Just because they’re paranoid… : what I would do with eBay, part 2

No primary category set

I’m going to make this one brief, because I hold out a small hope that eBay might read it. It’s something that could be sorted almost immediately. It would cost nothing. And it would make the site a 100% more pleasant place to be.

Ebay needs to quit their corporate paranoia. We’ve seen this for fifteen years or more in the ways they’ve sought to interrupt buyer/seller communication. We’ve seen My Messages become more and more useless – to the point now where if you request a reminder of your eBay ID, that doesn’t go to your email address, just to My Messages – where you can’t see it until you sign in. How pointless. What a ridiculously closed system it has become.

We saw it too with Skype – that I still maintain could have been a great purchase for eBay if they’d made it the basis of an integrated communication system. But they didn’t. They spent $2.6 billion on it, and then for months told sellers they couldn’t include their Skype ID in their listings. Again, pointless.

Most especially, eBay need to consider that they have information which would be amazingly useful to sellers, and that sellers should be given that information.

We saw this with Adcommerce, which was running for close to a year before we even got a beta version of conversion data. Only eBay could think that their customers would be daft enough to buy advertising for which they had no measure of success. Their closed-lippedness about how the EPN affiliate scheme pays out is another case in point.

But nowhere have we seen this more clearly illustrated than with the free postage issue.

eBay have at least the virtue of consistency with this policy (until now) – that they’ve insisted that “buyers like free postage”. And they’re basing this on *something*. More than one ex-employee has mentioned to me that eBay are “obsessive” about collecting statistics, and there is surely a huge collection of data relating to postage prices on eBay, sell-through rates, where the pain points are, and exactly how much free postage makes it more likely that a buyer will buy.

Where is this information? And why do we not have it too?

All eBay need to do is post some blog or forum posts saying “look, isn’t this interesting, the sell-through rate on free postage items is double what it is on paid-for postage items, oh and by the way, we’ll give you this FVF incentive if you list with free postage”, and sellers would be queuing up to list with free postage. They didn’t need to get sellers’ backs up. But they chose to, because their secrecy level is set somewhere around Kremlin 1955, and no one seems able to break that.

Break that secrecy barrier, and we’ll all work better together.

Because that’s how it should be: if buyers and sellers are working together to achieve successful sales, then sellers and eBay management should also be working together to extract every last possible penny from our buyers. Data would help us do that. Better communication all round would help us do that. Let’s have it, please.

Have I finished? You bet your little cotton socks I haven’t finished. Part three coming up shortly….

23 Responses

  1. Talking of free P&P some time ago the then category manager for DVD/games (Lee) on eBay UK approached us and asked us if we’d take part in an “experiment”. We were to offer free P&P on DVDs for 3 months (we would receive some credits as thanks) and the results would be analysed to see if the free P&P would drive more sales etc.

    The results were …. Little to no difference, and that was eBay’s conclusion as well as my own (and I can do some pretty main stats, I am highly competent with SPSS and Minitab etc).

    So not only are eBay paranoid about their customers, they don’t even trust their own research at times …. Of course when Richard Ambrose announced free P&P later at at SB2 I just knew this was yet another eBay cockup.

  2. Isn’t it weird that a company founded on community values seems to have such a dysfunctional approach to community?

  3. This eBay “community” nonsense people speak about makes me laugh. It’s all window dressing. If anyone thinks eBay is a community or actually cares about any person or group of people then they’re living in cloud cuckoo land. eBay is nothing more than a huge corporate machine that will eat up and spit out people with no regard for anything apart from it’s quarterly figures.

  4. I would imagine that ebay would never give up the prescious data collated at our expense. Yes, at our expense. ebay don’t pay, they just reap the benefits and continue experimenting safe in the knowlege that there will always be guinepigs to take the fall, loose money and be constantly told “to do better”
    The data they do actually provide us with however is largely incorrect or useless.
    Case in point my recent enquiry into the 5 low dispatch DSR scores I can see in my trending data for November. When I queried this I was told I hadn’t received any low DSR scores for November.

  5. Where is this information? And why do we not have it too?

    The information doesn’t exist Ebay had no evidence that free p and p increased sales, as pointed out they had six months of data regarding DVDs which they chose not to publish. Apart form the fact that vinyl and books are entirely different from DVDs the data obviously proved nothing. Requests for such information or explanation were met with we have “data from America”. Therein lies the truth Ebay had already decided to introduce free p and p months ago and the decision probably came form the US. We might find out more if the rumoured heads will roll prediction takes place this week. Unfortunately Ebay UK and Ebay Germany are always the test beds for ideas from above and we suffer as a result.

