Outlets, outlawed : what I’d do with eBay, part 1

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Angry CustomerOops, they’ve done it again. New eBay Outlet store La Redoute has managed to rack up a less-than-impressive 5 neutrals and 10 negative feedbacks in a month of trading: at time of writing, that puts them on 97.7% overall, or 5.4% non-positive feedback. Well, they’re in good bad company.

are held up by eBay as the creme de la creme of their sellers, with a highlighted link from the top of every page on the site, special ads on the home page and pushes from other areas of the site. You’d think these big, heavily-promoted names would be offering the best service possible, but as we’ve seen again and again in recent months, many of eBay’s favourite sellers are offering a second-rate service far inferior to their smaller competition. You’ve seen them, the 97%s, the DSRs sliding towards 4.0, the literally hundreds of negatives left for people who are still trading on the site, still labelled the cream of the crop. By every convention of the 15 year history of the site, some of these Outlet sellers are TERRIBLE. What can eBay be thinking of?

My guess is this: they’re thinking “wow, our buyers are demanding”. And they’re right. eBay buyers are the most demanding people on the internet, and if you need proof of that, go read those Outlet sellers’ feedbacks again, this time imagining it’s your business. Most of them say things like “item out of stock, seller refunded me”. If you run your own website too, you know that happens: stock control isn’t an exact science, and when you’re trading across multiple channels, it can become a truly dark art. On your website, you apologise, refund, the matter is over. On eBay, you get negative feedback.

Rather than lamenting this craziness, we could try rolling with it. eBay is the only site on the internet where everything you see is guaranteed to be in stock, you could say. If we’ve got it, you can have it. Yes, eBay will hold some of the biggest names in UK retail to account, for you, and make sure you get treated the way you want. You send them an email, they mail you back. And yes, we’ve checked their terms and conditions are legal. Shop on eBay and you’re guaranteed a pleasant experience.

This would take work, though. My guess is, it would take more realism from eBay’s business development team than is currently happening. It would certainly take more guts than eBay’s management are currently showing, to say to these huge, huge names: get off our site. You’re not good enough. You’re not offering the kind of customer service that tiny little one-person companies in back bedrooms can offer, who manage to keep 100% of their buyers happy. So go away. Come back when you want to play by the rules.

eBay’s uniqueness isn’t about format or fees – it’s about feedback. It’s time to take feedback seriously again. We should stop messing about with ridiculous tenths of a star controlling fees that make no difference to the quality of the site. Bring back the power of the red dot: too many negs and you’re off. And I don’t care how big you are.

I was asked a few weeks back, what I’d do to improve eBay. This is it. I would make it the best damn place to shop on the whole internet. Because everyone would play by the same rules. Buyers would know that whomever they bought from, they’d have a magnificent experience on eBay. You could call it, oh, I don’t know, a level playing field or something…

Part 2 of this post will follow Monday-ish

Image credit: © Avesun | Dreamstime.com

48 Responses

  1. *stands to applaud* Totally agree. What’s your wish for eBay?

    “I would make it the best damn place to shop on the whole internet.”

    Why isn’t that eBay’s plan?

  2. Wholeheartedly agree but some of those outlets do actually have some good feedback.

    Take tesco_outlet and blacks_outlet for example. Although that first one did have 1/3 of their negs mysteriously disappear one day. It was one of those “you ruined Christmas” negs.

  3. I still don’t understand Outlets. Is being associated with such well known brands as La Redoute and Branch 309 really where eBay see their future?

    If I want to buy something from Debenhams, I’ll buy it from their own site, not through ebay where I get no replies to emails and have to use Paypal.

  4. Are buyers more demanding with outlet sellers (especially buyers who are also disgruntled sellers)?

    Have buyers (in the past) been forgiving with feedback because the transaction is perceived as a person to person transaction (or at least from a micro-bussiness rather than from a corperation)?

  5. Who is kidding who? Some rambles.

    It’s tough out there.

    Outlets are on eBay because it is a tough retail environment just now.

    It’s the herd instinct. Boardroom discussion.

    Company x is on eBay, why aren’t we? Go do it.

