You & Yours on eBay fees: A good argument made badly

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You & Yours hosted by Peter White is the BBC4 Consumer Affairs Radio Show and today saw eBay’s Patrick Munden discussing eBay fees, along with John Alexander, an eBay seller and Andrew Cave from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

John Alexander of Planet Watch kicked the discussion, explaining that he has been selling 2nd hand high end watches on eBay for 9 years. The watches and jewellery he sells generally range in price from £500 to £5000 but profit margins are very low at around 5% to 10%. He explained that on a £4000 watch he’s seen his fees jump from £120 to £480 and his complaint is that there’s no profit margin left unless he increases his selling price to the consumer.

This is a pretty strong argument to support his case that the recent fee changes by eBay have been detrimental to his business, but sadly from there things went downhill. When asked about alternative marketplaces he only mentioned eBid as a non-entity where there simply aren’t any sales. However he missed mentioning Amazon where sales are booming but fees for watches and jewellery are around 25% compared to just 10% on eBay.

Andrew Cave from the FSB then said he’s hearing from a lot of sellers who’s businesses are just not viable any more. However he said that the a short notice period of fee changes was just four weeks (it wasn’t, it was eight weeks) didn’t give sellers time to adjust their businesses. Andrew Cave went on to say that he was particularly disappointed as he would have hoped eBay would foster a new generation of new online business startups.

Patrick Munden of eBay acquitted himself fairly well acknowledging that there were real price increases for some sellers. He pointed out 45,000 new businesses have started on eBay since the recession started, so the FSB view that eBay are preventing new businesses starting is a myth. He explained that whilst some eBay fees have increased in other categories such as technology they have reduced to 3%. eBay looked at other marketplaces and wanted to make sure that eBay is really competitive against those, that’s why technology where there are traditionally very low margins have seen fee decreases and others such as clothes shoes and accessories where there is quite a lot of margin for sellers have seen fees increased.

Andrew Cave then weakened the argument against eBay, he said the problem wasn’t just about the fee increase but that eBay already have a fiendishly complicated fee structure and that sellers boycotted eBay for a week as a consequence of fee changes. Firstly the new fees are about as simple as you can get – a straight flat percentage. Secondly the supposed boycott might have attracted some publicity but that’s about the most you can say for it – it’s had no impact, didn’t affect buyers and most sellers were unaware it happened.

It’s a shame that the argument against eBay fee increases for some sellers was so weak. Sellers of high ticket items in some categories have a justifiable complaint that eBay is gouging them for higher fees and the point just wasn’t articulated well. It’s also true to say that a business operating on just 5% to 10% on second hand watches could probably increase profits – after all selling at traditional auction houses generally attracts fees of 15% and upwards.

My takeaway from the program was that John Alexander has a justifiable gripe regarding how the fee increase has affected his business and will need to adjust his business model in the future. Patrick Munden from eBay was well prepared with many facts, figures, and examples of sellers prospering under the new fee structure. Sadly the FSB were not familiar with the new eBay fee structure and should have done their homework better.

You can “listen again” to today’s You & Yours program on the BBC website, the eBay section is chapter 2. Let us know what your views on the program are and who had the best arguments to support their point.

104 Responses

  1. I’d add a few points:

    If any business is operating on a 5-15% margin, then it needs to examine ways of boosting that. It’s a bit too weeny in retail, even if there are some examples of businesses prospering on that.

    Sellers should organise and be more demanding about what they’re paying for. eBay obviously has room for improvement, so fee increases should come with a quid pro quo. And sellers need to ask for more. Grumbling doesn’t count, btw.

    eBay also need to be better about explaining what they are doing. Namely for one, spending millions on marketing the site for sellers. Which Patrick did say, to be fair.

  2. Howdy,

    Alas a few minutes for this discussion was sadly not enough, it did appear that Patrick was ambushed somewhat in a ‘eBay bashing’.

    I agree that John Alexander has a justifiable gripe, that increase in fees would have hurt. But put into context, its a lot less than Amazon and still, 10% is a bargain and these changes were released in plenty of time.

