhere to be found.

Bringing Buy.com to Ebay is like bringing a busload of gypsies to a flea market. It just increases the noise and the dangers.

Useta Sellon Ebay says:


If I was tired of the auction format, there’s hundreds of sales web sites on the Internet. Ebay’s turning into the online equivalent of the cheap strip mall. This means they’re dumping the one thing that made them unique. Thus, there’s no more reason to bother with ebay. If I want to browse a strip mall, I’ll go to Amazon.

As far as selling is concerned, as soon as ebay made it clear that they weren’t interested in the small-time seller, I closed down my selling operation. Rising fees, insistence on paypal, and the feedback changes have successfully chased this small seller away.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sick of shill bidding on eBay. I bid on a camera that had been listed for five days with no bids. Within an hour of bidding I was outbid by a member with ZERO prior bids. A week later the same camera from the same seller was listed again with the same pictures and even the same serial number. I filed a complaint with eBay and got a canned ‘we looked into it and didn’t see a problem’ response. Fact is eBay doesn’t want to stop shill bidding because it makes money for them. I have one simple rule for bidding on eBay: figure out what something is worth to me and make that my maximum bid. If I get outbid, I get outbid. I’m not going to raise my bid because the seller doesn’t want to give it up on a minimum bid.

CelticFiddler (user link) says:

Bye-bye Ebay

I haven’t listed anything on ebay since February, and I shut down my account a couple of months ago. I don’t sell as much through my own website, but I get to keep more of what make there, and it’s about 10% of the effort of keeping up with ebay.

Since ebay doesn’t care about the small sellers that got them started in the first place, there is no reason the small seller should care about ebay.

And nowadays, when I want to buy something, ebay is no longer the place to check first. Amazon is. And I’ll pay a slight premium to buy from Amazon, because they have MUCH better customer service.

Dr. Klahn says:

Yeah, I remember OnSale

Oh yes, I remember OnSale. I remember, in particular, auctions that never closed on time because of bids in the last 15 minutes. I also remember some of the worst customer service I ever encountered after they shipped me two defective 19″ CRTs, then refused to refund them unless I paid the return shipping. That was a cool $80 down the can.

Ebay has got serious problems, but their continued existence is justified if they put OnSale out of business.

Laurie Knight says:

As a heavy ebay user, buying and selling, since 1998, I am disgusted by the recent changes ebay have made. For me eBay was great because it was the place to buy and sell interesting second hand stuff. Now ebay does not seem to be interested in this market, preferring to be a box shifter of cheap electronics. There are a million places on the net to buy new gear cheaply so I don’t understand why ebay are insisting on aiming at this market.

The market really is ripe for someone to open up a site which does what ebay originally did – provide a decent cheap worldwide classified system for people to sell on their old ‘junk’, which was exactly what other people were looking for.

James says:


Removing the seller feedback for a buyer is a good idea. But, I stopped using Ebay a long time ago when professional sellers started opening “shops” on there.

The whole idea of an auction is to get something CHEAP through a bid… why would I bother w/a retail purchase on Ebay for an unknown person/company when I can just get the item locally or from a more reputable source?

Basically my feeling on Ebay is, the few times I use it now, is if I can find something I want/need and I can tell its an individual selling it then I consider.. I don’t buy from companies.

Tony Ripley (user link) says:

Private to Public Woes

I think Rene hit the nail on the head. In the market place when a compnay goes public they, in many ways, only seem to have one customer – the stock holder. So their choices have to be driven to satisfy them. But with every change comes a new opportunity. In this case who can build a new model that can capture the essencce of what made ebay the “get up in the morning and check first thing” site that it was.
Open Question: What were the top 3 things that made ebay great and where can these elements be found now? (I see Craig’s list mentioned a few times already)

BinaryWorld says:

I’ve had the same problems. I had some ‘local pickup’ items, yet eBay insisted on PayPal. Then they said it was my responsibility to upgrade my PayPal account in order to accept credit cards b/c I was not allowed to specify what type of PayPal payment I accepted. I had to accept all forms. I sent an email and they responded by basically copying and pasting their FAQ section in regards to the changes in policy. I finally told them that they were selling out the small seller and that I would just turn to Craigslist.

eBay’s just not eBay anymore.

eBurned says:

Retailitory Feedback

eBay’s recent change to ban sellers from offering feedback on buyers… thank god for this! If you left negative feedback about a slimy seller retaliatory feedback was to be expected. If you cared about your own reputation at all there was a huge disincentive not to ever leave negative feedback weather you got a raw deal or not.

I worked hard to build up my reputation as a seller and also used the same account to buy things. On one occasion I left negative feedback for a bad deal I got on a couple things I bought and got slammed with retaliatory negative feedback. So my rating as a seller was affected and even though every single one of my buyers were thrilled with my service and my perfect feed back rating went down.

