Another one bites the dust

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Stuart had three PowerSeller accounts; he was on target to meet his goal for 2008 of £250,000 in turnover, and was paying eBay the equivalent of £30,000 a year in fees. He had no warning at all of a possible problem, until one day, in the middle of listing, his account suddenly stopped working.

At first, he thought it was a glitch, but then the email arrived: his account had been linked with another which was NARU, and so was itself suspended from trading for 12 months. The account, it turned out, was one that Stuart had not touched for two years and was not in fact registered to him at all. It belonged to a former business partner, who had closed down the business after Stu had left, and owed eBay £120 in fees.

£120 seemed a small amount to pay to be allowed to carry on trading, so Stuart paid off that bill. He then contacted Trust and Safety, informing them what he’d done and asking them to reinstate his own account. He told me, “their responses were robotic, it’s really frustrating that you can’t speak to anyone to get it sorted,” and as for PowerSeller Support,”they talk to you like you’re a scam artist.” Despite the fact that the account that wasn’t his didn’t owe any money anymore, no one would reinstate his account.

In April, Stu attended Channel Advisor Catalyst and managed to speak to an eBay employee face to face. He felt a glimmer of hope that someone would see that his suspension was ridiculous, someone would take pity on him, someone would make a business decision that his £30k a year fees were worth having.

Four weeks passed by. Stu chased up eBay. And chased them again. And then he had a letter, telling him that eBay “cannot make exceptions on a case by case basis on a marketplace of this size”, and his account would stay suspended for the full 12 months. Computer says no.

His two employees have unfortunately had to be let go, but Stu remains positive. He’s making a go of his websites and trading on Amazon. His gardening website has done more business in the last two months than in the previous two years, but things are nowhere near the level they were on eBay. He’s building things up again from the bottom, and that takes time.

I really admire Stu’s guts. Plenty of people would have thrown in the towel and gone and got a job, but he still sounds cheerful. “What will you do next March,” I ask him. “Will you apply to have the suspension lifted, when you can?”

He laughs. “I feel like never going back. But it’s easy to say that now. I probably will ask them to reinstate the account, but I won’t be selling on eBay at the same level, I’ll never rely on eBay again.” Stu was, he says, always one of the people who promoted eBay, to his friends, family and work colleagues, but not any more: “they don’t appreciate how what they do affects peoples’ lives,” he says.

27 Responses

  1. I will certainly be logging on tomorrow to read your follow up on the suspension issue.

    I think the sentence “I’ll never rely on eBay again” by Stu is one everyone of us should take on board.

  2. I am curious to know if this mass execution of dolphins
    is a UK only thing
    seems to me dolphins are stil swimming free in the Pacific

  3. Surely, if this many high volume sellers are being suspended/forced off the site, ebay must be feeling it where it hurts, in their bank account? Or do they have a load of mega corporations waiting in the wings to upload their entire inventories to take the place of all the lost sellers?

    I wouldn’t have thought that the shareholders would be all that happy if the site’s profits take a nosedive. In the past it’s always just been smaller sellers forced out, this all seems very strange, it just doesn’t make sense.

  4. I think if US Dolphins were being caught in nets
    the nets would have been slashed before now

  5. This unfortunately proves the point of not simply relying on one venue to sell your goods, I am really pleased that Stuart had already taken the wise step of generating an online presence of his own and as such can still make money.

    Surely Ebay must realise that the simple over automation of their processes is actually damaging their business, sure £30k is not a lot to them but exponentially there surely has got to be an impact??

  6. “I think if US Dolphins were being caught in nets
    the nets would have been slashed before now”

    Hi y’all, don’t pay me no nevermind, I’m-a just gonna change my nationality here, gawd demmit! Then I’m gonna get you, you Duke boys!

