eBay Australia : is this a new partnership between eBay and sellers?

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A few days ago, eBay Australia put out a document entitled “Planning for a stronger marketplace“. It’s the result of several months of consultation with their sellers following eBay.com.au’s embarrassing reversal of their PayPal-only policy back in July and the absolute fragmentation of that community that followed.

The six-page document charts complaints and observations heard from sellers, and eBay’s responses. It’s remarkable less for its content, than for the fact that it exists at all: in ten years of eBay-watching, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. It’s almost as if there’s been a sea-change in eBay’s attitude to their sellers:

eBay and our community of sellers alike need to focus on building repeat business from existing buyers so they continue to purchase from you, rather than taking their business elsewhere. We need your support to achieve this and if we work together, both sellers and eBay will benefit.

The message put out so often by eBay over the last few years has been that sellers are untrustworthy, and that only eBay and PayPal stand between buyers and being ripped off. A new message the eBay and sellers are in business together and are invested in each other’s success might be the only way that eBay management can keep sellers onside.

The roadmap for the future of eBay Australia is not, for the most part, anything very surprising. Divided into five sections – fees, feedback, support, PayPal and policies – many of the proposals are things we’ve seen in the US, UK and elsewhere. But there are a few tidbits worth picking out:

  • free Gallery for eBay.com.au seems to be on the cards, in line with developments on many other eBay sites.
  • the pop-up message telling buyers they’re free to leave non-positive feedback without fear of reprisal has been removed.
  • the launch of a 10,000-strong “member panel” to consult with eBay.
  • more detailed information will be made available for the DSRs and buyer satisfaction ratings, and
  • “improvements to the language and tone” used on the seller dashboard. Not treating sellers like naughty children has to be a good move.

But the most important promise in my book is that eBay will limit to the number of times that changes are made, so that sellers don’t have to constantly edit and re-edit listings, rethink strategy once a month, and spend hours with Excel figuring out our fees. After a year of almost constant change, being left alone to get on with selling is exactly what we need. Of course that’s not going to happen – eBay say “please expect more change and understand that it’s not done for change sake, but for the ongoing health of the marketplace as a whole” – but to have change made more sensitively, more coherently and less often is an important step towards making a site that sellers might want to stick with.

It’s not just eBay’s tone that’s changed. They’re also getting more open with hard facts. Since the feedback changes were made earlier this year, I’ve heard many sellers complain that the number of non-paying bidders has increased. eBay Australia deny that this is the case, with this rather oddly worded paragraph:

September 2008 data shows that the share of non-paying bidders on the Australian site has reduced by 5.53% since the Feedback changes came into effect on 12 May 2008 so there is no evidence that this is currently a widespread problem.

I think that this means that there are actually fewer NPBs as a proportion of total sales on eBay.com.au (though equally, it might mean any number of other things). Even if they need to hire a copywriter, it’s good to see eBay going public with such specific figures. What’s most difficult as sellers is to be asked to accept apparently random decisions: if we had access to at least some of the data behind those decisions, it would go some way to rebuilding trust between eBay and sellers.

Of course, this is just a document. It says all the right things, but so did Lorrie and Stephanie in Chicago in June, and that didn’t make a blind bit of difference to the series of changes and reversals of changes that followed. Will 2009 bring a new partnership beween eBay and sellers, or are eBay Australia just the band playing on the Titanic?

18 Responses

  1. Interesting. Unfortunately, I still would not accept anything eBay says at face value: I always look for the benefit to eBay; and they didn’t invite me onto their panel of “members”: still they already know what, as a buyer, I think of “them”. And, the fact is neither sellers nor eBay can survive without the confidence of the buyers, and the application generally of hidden bidders, in conjunction with absolute anonymity of bidders (“Bidder N”), which serves no other purpose that to hide from view any shill bidding so that buyers can’t detect it and therefore eBay does not have to waste any of their valuable resources pretending to do anything about it, is not going to improve that confidence anytime in the near future. The people currently running this company are a bunch of greedy, devious, disingenuous snakes …
    A detailed criticism of the eBay snake at https://www.auctionbytes.com/forum/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=6499794#6499794

  2. This looks like a very good step but I don’t trust their figures. I can truthfully say my revenue from sales is down 75% from last year but I’ve sort of left out an important piece of information.

  3. Philip: “I still would not accept anything eBay says at face value”
    EBFB: “I don’t trust their figures”

    If I were eBay, this lack of trust would be the first thing I wanted to tackle.

  4. Ebay themselves have been their own worse enemy.

    Over the last year, they have rode roughshot over all & sundry, but most particularly sellers.
    They did not listen to, and most totally ignored ‘their army of sellers’ and just set about a sea change (many for the sake of change & many which were later reversed).

    Now we are meant to see the ‘new’ Softly, sofly ebay.
    The right & only thing that can be said is, ebay should put up or shut up, as we’ve all heard it before!!.

    When I see ebay actually doing it, instead of just saying it, then I’ll start to beleive it……..until then ebay is the enemy not the friend, and that’s their fault..

    Ebay need to put their money where their mouth is……………….