Prime example is cincinnatiscifi, google him and you’ll get pages and pages on this creep. He’s built up quite a fan club.

Ex-eBayer says:

Not just bye bye eBay...bye bye Paypal

The increasing fees and lack of more than token support had me considering fleeing eBay..but eBay’s little puppy Paypal has joined in the fun now too… Gone are seller protections. Now there’s too much risk that Paypal will just refund my buyer’s payment. Paypal has changed it’s refund policies so that even if you list on eBay indicating the sale is “as-is” with no refunds… if for ANY reason (including buyer’s remorse) the buyer wants to return it, Paypal/eBay will allow the return and refund the money right out of your Paypal account, no questions asked, and no dispute proceedure with the seller.
It’s absolutely true, eBay has abandoned the small sellers that they’ve built their empire on.
Off to Criagslist and eBid for me…and eBay… Good luck with that!

Pay Pal says:

Sold out the sellers long ago

Ebay is currently useless. You can’t sell an old car there, after the listing fees, final value fees, etc., it costs you over $150 to list a car that you’re going to sell for under $1000, and then the cheapskate buyers don’t want to pay, even if the price is less than half KBB value. Ebay does nothing about deadbeat bidders, about shill bidders, or “mistake” bids designed to find your reserve price, who never make a “corrected” bid. Unfortunately, the only other choice seems to be craigslist and all the weirdo’s, spammers and scammers on there. C’mon Google, give us a REAL online auction, like ebay used to be.

Dave says:

ebay was better

I started on ebay shortly after it started up. It was just like a classified ad, buy/sell at your own risk. When in doubt, just don’t buy. But then they started getting sued by a’holes who think everybody needs to watch out for them. ebay started restricting products, and by getting into what people can/cannot sell have lead to this point. Now they charge way too much, give unfair advantage to some, and have become anal in areas they dont need to be. But when somebody calls in with a complaint of a scammer, or somebody doing something wrong, they are sow to react, or dont react at all.

Lower your rates, and become more like craigslist, like you once were ebay.

VY says:

Ebay is definitely becoming a mall

Ebay used to be where you went to find hard to find and unique/unusual items. It used to be you could buy things for a decent price. Now, with places like Buy.com, it’s just like a mall. If I want to buy from Buy.com, Sears.com, etc. I will go there, not the internet mall.

As for the feedback changes, there have been abuses by both buyers and sellers, and if they’re going to take it away from one, they should take it away from both. A person with any sense can read both sides of the comments and decide whose story seems more plausible, but with only one side presented, it’s harder to figure out.

Garry King (user link) says:

Ebay killed fixed price 2 years ago

Funny thing. 2 years ago, Ebay invited sellers to do lots of fixed priced listing in Ebay stores and included these items in search results. Business really took off, but Ebay’s take per sale was lower, because store listing fees were low. Ebay stock took a hit because the $ per listing metric fell. Wall street and Ebay management refused to take the long view that more revenue is more revenue regardless of percentage. The company shut down stores in search, making product more difficult to find, and bankrupting sellers. Now Ebay seems to admit they were wrong and is once again making ham handed moves that bankrupt sellers as a fix by listing Buy.com goods for free. If Ebay wants QUALITY sellers, they need to pay attention to how they treat sellers.

buyer says:

i would never sell anything on ebay

i feel sorry for all of the legitimate small time sellers. their crooked cousins who used feedback to hold buyers hostage ruined a good thing for them. it’s unfortunate, but ebay is siding with the side they think makes the most business sense. or at least it looks like it makes the most sense, but it also makes them vulnerable for a competitor to do better.

eBay Seller says:

Still selling on eBay but focusing elsewhere

While ebay has treated me like a dog over the years, I still sell a few profitable items on the site. I seem to have more luck with “buy it nows” and don’t really get bidders until the last day and a half or so. eBay has repeatedly treated me like dirt and their revenue from me looks a lot like the classic bell curve over the last 7 years. 3 years ago, $8k. This year, about $1200. But I will continue to use them as long as they remain profitable.

I have recently started using other sites:

eCrater – slow sales, but trouble free, auto listing on google shopping
iOffer – constantly dealing with goofballs
google base – good for unique commercial grade equipment
Bidville – No traffic, no support, killed by parent uBid
Buntfu – Attempt to sell linux computers – No traffic

Some of these sites are worthless and fail (like Bidville did). Some of these are really nice (like eCrater). I am reluctant to go on Amazon because they seem to be the model eBay is pursuing.

There is clearly an opportunity for a big player to focus on the garage sale sellers and buyers, but eBay has decided to remove itself from this market. Too bad for them. I guess for now, craigslist is where it’s at for this kind of stuff.