    As was pointed out, Amazon is 25% for this category of product. The FSB representative obviously lacked coherent knowledge of such marketplaces, 10% (varies) is an amazingly cheap marketing fee for access to soo many customers and then (in this example) 10% fee for a *SALE* is a complete steal, with insertion fees from free.

    Its never been so cheap to list on eBay, the barrier to entry is exceptionally low and the new fee structure makes working out the final value fees much easier for merchants. Oh and did someone forget to include the other changes that were included in that update?


  3. I would point out that it isn’t so much about the “actual” fees or the how much cheaper than Amazon eBay are or how “uncomplicated” the new fee structure is…

    It’s about the perception of it all. If he thinks the fee structure is complicated, then to him (not exclusively I would wager) they are.

  4. Since eBay put there fee’s up our bills have reduced by about 30%, put simply, when a buyer makes an offer and we decline it 9/10 buyers will send us a message asking either a) why or b) how much do you want, when we explain that the offer has been declined because eBay now take 10% they just ring up and order over the phone, eBay then get bugger all.

    eBay is still profitable but as usual every year that passes by our other online sites do much much better than eBay. I could ditch eBay tomorrow and still have a very good business, I don’t because it still makes money and that is why we do what we do.

  5. You shouldn’t sell on one platform, like eBay because negative changes on eBay will just effect your whole business. He should have opened a website years ago and lean’t SEO.

    The only reason big high street brands sell via eBay is to take eBays customers to there own websites. This is what everyone with a website should be doing.

    eBay will always look out for eBay, and everyone should be looking out for number one as well.

    I’m not having a dig at North, but he could find himself in the same boat as the person in the article if eBay continues the same way it is going. Thats not an insult to North, its an observation.

    Tamebay should change into a multi platform forum, chatroom as, this is the future of eccommerce. eBay will not be top for much longer, its just a cheap budget marketplace similar to the lower end of the budget supermarkets, who upsets its sellers, the core of its business. Sellers selling else where, in search of a bigger profit is what will finish eBay off.

    What we should all be looking for is the next thing. eBay seems more interested with its shareholders than its sellers.

  6. Is there a market for second hand watches on amazon?

    Amazon fees may be hire but possibly you are also getting a higher quality market place which is better regulated and which has the potential for higher sales price + velocity.

  7. First the interview was edited, so not all points about alternatives was highlighted.

    I was asked what was relative for my business, Amazon is not an alternative for me, as they have not had an open viable market place for UK sellers selling second hand watches.

    Now with regards to the profit margin, who some commented on. We are talking about high value items, in a very competitive market. EBay is flooded with US sellers selling watches where they all have fake bracelets, and they are selling them with eBays approval, despite countless reports to eBay. They are able to sell because of this at a much lower price, because they are not selling 100% genuine items as we do.

    I was interviewed in advance, and was not able to respond to eBay spokesman or FSB.

    What annoys me is that FSB was clearly not properly prepared. As an example that I gave, my eBay fee’s for one item has increased with 300%, from £120 to £480. (Excl. Paypal)

    I depend on buying my products from private people, who can see eBay’s prices when they are looking to sell something they have. But 80% of my business has been consignment sales, this means I get a commission on everything I sell. Not being to greedy, I feel on some items 10% commission on high value items should be sufficient, and is the max if I am going to be able to sell the items in todays market.

    Ebay spokesman quotes seems to be very inaccurate with reality, as after newspaper article few weeks ago in the Independent – I have have received many emails of businesses telling me about their demise. I know of at least 20 watch shops, who know are not trading anything on eBay anymore.

    Each of us used to spend around £1000 – £2000 average a month on eBay fees. There is NO WAY, this can be supported in todays business model.

    There is also another very important point, which has not been highlighted. I will follow up with that shortly.

    Why does eBay motors have a cap on their FVF’s?

    I would be selling low value items, of 10 to £500, I would not have such an issue with this. If somebody believes that in example my market where gold etc., various brands have set values, that somehow they can manage to buy such items and sell with much higher margins then 10%, then they are extremely naive. That means they do not know much about the business. The example I used on the radio, was for a Rolex Submariner watch, could be any watch, at value of £4000.

