You and Yours and yours truly

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Today I went to the BBC to answer questions on “You and Yours“. I went because I disagree with the court case which the program discussed. At times I’ve had plenty of niggles with eBay and I’ve often voiced my concerns quite vociferiously. This isn’t one of them.

The court case concerns whether a listing appears on the site the instant you click the submit button. The real answer is that it hardly ever does! It doesn’t matter how much computing power you have, it takes time to index ten million listings and to make sure every word, in every title, appears in default search results. It’s even worse when you consider how many words there are in a typical eBay listing, that have to be catalogued for “Title and Description” searches.

Now eBay do a pretty good job but even at the best of times it may be a couple of hours before your listing is correctly indexed. If you’re worried that your listing isn’t on the site you can search to make certain that it is. eBay have a facility to tell you exactly where you auction is, just enter the item number and select “Find location of item”.

Back to the court case, eBay are being sued because of the delay between submitting an auction and it appearing on the site. No one has been able to indicate just how this harms a seller, John Fabry, the Houston lawyer leading the prosecution when asked what actual harm is occuring avoided the question and instead talked about California’s strict auction laws. When asked what damages he hoped to win he simply said for eBay to either deliver the exact time period offered or to clearly explain there may be a delay before the auction appears on the site.

It seems trivial to me, there may be a delay until my auction appears in search results on the site but does it really matter? Suppose Fabry wins his case and eBay run all auctions to the second, I list at 8pm Sunday evening for seven days, there’s a delay of six hours so eBay tack six hours on the end to give me my full seven days – Do I really want my auction finishing at 2am Monday morning when all the bidders are asleep in bed? I think not!

Due to delays sellers will claim Fixed Price listings may have missed out on sales, which is a very valid point. Fixed price listings are a seperate matter and aren’t addressed by the current court case. The few hours delay at the start of an auction don’t in my opinion have any major impact as most bids come in the closing minutes. It’s at the end of an auction that visibility is critical.

There could be a case for eBay to make partial refunds or extend auctions where the delay is more than a couple of hours. Partial refunds (especially for auctions with low starting prices hence low insertion fees) would be negligable. Listing enhancements are not charged according to the length of an auction so no refund would be due. Extending an auction by a day may be a suitable option, but that in itself would cause problems – if Thursday evening is your best night for sales would you want your auction finishing on a Friday instead?

The best option for sellers is to list items knowing exactly when their auctions will end. Time them to maximise on buyers placing bids. Accept that there may be a delay and choose your start times accordingly, but don’t call for eBay to tamper with an auction finish time.

5 Responses

  1. It seems the point that the court case is about *auctions*, that’s what was being discussed and BINs didn’t come into it, needs to be emphasised.

    Even so, as a habitual BIN lister, I am much more concerned about when my BIN listing finishes than when it starts, so most of the points made above still apply.

  2. As Sue says, I list my items with consideration as to what time they will finish, not what time they will become visible in the main search.

    As to how long listings take to appear, surely I am not the only one to have managed to sell BIN items within a couple of minutes of listing? Personally I can’t see what the problem is.

  3. I absolutely agree with Chris, it’s the end time that is important not the start time, and no way would I want ebay messing with that. We all know that there can be a delay, but like Steve H, I have had BIN items sell very quickly after listing so I suspect that for most items the delay isn’t all that long really. Surely this is just another American lawyer looking to make a fast buck out of something trivial.

  4. Generally speaking, I agree with all of the above, with one exception.

    There are periods every month when the START time is crucial – generally these relate to the last and first day of the month – days when buyers are feeling a little cash flush around payday. This “payday factor” does have a distinct bearing on buyer behaviour.

    Even 10-day auctions listed on first/last day of month can attract more views, watchers, and bids if they appear on the site at the right moment – i.e. in the peak viewing hours of those few vital days. A lot of our core listing bids received, whether auction or BIN, do surprisingly come within the first 6 hours of a listing going live, and the number of watchers added in the first 12 hours is often more than the rest of the life of the listing – so yes, appearance time can be critical.

    Another appearance-time critical situation occurs on CLDs – listings that appear during the late afternoon to mid-evening certainly get more watchers and bids than those that don’t. This is irrespective of closing time and day. It’s something we have witnessed and recorded since way back when UK still had Free Listing Days and we used to upload many thousands of listings on a continuous feed by slow modem. The connection speed meant that a pre-loaded Turbo Lister upload list might take 12-14 hours to push everything up to the site (nice staggering and saved scheduling costs ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and back then we noticed that regardless of how we jiggled the upload sequence (by product type) it was the 4pm – 9pm arrivals that got the most attention. That still holds true today.

    Why? Quite simply because on CLDs, 4pm – 9pm is when the bulk of people are on-site, either uploading, manually listing, or checking out what’s new. It’s hardly rocket science.

    Therefore, start time is as important as finish time, and this court case is hardly trivial. A lot depends on what you list. In “flooded” categories like CDs and DVDs, or clothing, it might not be important, but when you are listing in categories where the buyer wants an XYZ then appearance time is as important as finish time.

    Fortunately there is a way to fix it.

    Both UK and US PowerSeller support, and LiveWorld, have all admitted that the delay is nothing to do with indexing (sorry Chris – you’re wrong there). they say it’s because of Trust & Safety inspection for prohibited vocabulary and VeRO-liable keywords. They want to catch and block offending listings as much as possible, therefore uploaded listings are “bot” searched for obvious offenders (though it’s obviously not effective judging by what does appear on site.

    The fix? Simple when you think about it. Use scheduled listings and send them to site at least 12 hours before any crucial start time (personal experience says to make that at least 24 hours). This gives the bots and bods time to check your content before it’s due to go live.

    Whilst SMP users in the UK can schedule for free, it should be remembered that on most sites, including dot com, you have to pay for scheduling regardless of subscriptions, and it may be that, that is at the heart of this case about start times.


  5. I laughed my socks off at the alleged reasons for the delays encountered. OK, I admit that they have an immediate disclaimer for items not appearing for an ACEEPTABLE period, due to constraints of the server, but you can REST ASSURED that there is a PRE-CONDITIONED delay for sellers who attempt to put up for auction, ANY item that has been considered by the auction venue provider, as possible counterfeit material and ANY item that registers itself as containing ANY trademark of a registered VERO. In the U.K. it is ALWAYS 24 hrs delay befor an item is physically seen by the public in these circumstances. TRY IT! MOST annoying when you are attempting to capture the viewing public at a PEAK time to conjure up the initial bidding. But, the legal case here would swing more towards a “Trading Standards” issue, as the provider for instance, is charging for example, a 7 day service when in fact, they are only providing a 6 day facility. A sort of a weights and measures complaint. However, the TSO in the U.K. is about as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot when it comes to action on such items. They just do not have the balls to take on the enormity of the large organisations. Good luck to the guy in the States. At least there, they DO not consider how big they are, just how much damage they cause when they fall. ๐Ÿ˜‰



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