If you want to see all the alternatives and how they are doing, just look here:


I have the same regard for eBay as they seem to have for me: If you can make me money, I’m happy to use you, but when anyone can make me more, I’ll drop you like a bad habit.

I never woke up excited to use ebay, but I awake excited to see how much money I’m making every day.

Bill (user link) says:

I’d like to make my Very Biased vote for Bonanzle (http://www.bonanzle.com).

OK, the bad news first — we just launched a couple months ago so our daily traffic is still low. However, we are in the process of syndicating all of our items on Oodle and Google Base (should be fully setup by end of week), so when you post an item on Bonanzle, you’re still exposed to thousands of buyers daily.

The good news? Bonanzle was built by a team that has seen what the eBay copycats have tried, and we’ve tried to learn from their mistakes.

With as little hoopla as possible, here’s a couple of the difference between Bonanzle and our competitors:

* We’re simpler and more intuitive to navigate
* We let buyers and sellers chat and transact in real time (built in chat in every store, you can chat from your browser or your IM client)
* Posting items on Bonanzle is more user friendly than any comparable site — we look up a good price/description for your item when you’re posting it, we let you take one picture of many items and crop it, and we have a 0-page-load process for selling items.

(And we’re free, and we import items from eBay and Craigslist).

We are small, but visit our site and you’ll see we’re dead serious about becoming a Craigslist/eBay hybrid without all the hangups. We just need some experienced buyers and sellers to help us season to taste.

Bill Harding

M Finch says:

Buyer withfrawing claing wrongle advertised

There was 2 Conservatories (alike) advertised and the last bidding date on the two were over a week apart, the first one was sold and so I bid on the second one which was last bidding date over 1 week later than the first , my bid was accepted and confirmed I was the winning to date bidder Then 5 mins later I get a note from E Bay my bid wasn;t acceptable becuse the buyer had since withdrawn the item as Wrongly advertised . Now my opinion is this they were both advertised with the same starting bid and Grab a Bargain so evidently a Company that when the first one was bid and sold why didnt they check the other one, and to my mind I am legally the owner of the second as they did not correct it until the bid was in why didnt they cancel them both if the items had been wrongly stated , its no good saying after they didnt get the money expected for the item ++ OH it was wrongly advertised == so bids are null and void ,I am Furious and finished with Ebay

Karyn says:

EBAY's new feedback policy

I applaud Ebays decision because too many sellers (over 50%) were requiring the buyers to leave feedback BEFORE they would. Now since the buyer has already paid BEFORE getting there item, there is no other reason for this than that the sellers want to retaliate if the buyer leaves truthful negative feedback. In fact, that’s exactly what happened to me. A seller advertised a box of “lovely” greeting cards, sent me old moldy greeting cards from the 1950s with mismatched envelopes and then after I tried to resolve it and couldn’t so I left neg FB on her, she retaliated and ruined my 100% rating. I would support an EBay system where the sellers were required to rate the buyers BEFORE the buyers rated the sellers. That would keep the sellers honest!

jj (profile) says:

Why I left eBay

I was a buyer and seller on eBay. I never had trouble from a seller out of the 5 years until the last 1 1/2 year when I started selling. Then came trouble from buyers. I had several non-paying bidders, who just would decide not to buy my product because of changing their mind and then I received a fraudulent cashier’s check for several hundred dollars. I was very suspicious when it was a few dollars over the amount and the buyer would not email me back. I could not reach them. I contacted the bank of the check and sure enough it was fake. Thank God I didn’t deposit it. At the same time several other eBay sellers had already been taken and lost their product. As soon as I and another seller posted negative feedback, the buyer closed their eBay account. Yet eBay will not let sellers leave customer feedback?? Another time a buyer left me a neutral because they said delivery was slow. It was Christams season and took exactly 6 business days as I had stated in my listing. I had 100% feedback at the time and it dropped my feedback lower for no reason. This was not a neg. but a neautral and the customer was wrong. That was the last straw along with the growing unreasonable fees. I now sell on a much more stress free, no hassles site. Looks much better too.



Ebay cares about money.. it was created to make money.
it found a niche for buyers and sellers. Every change it makes is to make more money with less cost to the owner of the company. For example: Did the small sellers, most of whom sell cherished belongings to pay bills and buy food and enjoyed ebay… did they have any say in the new horribly confusing sellers page. Was a fair, ethically, democratic vote given to all big sellers, small sellers, even buyers to keep the wonderful old page. of course not.
one can only assume the new page was foisted upon us to make more money for Ebay. Or did mid- management (non sellers) make the change to show they were worth their salaries? a universal vote would the majority hate the new page and senior sellers can’t even make sense of it. how about every seller given a vote.

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