  7. Seriously though, that is a pretty tragic story. How far are the witch-hunts going to go?

  8. Just found this via .Com PS board. Item # 310050497918. In the listing they say

    “We’re in the midst of launching our entire 30 million card inventory to our EBAY store. Check back often as we’re literally adding thousands of cards a day. ”

    Low value but what a boost to .Com inventory

  9. Greetings Sue Bailey,

    You have written with a great deal of empathy and brought this story to light with a human touch.
    eBay does not seem to realize the terrible decisions they are making on a daily basis in cases just like this!
    Thanks for telling the world about one seller who realizes, in the end, he will be better off because of eBay’s very poor decision making.
    Diversify, build websites, open new channels – Now!


  10. Great post Sue, and I totally admire Stuart for his get-up-and-go to carry on, I think I would have been crushed myself. I look forward to happy updates.

  11. All this is really depressing.

    I have also noticed a sharp downturn in quality items I usually see listed in the cats I hawk in. ( across .com and .uk)

  12. There is a mis-conception by sellers that when a seller who pays thousands of pounds a month in fees leaves the site that eBay will miss the revenue. The reality is that eBay get revenue on 100% of the sales on the plafrom so even though one seller leaves or is suspended the marketplace still gets the sales so eBay doesn’t lose out on any fees, they just get them from another seller.

    There is plenty of inventory on the site so eBay still get the same sales and as long as listings stay constant they get the same fees.

    eBay management always speaks about the big picture because they look at the site strictly as numbers. They view everything in the aggregate and sellers view everything individually.

    To eBay, buyers and sellers are numbers not people (dolphins) as long as the numbers improve they don’t care about the individuals being affected. .

    eBay have sellers by the balls (sorry for that expression)
    Until the numbers change in the favor of sellers eBay will not change the direction they are taking.

    Stu has the right attitude. He’s rebuilding his business and leaving ebay in the dust. Sellers should setup shop elsewhere in preparation for the potential suspension.

  13. @biggles #14 I try to avoid the doom talk, but I have to say I’ve noticed a sharp downturn in the service that I am receiving from sellers. I have had to file 4 paypal disputes this year vs 1 in the previous 4 years!

    Maybe all these changes are really getting to people, I’m just repeating whats been said above but we all need to make sure we are not so ebay centric. (note to Biddy looking forward to my website being done :-))

  14. its not a question of being ebay centric its cost effectiveness and footfall,
    as long as ebay brings the business we will just suffer and adapt

  15. I don’t know if anyone else heard Nils Lofgren on Five Live yesterday but something he talked about that happened to him had me thinking ebay now.

    He talked about how 14 years ago he stopped working with record companies because they had been run by people who loved and understood music when he started out and then they started being run by accountants who were telling artists what they should be putting on records and what music videos should look like amongst other things. So he decided he’d go his own way and set up his own website where he sold his music and now amongst other things guitar lessons which I am very tempted to try…

    Anyway, doesn’t it remind you of ebay now? A company who used to be about selling and fun doing it and is now about number crunchers hiding behind bulls**t policies and poor implementation of those policies. And everyone is off to sell their stuff on their own websites/amazon/playtrade/insert anywhere else here other than ebay and whilst the number crunchers think it won’t have an effect you only have to look at the record companies today to see where ebay are going.

    I don’t enjoy watching this by the way, I am one of those (yes stupid) people who defended ebay and their new feedback policies at every turn for the 6 weeks before it was implemented because I thought they’d be fair and open and the changes would be in the best interests of everyone. Of course I was wrong and I’m happy to admit that – I just wish I hadn’t wasted my time and energy.

    The podcast of the interview on Five Live is here if you’re interested.

    PS. For those of you that don’t know who Nils Lofgren is click here 🙂

  16. Randy, I’d hate to think ebay has turned into a machine run by bottom liners, as you suggest, but recent developments seem to confirm that. 🙁 eBay demand we give our customers the highest level of service. It’s a shame they dont see fit to treat us the same way.The arrogance from ebay is jaw dropping, even acknowledging that there would be fringe cases – yet not bothering to implement a plan to deal with those.

