News Flash: eBay Users Are a Cantankerous Bunch

Posted by: Rob Hof on December 17, 2007

The New York Times has discovered that buyers and sellers aren’t all happy with eBay. Forgive me, but I think I’ve heard this before.

I don’t mean to belittle the many commenters on his post calling for Amazon to buy eBay, a suggestion seconded by Henry Blodget. (Which seems extremely unlikely for all kinds of reasons: eBay’s too expensive, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos can think of many better ways to spend $45 billion-plus, eBay’s challenges are not something Amazon can solve anytime soon, eBay isn’t doing so badly that it needs to sell, etc., etc.)

Buyers and sellers clearly have valid concerns eBay and its payment unit PayPal. By its very nature, eBay’s marketplace model, in which is acts only as a venue for merchants, limits how well the company can control the buying experience. And sellers will never be completely happy in a marketplace where the buyers literally have a voice through feedback ratings. They’re also finding new places to sell, such as on Amazon and their own Web sites. So it’s quite possible that eBay’s challenges are greater than ever.

Still, after covering eBay for the better part of a decade, I came to view these periodic outpourings of anger from members with a skeptical eye. This just seems to be a perennial hobby of a lot of eBayers, who then come back to keep buying and selling on eBay. One of the first things I learned was that the best way to get burned on a story was to read the very public complaints of eBay members and assume eBay is about to tank. Time after time, I watched other publications predict eBay’s imminent fall based on these complaints, only to see eBay keep plugging along. Even today, eBay, for all its core growth challenges and seemingly wrong-headed acquisitions such as Skype, is growing revenues at 30% last quarter—with a similar jump in operating profits negated only by a huge goodwill impairment charge related to the Skype deal.

So while the complainers may turn out to be right one of these years, don’t be surprised if eBay somehow manages to survive for some time to come.

Reader Comments

Peter Davis

December 18, 2007 1:33 PM

With such a huge userbase as Ebay has, it's impossible to believe that there will not be very vocal complaints about them. All the more so because so many people have built up their personal businesses around Ebay.

phil

December 20, 2007 2:42 PM

What your forgetting is that we (sellers) are the one's who sell/send products to the buyers and as a former powerseller I can tell you eBay buyers are not happy. I was on a blog and must have read nearly 300 complaints of eBay-buyers complaining about high postage that so called evil sellers charge. The reason we charge high postage is because we must pay high eBay fees. The irony is eBay could simply charge less on the front-end and more on the back-end. nil change. If the greatest buyer complaint is postage then something should be done? So what is eBay’s response - to threaten sellers that charge high postage by placing them on the back page? I'll tell you right now there would have been no way eBay would have got the 8K a month, if we could not charge high postage and recoup our cost. New sellers will leave faster and faster eBay is becoming the Mac job. Knock Knock who’s there? EBay. Hi I want to sell a $5 item, eBay-That will be $4000.

Colleen

December 27, 2007 3:43 PM

As a long time buyer and seller on eBay since 1999, I have found that when sellers are buyers are complaining there is a real problem. This is not something that is always there as your article seems to suggest, at least not to the degree it is.

This past holiday season was the worst yet. Ebay's new search is abysmal and unless you offer free shipping or are a volume seller you don't always show up in the search. New buyers (and even seasoned ones) don't understand the way they can change the search to give them more of what they are looking for in the results.

The new feedback system is cut-throating even good sellers. I sell personalized items and usually ship within 2 - 3 days. I recently received a neutral feedback BEFORE THE BUYER EVEN RECEIVED THEIR ITEM because I did not send an emai with in the first 48 hours saying I sent the item. The feedback stated "poor communication and time for shipping." Two days. Of course, the user was new, having few feedback but their expectations were ridiculous. And of course, I leave feedback as soon as the buyer pays so they were not at any risk for what they said.

eBay's solution. Double speak and evasion, and of course, a new feedback addition where sellers have no recourse what so ever because the item and buyer are hidden.

You need to pull your head out of the sand and quit selling the same double speak as eBay. Things are getting bad and eBay's market hold is slipping away, "like sands in an hour glass". Without sellers, there is no eBay.

So wake up.

nicolas

April 9, 2008 9:41 AM

Such a wonderful marketplace...with such a poor and arrogant management !

As a powerseller I'm really worried about neverending policy changes, technical problems and skyrocketing fees...

I know that the only way to succeed as a seller is to promote my own website and forget Ebay

And I don't want to invest in a company not listening to its users....

Bill

January 10, 2009 2:16 PM

As both a buyer and seller for 10 years on Ebay, I am very disappointed by the Ebay greed, arrogance and their continued failure to allow any communication. Forcing buyers and sellers to use only PayPal is a real slap in the face to all users. Competition will arise!

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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