    It’s about the hours. Retailing is an 8-8/6 business (used to be 9-5.30/6).

    etailing is a 24/7 business. Something that even eBay fail to recognise with proper support.

    Feedback can damage your wealth.

    Sure can damage mine. It is only a matter of time before an outlet makes a big headline with bad feedback. Which way will the herd go then?

    eBay seems to have foresaken all else for an opportunity thrown up by the financial environment (nothing wrong with embracing it, but foresaking all else?).

    Great for the short term.

    How about working with the whole eBay seller community to improve and progress?

    I am talking about quality just as much as quantity.

    Why does eBay not appear as my (the seller’s) friend rather than acting as my enemy?

  6. Perhaps the Outlet Sellers perceive 97.7% as good, maybe its just us (and Ebay) that see it as bad. I dare say the MD of Debenhams La Redoute etc would think they are doing very well to achieve such high satisfaction levels

  7. Well said Sue, had wondered if eBay had been weilding a large axe over tamebay’s head telling you not to insult its creme da la crap.

  8. Great article. I’ve done a little crusading of my own in the last couple of months which has been largely a waste of time.

    I’ve exchanged some heated emails with two eBay employees about how many Outlets get away with breaking the rules on external links etc, and a number of them have totally illegal returns policies.

    I think Outlets could be great for eBay, but they need to be setting the example of how retailing should be done, and many of them simply aren’t doing a good job.

    I was also told that those that need to make changes can’t just change things quickly, that different departments need to sign off on things and so on, which equates to an admission that eBay do in fact bend the rules for Outlets in my opinion, because if a lowly seller like me had external links or other policy breaches, I would get the listing removed and a policy violation on my account.

    /rant

  9. eBay will be as patient and forgiving as they can possibly bear. If the outlets make good money via ebay they’ll get their act together. I can’t imagine, though, that the Outlets will believe their 97.7% f/b really is awful.

    The outlets represent a very different model to what eBay has been built around. I haven’t seen real evidence that eBay is sufficiently agile yet in terms of leadership or technology to successfully adopt this model without damaging it’s core business to at least some extent.

    The two different models might make better sense as two different sites with bespoke features and rules.

  10. I would not be surprised if the Outlets (some of whom may have spent money on staff/setup costs especially) have negotiated an non-suspension policy for x amount of time.

    That in my mind can be the only explanation.

  11. what about the feedback for THE HUT OUTLET? how do they get such prominence as a seller with the feedback they are quickly accumulating

  12. Great article Sue, informative and interesting.

    IMHO your comment …Because everyone would play by the same rules… really is the most significant part of the article.

    There are so many sellers openly breaching the ‘rules’ or ‘rules are being bent’ to accommodate favoured sellers, that the rules have ceased to have any relevance.

    Trust is seriously lacking and things seem to be going from bad to worse. Unfairness is a sure and certain way to damage the ‘selling’ and ‘buying experience’

    Looking forward to part 2

  13. An advisor at HSBC was telling me with such pride how they had 92% positive customer service feedback. He thought it was fantastic, as mentioned above, some think this is very high and in the ‘real world’ it is. But, on eBay it definitely is not.

    eBay should be advertising this fact … where else can I buy from a seller with 100% (or near to) positive customer feedback? Go to a High St website or Superstore and you just can not tell how many customers have had a bad experience. eBayers wear their reputation on their sleeves for all to see eBay should be promoting this and it’s sellers that obtain it not outlet stores with crap service.

    It also makes me ask if eBay has given too much ‘power to the people’ 😯 so they demand such service under a big stick called negative feedback and DSR’s. A couple of bad DSR’s and your out, unless you have a big name … but isn’t this how it’s always been?

    This is just MHO 😀

  14. If anyone is curious about the negs that are missing I recorded them.

    1 was wiped away. Kind of an unfair neg in my opinion and most would probably agree (though good luck getting it removed if it happens to you).

    2 were removed that were posted by the same buyer. Weird thing is that buyer left 4 negs and the other two are still present. All 4 say exactly the same thing.

  15. Some of the outlet sellers are woeful and i think are getting special treatment from Paypal too.

    Bought an LCD TV on behalf of my parents for my brother for Xmas from Ebuyer.

