Richard Brewer Hay, the official eBay blogger, interviews John Donahoe, eBay’s President, during eBay OL in Dallas. I love that JD is making the effort to video the people he’s talking to, so that he can pass on their exact comments to the appropriate people at eBay. That’s a really neat idea and one that plenty of us could borrow.
But I’m pretty stunned by the rest of the content. We’re used by now to eBay saying “sellers are happy with the changes we’ve made”. I think we all know that’s partially true: any change that eBay makes is going to be good for some sellers and bad for others, and the second group are the ones who make the most noise. It’s just disingenuous to try to cover this up.
But the real problem is when JD starts talking about things sellers have complained about. First, he only mentions one example: I’ll bet that “abusive buyers” isn’t the only thing that sellers in Dallas were unhappy about. If that weren’t dismissive enough, he goes on to say that the issue around abusive buyers is one of seller perception: that sellers aren’t understanding what eBay are doing about abusive buyers, rather than that eBay have set up a system where a couple of abusive buyers can ruin your online business. eBay have to accept responsibility for their part in this. And if they want to say that some “dolphin” sellers will get caught up in a system designed to make buyers feel better, and that that’s a price worth paying, then they should stand up and say it, not hedge it round with guff about seller perceptions.
Then there’s the section at the end about how eBay is working with smaller sellers to protect them and their businesses against predatory large retailers who want to push them off the internet just like they pushed them off the high street. Can this possibly be the same company that’s pushing Fashion Outlets all over its own site and just about every London billboard I’ve seen in the last week? That looks like the exact opposite of supporting the little guy to me.
Dear eBay, sellers are not stupid. No, honestly, we’re not. We know you’re in business to make money and we know that what you’ll always do will be what suits your bottom line best. So – can we now quit with the Meg Whitman-esque touchy feely community stuff? You don’t care about us, we know you don’t care about us, we don’t care about you much either. Wheeling out the CEO to say “we care about you” when your actions suggest the exact opposite of that is a really bad idea. You make things worse when you do this. If we could all just go “we’re in it to make money” and think about the best ways of us all doing that, life would be so much easier.