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

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