eBay auto emails : what your buyers will see (it ain't pretty)

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can't turn mails offAs a few eBay UK sellers have already noticed, some new emails are being sent out to buyers.

Buyers will now receive the following mail automatically:
• an order confirmation email when an item is paid for.
• an “order update” whenever a seller prints a shipping label, adds a tracking number* or marks an item as dispatched.
• a payment reminder 48 hours after the item was purchased if it is not marked as paid.

(* Or so eBay say – I can’t currently find a way to add a tracking number in eBay itself, so presumably this is a feature that’s coming soon – but if anyone knows different, please leave us a comment!)

The emails cannot be turned off, though sellers subscribed to SMP can add their own message to the bottom of the emails. It’s tempting to recommend the addition of an apology for the terrible spelling and grammar, for this is the worst set of emails I’ve seen in a long time:

There are a few pitfalls sellers need to be aware of too: firstly, that crazy 48 hour payment window. If you take cheques or typically have buyers spending a few days putting larger orders together, warn them in advance that eBay will be sending this mail and you can’t stop it. There’s nothing worse as a buyer than being hassled for payment when you’re still shopping, and this eBay email is the online equivalent of the pushy assistant following you round the shop.

Secondly, if you already had customised dispatch emails in SMP, these have been deleted. If you had information about how to track an order, which couriers you use or how long delivery should take, that information is gone, and you’ll need to add it again.

Thirdly, these emails communicate nothing useful and so, at worst, are just going to confuse your buyers. Do you think a newbie buyer will know how to “track your order at the order detail page in My eBay”? No, me neither.

Finally, if you take payments outside eBay’s checkout and don’t mark items paid for in My eBay or SMP currently, you need to start doing so, or your buyers will continue to get reminders about them even after they’ve been paid for. Of course, if you’ve got three months of orders in SMP that now need to be marked paid, it looks like three months’ worth of “order updates” will be sent out, so you’ll most likely have a confused buyer or two to deal with anyway.

It’s almost impossible to know where to start criticising this system. If you’re managing your eBay orders off-eBay – and not bothering to mark as paid on-eBay because that’s being dealt with elsewhere – that will probably need to change: I certainly don’t want my buyers getting reminders for items they paid for two days ago (note that you can’t add your own text to this email – so telling your buyers “ignore the above” isn’t even an option). Insisting that “mother knows best” and not allowing sellers to turn these emails off is ridiculous.

But the badly written and essentially useless content of the email is the biggest insult of all. There’s no useful information in these emails: buyers will rapidly come to recognise them as auto-generated, and ignore them. Sellers will feel forced to send their own, useful communications… and all that eBay have done is add two or three pointless emails to every transaction.

Dear eBay, we know you want to be Amazon. We know this is you trying to own the transactions… but you’ve got it wrong. Let us opt in and out of the mails: we know our buyers better than you do. And please, let us edit ALL the text – otherwise you know, you just know that some of us are going to use that “add your own message” space to apologise to our buyers for the nonsense you’ve just sent them. And that will make us all look stupid.



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