    Opened it on christmas morning and it would turn on. Mailed ebuyer: No Response. Opened dispute in paypal and no response. Raised it to a claim with Paypal and still no response when claim was due to end of the 14th of Jan when i should have got my money back.

    With any other seller if they do not repond to a claim, paypal do a quick review and the buyer gets refunded. Paypal its now under review (Why? they have not reponded to it) and they will contact me with any developments by the bloody 11th of February.

    As a result ive had to leave Ebuyer a negative comment for their completely appalling service. They even ship things slower than they do with their own website for some reason.

  16. I have no problem with outlet sellers good luck to them and I understand their trading methods they are on ebay to make money, not pander to the loonies
    all I ask is that ebay dont massage the figures and feedback ,so buyers can make a decision on factual feedback data
    compared with other sellers

  17. On the one hand you have an army of sellers working their butts off to achieve everything eBay is asking for.

    On the other hand we have a seller that’s been chucked out of the outlets programme, has shocking numbers of non-positive feedback with a percentage so low it would get anyone else chucked off the powerseller programme. DSR’s so bad that would insure any mere mortal seller had search placement so low they’d be all but invisible, yet the same seller has deal of the day three times in a week.

    What kind of message does this send out to the hundreds and thousands of really good eBay sellers that have served the site well for years?

  18. I have no problem with outlets being on EBAY. What EBAY didnt tell them is thats its a demanding marketplace.

    To give them ‘powerseller’ status without them earning it was a farce (I think thats now been amended..?). If EBAY grant the status because of their reputation then when I open my next ID I want the same…

    We have about 140,000 transactions in past year with less than a dozen negatives… our reputation is far superior than any outlet..

    Outlets are beginning to realise EBAY is a different demanding marketplace.. the Schuh listing debacle illustrates how quickly buyers react to unfairness.

    Will they survive.. probably.. wil they improve… I have my doubts

  19. IMO it’s not that these outlets provide a lower level of service than on their websites and in their stores, it’s just that the average eBay buyer is very different to every other buyer.

    Firstly the buyers are often sellers also, and feedback is only seen as an opportunity to vent any views they may have towards eBay etc rather than the seller.

    Secondly their expectations are sometimes unrealistic, due mainly to the flawed fedback system where 98% is seen as bad!?!

    Thirdly the faceless transaction process that eBay provide, buyers often feel they are dealing with eBay not a smaller individual company/person and as such are more likely to claim INR etc.

    eBay is a profitable market place and is a good way to start a business. However, if you come along thinking you know how to sell on eBay simply because you already have a website or a string of high st shops, you are in for a very big shock, as we have seen.

  20. Unfortunately I think the idea is that the “outlets” will shape ebay rather than eBay shaping the “outlets”. For many of us we will just be part of the long tail and part of what brings the traffic but we will never be seen as a prized asset (however high our feedback is and however impeccable our customers service is) because we are not.

    That is not to say that eBay is no longer a great venue to sell product though.

  21. I am quite happy for outlets to stay as they are really proving that the smaller seller can and does provide better service time and time again.
    While I am concerned that their frankly piss-poor terms and crazy policies may scare some buyers away from exploring the rest of ebay after a bad transaction, it just highlights that more buyers need educating on their own rights and some need to be even more demanding and either kick-ass when it’s needed or shop where they will be treated fairly.

  22. Tesco seem to be doing quite well,both in terms of sales and customer satisfaction. I would imagine they will start to expand rapidly soon, daily deals etc, so expect a flood of complaints from small sellers that they cannot compete.

  23. check my competition outlet m&m last time i looked 64 negatives in less than a month how good is that for ebay

  24. I wish when I went in an Argos high st store they had the items they publish in their laminated bible in stock…it seems all the low to middle price items are out of stock, and surprise surprise the top of the range model is instock….

    I would love to tap in some DSR rating on those blue stock check machines! 😈

  25. It seems ridiculous that small sellers working at home, with limited storage and a lack of negotiation power with couriers (in terms of pricing/collection times) and juggling ebay with other jobs/family etc can beat large mail order companies operating out of large warehouses with large workforces.

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