    As an example, I get this watch for £3450 from my supplier, with the old fee regime I would sell and pay around £120 in eBay fees + Paypal if required. On average I could calculate 5 – 6% eBay and paypal. That would leave me with approx. £330 profit. So does not that sound fair? Ebay/Paypal get around £220 and I get £330!

    Now with new fees structure, eBay/Paypal would take £600, so that means I loose £50, unless I quickly increase my prices to at least £4500!
    Now who will suffer? Consumer? !!

    Here comes the catch 22, these new fees of 12% applies for UK / Ireland sellers only!
    Not sellers from USA, Germany, Holland etc.

    This brings me to the next point, can eBay legally do this?
    Or is this price discrimination, and in breach of the European Services Directive Article 21?

    Quote of the directive:

    Article 20


    1. Member States shall ensure that the recipient is not made subject to discriminatory requirements based on his nationality or place of residence.

    2. Member States shall ensure that the general conditions of access to a service, which are made available to the public at large by the provider, do not contain discriminatory provisions relating to the nationality or place of residence of the recipient, but without precluding the possibility of providing for differences in the conditions of access where those differences are directly justified by objective criteria.”

    As far as I can understand, there is not reason for an objective criteria for UK versus countries like Germany or Holland, similar living standards and wealth!

    There is a more serious message with this, these are not major companies we are talking about, these are small mostly family business run, and a failure to succeed will for many mean the end!

    Ebay have acted with contempt, and are showing us that they do not need us anymore.
    (Again, for my business, Amazon.UK is not an option, as they have not had options for selling watches from the UK)

    I do not mind some fee increase, but we are talking about an increase of 300 to 600%!! What business does this?
    Furthermore, why does a private seller get better terms? Isn’t it normal business practice to reward the regular customers with better benefits?

    If there was still possible to make good profit margins, I would not care to speak about this, and you should not comment about other peoples profit margins, unless you know the specifics about that that business.

    (If I was selling camera batteries for £20 each, I might have a 50% profit margin, which would work out £10, however to sell the equal amount I would need to sell 33 batteries, to get £330 profit, as I would get from selling one watch. However there is a major difference, batteries low priced items, higher margins, and you would sell bigger quantity, high value items, you reach a smaller amount of people needing and being able to afford such products, and will not be able to sell the same quantities)
    Also you risk more capital when making purchases, as you will have fewer eggs in your basket, then if you have low value item stock. It is a different ball game.

  8. As much as I don’t want to defend the recent FV increases in collectables, eBay does still represent good value.

    If I sold via a “real” auction house, I would be looking at minimum 15% and I would get less exposure too.

    I just wish eBay would stop fiddling about with the platform – I know those employed there have to been seen to be doing something, but the endless alterations to the site are annoying.

    And don’t get me started on the on-page adverts… I’ve switched to Firefox with the ad killer software, eBay without ads, it’s just like the old days!

  9. Mike:”If I sold via a “real” auction house, I would be looking at minimum 15% and I would get less exposure too.”

    People how keep drawing those comparisons make me very tired. There are a few people having those opinions, it almost as I think they are planted there by eBay to spread fear, that it could actually get worse, which it probably will eventually.

    First 99% of us selling on eBay would not be selling at an auction house. I most certainly would not bother.

    End of the day, the consumer will decide, as in my example to order from my website or via eBay, as the example above the price difference will be £600!
    Now do you really think the consumers will just throw away this kind of money, because of eBay’s safety?

    In my example with high value items, eBay have provided a safe shopping environment for the buyers, which is the problem with a website in high value items, it takes much more confidence to purchase such items from a website then via eBay. That’s why many of us have put our main eggs with eBay, because they provided this confidence for the customers.

    But comparing an auction house and eBay is wrong, eBay is NOT an auction house. Most sellers do not list high value items on auctions anymore, as first the reserve price listing fees are to expensive (3%) – and the way the bidding system has been made very rarely we can get the minimum price to be able to sell an item.

    Again for low value items this would be different, then again low value items would not normally be sold at an auction house.

    Also the physical overhead expenses with an auction house are completely different.