    Jade, I am surprised. I expected the carrot and stick approach would have improved things. Personally, I have always treated my customers as I expect to be treated myself, so I have never needed the stick from eBay, but the carrots are nice 🙂

    North, sure the cash talks, but some buyers have unrealistic expectations, and before you know it you have a 30 day holiday. Looking at some of the feedback from those netted on the PSB, I’d say the majority could have been avoided, but not all.

    Biddy, the powerseller icon on that header now looks like an illustration from a Dick Turpin novel. 😀

  17. I think where the big mistake has been made .
    ebay has introduced this seller performance thing
    far too close to the introduction of buyers being able to leave a negative , in fact virtually encouraging them to do so, without fear of retaliation,
    they should have waited until the dust settled on one major fear
    rather than hit them with what seems to be the further Shock & Awe tactics
    of Seller non performance

  18. Hi all thanks for your comments and support.

    Its been a really tough time, I would like to thank Sue for here help and support over this as I came to her the day after it all happened.

    I don’t want people to think im shouting about it in the hope that ebay would let me back on, that aint gonna happend as the ‘computer says no!’. I just wanted people to know that it doesn’t just affect small sellers but bigger ones to, I know I haven’t quite got caught up in the mess thats going on now but its a pretty sad excuse to do it to me, I mean what business in the world get’s rid of a customer doing 30k a year over £120, I know I wouldn’t lose a customer over that!

    It was a massive shock, I had got sucked into ebay selling as it was easy, put the product up it sold. We built the business up around it and planned to expand further on it, before expanding anywhere else. In fact I forgot to say to Sue that we had just paid over £1000 in design fees for two of the shops on there!!lol what a waste!

    I just want to say that Powerseller means nothing on their, I thought it stood for something but the service and response I recieved from employees was the worst I have had from any business. Get out there and sell in other avenues, its cheaper to!!!


  19. Stuart and Sue, thanks so much for sharing Stu’s story. Just when we think it can’t get any crazier with all the changes and new hoops we have to jump through as eBay sellers, this one really took my breath away.

    Stu, thanks for the follow-up post. I wish you all the very best. I’m sure you will quickly realise and appreciate that there is indeed life beyond eBay, and I hope that by the time the 12 months rolls around you won’t even need to think about returning to eBay because your other selling channels are so successful.

    I really wonder about current eBay management – have any of them ever actually SOLD something on the site? Even bought something? Or are they all just suits with MBAs and a heap of useless theories about how the site should be run? They are sucking the community and soul from eBay so fast it’s appalling.

  20. I try to keep out of the ebay PS forum, as it depresses me. I also know that sellers can whinge as much as they like and ebay won’t take a bit of notice, in fact sad to say it, but having been an area manager with a large company up until recently, I bet that they’re saying in their meetings, “look it must me working, see how much the bad sellers are sqealing?”
    The more noise they hear, the better it is working. I’m also not a doom monger but I think ebay will be in for a rough time in future. I think they are giving sellers the shock and impetus to actually move on in to other channels, starting with their own website, that they probably wouldn’t have done previously, through inertia.
    I also feel that they’re going to start getting some bad publicity in the media, as this feeling amongst sellers continues to be voiced across the Internet.
    I also struggle with this view that ebay wants to get rid of many sellers to replace them with the big High St companies. They already have websites, if buyers wanted to buy from there, they would already be doing it. Also as a large retailer, I wouldn’t/couldn’t be putting up with the demands of the ebay buyer.

  21. I dont think ebay have much to fear about bad publicity concerning this matter

    rather the opposite
    I would imagine they would be delighted at the message being sent out to buyers
    ebay sellers must dance the dance or else
    and one thing I have learned in the last 10 years
    dont matter what you sell or how much you pay in fees your just a statistic



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