  5. Hiya first post from along time lurker,a tough year with all the changes but am i the only one thats doing better than last year ?
    My main gripe about the changes is i have a massive amount of non paying bidders i only list buy it nows in general but don,t want to make everything immediate payment as cheque,s and postal order,s (an the odd loon that sends cash ) bring in a small profit every week.

  6. Actions speak a lot louder than words – if eBay AU was serious about ‘being in business with sellers, why do they allow other online retailers who are in direct competition with sellers to put sponsored links on completed listings, and those same sponsored links show higher in search than eBay store listings.

    NPBs down?? Really? That’s not what I’m reading on the Boards. Or perhaps it’s just that sellers are so scared of copping a neg that they don’t open UIDs, so that makes it all look good to the eBay number crunchers.

    You’re right, Sue, it’s all about trust. As a seller I don’t feel that I can trust eBay to even leave me alone to get on with selling, let alone look after my interests. As a buyer I’ve recently had a bad run with sellers – really slow in posting my items, appalling communication and in one case, no items at all after 2 weeks. So eBay has lost me as a seller and I probably won’t be shopping there in future either.

  7. 10,000 strong member panel? Let’s reinvent the wheel shall we?

    Why doesn’t Ebay simply ask their sellers to abide by Fair trading legislation in their dealings with consumers, as all businesses are required to do under AUSTRALIAN LAW in each State?.

    How about doing something to implement fraud prevention strategies to get rid of the ‘criminal element’ flourishing on Ebay?

    Thousands of consumers have been ripped off on Ebay this year…..(irrespective of Payment method) and they’re wondering about consumer confidence? – Once bitten twice shy perhaps?

    By the same token here’s something new and innovative for Ebay to consider…… Why doesn’t eBay Au start abiding by the TPA in their dealings with smaller businesses ??.

    Currently NO SELLER on ebay has any rights under TPA – if we’re to go by ‘The Law according to EBay’.

    In the real world meanwhile, the way Ebay forces its sellers to accept a so called ‘contract’ that gives them absolutely no bargaining power, no right to redress, and dictating all terms for Ebay’s benefit only….Is more than likely in breach of TPA.

    So this so called panel of sellers is going to re-write consumer protection and TPA legislation for us?

    ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same !’

  8. Wow, are the spin doctors at feebay after a big fat Christmas bonus ?
    There seems to be no end to the depths of mis-information that these folks can spin.

  9. great in theory but someone needs to tell the troops
    like most that sell on ebay long term we get bidders who dont pay ,wont pay and are obviously playing games or being malicious

    when you report this to ebay in an attempt to limit their stupidity
    you get a load of patronising bovine dung in return
    I would prefer to have my own settings on the bidder requirments not the ones ebay allow me

  10. Despite hard questioning via their press office using genuine press accreditation, eBay have still refused to state how they will select the 10,000.

    This retains the question, “Will they be card-carrying, died in the wool, eBay party members (e.g. staff who have buying and selling IDs, Education specialists, Platinum PowerSellers and above, etc)”?

    Or will they be selected at random from all levels of buyer and seller, with all lengths of eBay service and a broad range of emotive regard for eBay?

    Until that question is answered the jury and firing squad is still out to lunch.

    Even the G20 Summit has concluded the world needs greater transparency and free markets with no protectionism – and I guess that guarantees eBay will move in the opposite direction?


  11. @ # 10

    There is a website where you can report that sort of thing. It won’t solve the problem nor will it prevent it from happening to the next guy but he might realize he shouldn’t expect payment. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of dollars I lost over the years waiting for a payment that never came. And that isn’t counting the fees that never got refunded.

  12. the launch of a 10,000-strong “member panel” to consult with eBay.

    Does eBay Australia have 10,000 members left? If it does I’d be somewhat amazed after the PR hatchet jobs it’s done in recent months. 🙂

  13. the public gets what the public deserves

    you get what you pay for in this world
    cheap and bargain
    dont get you Rolls Royce 5 star service

  14. #13, Take a couple of zero’s off and it probably nearer the correct figure. 10,000 I just don’t believe. Anyone can create a 10,000 name mailing list from eBay members for a survey, but to try and convince the public it’s anything more than that is laughable.

  15. It’s in the nature of the damage Ebay is doing to itself that meaningful remedial action will only occur when the evidence of that damage has become too massive to refute. The approach being taken by Ebay Australia is an attempt to salami-slice a retreat to a point where the damage becomes tolerable.

    I would expect several more such adjustments at several national Ebays before the disruptive innovation agenda goes down the toilet, with or without its architects. Auctionbytes has an interesting item on how Ebay is shedding buyers while Amazon acquires them. Ebay UK needs to return to the business model as of August this year if it’s to turn things around. It needs to return to 2006 if it is to recover in less than two years.

  16. “We need your support” eBay.

    After hearing two years of the same noise from eBay (U.S.), this is more eBay Lip Service and delaying tactics.

    “frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, 1899.

    Not being from Missouri, as might be said elsewhere to eBay,

    “Put Up, Or Shut Up.”



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