    I do hope that eBid will be able to provide confidence with the public, and in the future give some competition to eBay, as the current situation with eBay is not acceptable.

    Let’s get it straight, eBay is not an auction house. eBay get regular payments, insertion fees to actually list the items for us, and provide us a platform.

    In all normal business practices, the more business you do with somebody, the better conditions you would give them, with eBay it is opposite.

    For big outlets like Karen Millen, a 12% fee for fashion articles would of course represent good value for money, those are eBay’s new targets, big brands, and leave us small / medium sellers to battle with this, which will be impossible.

    eBays talk in the program, was left to go on and on about their growth etc., they might be attracting new sellers all the time, but when those sellers discover the real value of their work and how hard it will to be profitable, they will fall away as flies.
    Fact is that most of the things was just pre-prepared nonsense, the reality is that eBay is loosing a lot on this from sellers such like me and other in similar situation.

    With regards to FSB, when he said some sellers have had as much as 50% fee increases – when he had just heard from my interview that it had gone from £120 to £480, that is 300% fee increase!!

    That is about paying attention to what is going on, and that is just plain lazy by FSB if you ask me!

  10. I’ve just listened to this prog and have to say that it was one way traffic.

    The guy from FSB was just useless,no imput at all.I did feel sorry for the seller but was completely drowned out by the Ebay guy.

    Ebay have all angles covered in what is a very slick piece.

  11. ebay sellers often complain about buyers who do not accept their clearly stated postage charge and mark down and complain afterwards
    ebays fees are clear whats the beef
    if they are unacceptable go elsewhere , ebay are not a charity or political party there a business if their high fees start hurting or another player joins the game, they will drop them

  12. northumbrian – what are you talking about?

    Sellers can not not mark down buyers in anyway! Feedback system on eBay today only works one way.

    Furthermore the postage costs are peanuts in the big picture. Many of us offer free postage, so I do not see how that is an issue with FVF.

    The point is that there is nowhere else to go, eBay know this, so they have us there stuck.
    And wrong, 8 weeks notice to change your business structure is not a lot of time to change, I doubt any business will have a 300 – 600% rise in expenses within 8 weeks! So your point that we know the fees, and should just shut up and accept is wrong! We knew the fees, and then eBay changed them with a landslide, not just a tweaking.

    EBay claim they did this to make it easier, any seller with half a brain would be able to work out the fees they would require, how come they do only want to make it easier in the UK and not the rest of the world?
    Is that fair? Here is the fact, you the customer will be paying for the fee changes of eBay, are you willing to pay another 9% on the item you are buying? I am not!

  13. isleman – I was the seller, but I was NOT THERE with eBay. BBC had me come in 2 days earlier and pre-record my segment. So I did not have ANY input to come with with regards to eBay. As I was not there together with them.

    I am not a member of FSB, and by the state of the standards of their knowledge I will not become one either. He was OUT of touch with the reality. Fee increases are not 50%, they 300 to 500%. Also he got a few other factual points wrong, which does not give confidence.

    BBC created the setup, and I feel now after this was clearly a mistake.

  14. The FSB is a joke organisation that’s only purpose in life is to keep a few coffin dodgers in beer money by sending them off to industrial estates in natty blazers flogging pointless memberships to the FSB.

  15. After 8 years on Ebay selling Antiques we are winding down our operations here.

    Ebay no longer provide a viable market.

    Driving off the small sellers has driven off a lot of our buyers is our fear.

    Now to the “45,000” new businesses have started on Ebay mantra.

    Is this possibly some “spin”?

    How many “old businesses” have left in the same time.

    I do not see Ebay mentioning that figure…

  16. The FSB are only useful for the legal services helpline. I cancelled my membership after a year, as they did nothing to help my business.

    Ebay’s Patrick Munden made valid points. Ebay fees have gone up un CSA category, but they are still realistic. A business makes its profit by buying stock at the right price, not selling. Amazon fees are around 15%, so its a pretty level marketplace now. Patrick was correct in stating that ebay invest money to bring buyers to the marketplace…certainly this is the case for me. My sales are double year on year. Eby is a safer place to buy now that they have sorted out the fraudulent sellers, and raised standards.