    Kremlin comparisons are totally apt. Ebay is a Stalinist organisation. For years they wouldn’t even put up spoke persons for the media, When they do now its on their terms, short interviews usually recorded. To my knowledge in the UK thy have never taken any questions from their customers on TV or radio unless asked by a third person. Most “dialogue” takes place within their walls and even that’s become too hot for them they closed the blogs and the forums will go soon. I’m amazed that you think (or might hope) that Ebay listens to you or anyone else. Good luck but you are fighting against 10 years of paranoia.

    I’m sick of Ebay lunching out on its hippy roots, its a corporate machine and not a very good one at that. Of course Ebay is a community but Ebay itself has never been a part of it or been interested in being part of it. It doesn’t care what you do, what you think or who you are as long as you don’t damage the brand and you make them money.

  6. As a buyer, I feel worse off lacking the bidding history, which used to give me a contact who was interested in same stuff as me. Also some would, on asking, list more material that I was interested in – business for eBay.

    The free postage I offered on my 18 books recently meant I shoved up prices to reflect that and these look unattractive as a starting point (isn’t that what AUCTIONS are all aoput?!) and also I have noticed that as a buyer on collectables, I am less interested because of these psychological starting point. 99p is so much better than £2.99 – which frankly includes hidden packaging costs – which eBay wanted to battle once upon a time!

    I say, let’s have a free market with mnimal protection and let us the buyer and seller work things out!

    Some point soon my local charity shop is going to benefit and I suspect that buyers might start going there instead as I can’t be bothered listing any more!!!

  7. “I’m going to make this one brief, because I hold out a small hope that eBay might read it”

    Are you serious? I thought you and Chris were in bed with eBay…what with all the info that seems exclusive to this blog (eBay’s expansion into other European countries, for example).

    Why pretend otherwise? Recently, Chris was asked on this blog how his lunch with one of eBay’s corporate employees went, and the questioner was told to mind his own business.

    I think sometimes this blog pretends to be a dissenting mouthpiece, but it is secretly a propaganda machine for eBay.

  8. Secrecy in business is normal, and should be expected.

    Extreme example 1. Would TameBay please publish a chart of it’s daily viewer hits?

    Answer: No
    Why?: Because it’s none of your bleeping business.

    That’s not paranoid. It’s just a good business practice to protect your data.

    Extreme example 2: The Jeff Bezos calls (confirmed) for viewer stats because he’s interested in a partnership.

    Answer: !!!! 😀 !!!!

    Here it’s probably good business to use that data to further the business.

    Would expect eBay to be no different.

    HOWEVER. When you’re outside looking at the castle walls, you work with what you can find.

    Or Siege.


    “We laid out this camp for the prosecution of a siege. We didn’t expect them to come visiting at all hours. We expected them to be stubborn, and they’ve turned out to be clever. I hate cleverness!”
    Cornelius Flavius Silva (Peter O’Toole), Masada (1981)

  9. Just putting credit where it’s due, I think eBay have become considerably more open in the past five years. They have an increasing number of the team tweeting and making themselves available, providing insight and help.

    Corporate cultures change very slowly, but I think it’s unfair not to recognise progress.

    As for data — anyone can sign up to Terapeak and drink all the data they can handle. There’s more that is available to eBay internally (and it does to its credit seem to be an organisation that likes to find facts to support hypotheses), but there’s a lot already out there publicly.

  10. My Mantra is ‘I need a website’. Not becuase i dislike selling on ebay, though hate the way they treat sellers like children.
    Also becuase if they change multi listings with full visibility i would go broke. Sorry i dont know the terms as you all do.
    Though why do ebay always think they need to fix things?
    I had a listing pulled becuase i said twit (i meant Tweet) but i am really dyslexic. LOL. I now have warning under policy appliance, i explained and said i was sorry and corrected it but ……….

    Also i made about the same amount Gross this Dec to last but my fee’s with ebay were double this year. Its my Ebay tax, then my Paypal Tax, before i even get to TAX, & NIC 4.

    Ebay should be great, its super for people to find there feet in selling, and for those who can buy in bulk and sell low. Though my buyers have to read loads of auto answers before they can ask me a question.
    Sorry i expect i have contradicted myself allot, though fully agree with Sue, well done.


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