  17. Everyone wants an alterative to eBay, but at the moment there isn’t one. Instead of waiting for someone else to do something, why not open your own website and make that your alternative. There’s a few commenters on Tamebay who only sell via there own websites and don’t sell via eBay at all. The sooner you open a website the sooner it will become establish, and pick up SEO as you go along.

  18. Even better, I am planning my own platform, just for my categories and for invited sellers only. for antiques, jewelery, art and watches. High value items only.

    So who knows!

  19. I think this posts shows enough, why eBay will be able to manipulate UK sellers, some of you guys are not even smart enough to agree about these basics.

    Good, that for some of you such high fee increases in such short notice is a good thing!
    eBay is built on the concept of split and divide, and it seems it shows nicely in these posts!

    Also fine that so many of you think it’s good UK sellers are discriminated against with regards to fees.

    Yes my efforts are 2, first improving on website, and trying to get it up the search engines, and second find myself a commercial pilot job, and just leave eBay as hobby selling stuff now and then.

  20. Missing the point, the only one who will be making tons will be eBay! They are moving towards main stream retail, we who struggle with our small business will be peanuts for them.

    The eBay UK part just does not care about their consumers or business that work with them. If they cared, they would have tried to find a dialogoue. Eventually all such business will get eroded, and face future competition. So they still have their day in the sun, until…. I am waiting for Google to launch their own platform, or some other company that has the power to give a credible competition! When that happens eBay will have to comply with sellers requests, but unfortunately, eBay know they have a massive lead on the competition, but remember Apple seemed down and out also few years ago, I am pretty sure there are some smart people looking to take advantage of eBay’s greed.

  21. @ John Alexander

    FYI Google have made several attempts to launch an ecommerce platform. None have seen great success.

    There are dozens of other sites out there too including Amazon, Etsy and loads of others (slightly bewildered you cited that old turkey eBid on the wireless!)

    Do you think you damaged your own business, and maybe that of other eBay businesses, by having a whinge on Radio 4 and a slag off session in public? What was your motivation?

    Sounds like you need to innovate, frankly. :o)

    Dan Wilson

  22. No-one will come up with an alternative eBay…ever.

    What may happen is as the way people shop online and as the way peoples expectations change, eBay may fail to change fast enough.

    This will leave a gap in the market for someone to come in, all new and fresh, ready to supply the “new” needs and desires of a new type of internet shopper.

    eBay is eBay, always will be. They may change their fees or the way products are displayed or the way feedback works…They will always be eBay, one of the biggest “commerce type” websites of the past 10 years. No competitor can change that.

    I believe that with the massive increase in smart phone ownership, tablet computers, TV/internet integration, the way we shop will change to a streamlined, fast, simple process.

    We no longer need to search for hours, we increasingly know what we want and what we want to pay for it.

    Forget all the bells and whistles of a website, a simple search-select-pay process is all that is required.

  23. I think you’re wrong, social time and how it’s spent is one of the fastest changing areas of our lives.

    The days of wandering around the high st looking for bargains etc are fast dissapearing, as shown by all the shops closing down, not just due to an apparent recession.

    Whilst a few people on here claim not to use Facebook etc, many people (key online shopping demographics) do and a lot more of our social time is spent online or on our phones etc.

    Sitting in town drinking a coffee is all well and good and looking around the shops to go home and make your purchases online.

    Hunting for bargains online is something that made eBay what it is, people simply don’t shop that way anymore. They want speed, good prices, free delivery (on the day and at the time they choose) and to be able to return goods, also for free.

    If you can’t meet that demand, you won’t have an online business within the next 5 years.

  24. traditional shops are closing because ebay/amazon et al undercut them , they cant compete, with their overheads staffing costs, business rates etc, not because people have stopped shopping

  25. I love the ebay will survive mantra that seems to be going on.

    Sorry but the reality is they don’t stand a chance in hell, if they continue to be run by the accountants and the shareholders.

    Accountants know nothing about business, they just see figures and shareholders are just like ebay buyers filling in those questionnaires they just want more for nothing. A company can’t be sustained on such stupidity.

    Amazon continues to grow stronger, as they understand all ends of their market, as they are also sellers. So when Amazon advertises for new customers, they advertise for customers they would want, unlike ebay that will just want more numbers, as accountants think numbers are everything and have no idea of quality over quantity.

    Ebay harp on about thousands of new business’s, knowing nothing of their quality, or if they are just old sellers they have already thrown off opening up a dozen accounts each just to survive the next selection of ebay changes. They basically have no idea who is using their system.

    And as to the alternatives such as ebid net that were dismissed, you are thinking too short term, as they are also growing, and even though they are not a viable alternative for today, the more ebay alienate their sellers, then the future of the alternatives will continue to grow, as more and more sellers move from ebay to sites like

    Most unique goods sellers have no choice, as the only alternative is to have no place to sell or sunday morning bootsales and I am sure most are feeling unwanted by ebay at this moment, as they try to bend and twist their selling to fit in with the ever increasing demands of ebay.

    So I would not really dismiss the alternatives so easily, as ebay is not an option for a lot of sellers at the moment.

  26. As an ex long term powerseller on Ebay UK who has recently closed up shop completely on there I think that the main problem is putting price increases in place when the level of service to Ebays customers, the sellers is so poor.

    I put up with geographic sales patterns on 3 accounts for a number of years, with sales following a 3 weeks cycle, 1 week of Wales and the west country (slow sales but always in the same geographic area/postcodes), then a week of sales to the Scottish highlands then a week of next to nothing, a few days of clustered international sales and then a few days of good sales UK wide before the cycle would return.

    I tried to discuss my concerns with customer services, but they were basically Philipino call centre staff reading from a script in a language that isn’t native to them, I raised the issue on the Ebay community forums and was amazed at the amount of sellers who had noticed similar patterns.

    Then after the virus issue in the adverts earlier this year and another round of “improvements” in search my sales plummeted 80% overnight, despite numerous updates to item specifics being made, sales stayed at this level until I pulled the plug.

    Since leaving the platform I’ve talked to others who have suffered the same search patterns, some who have phoned Ebay when their items cant be found in search, only to have Ebay staff admit they cant find them either despite them being live.

    Its a subject I could waffle on about for hours and my post here doesn’t even scratch the surface, but in short if you want to raise fee’s for sellers then at least let them see that their getting some level of service for their money, yes, you owe the share holders, but paying customers through the door is the only way to sustain a business, and despite what Ebay think there isn’t an endless pool of potential sellers.

    I have 4 accounts in total, private and business which lay dormant, I wonder how many of their accounts that are included in the grand total are inactive, and how that stacks up by date of inactivity, I know of many small and medium businesses who have pulled their products away from the platform, and many manufacturers/distributors who refuse to sell to Ebay sellers due to the stupid pricing that happens on there devaluing their brands, its not sustainable business…

  27. We have also experienced patterns of selling activity by geographical region and country. I genuinely believe that this is a real issue and not some urban myth, but I have no idea why it is so, or what benefit there is to eBay.

    In sure that many sellers like myself have had a product on offer for many months with minimum sales (i.e. a CD), only to find that something relating to that artist (i.e. a TV appearance) generates a mass of sales overnight.

    In the later case there is a identifiable reason, but for the former – I have no idea!

  28. I have noticed a slight variation on the geographic theme. I occassionally get a number of “traditional addresses”. There will be several “Rose Cottage” and “Mill House” or similar all arrive together. I also get the geographic theme occassionally finding that there could be several going to the same town. So there could be three or four bought at the same time all going to say Brighton or Eastbourne or Hastings etc. Once or twice by comparing postcodes it is obvious that they could literally be the next street and once or twice even the same book title which has caused me to wonder if they could be mates and one has found it listed and has told his mate and they both buy the book(before anybody thinks I am complaining I am not-the quicker I can sell my stock the quicker I can retire).

  29. The geographic sales thing has, as I already said been proven in independant testing, and I’ve heard several theories on the subject.

    One possibility I’d like to put forward is the “floorspace” theory, if you imagine the server capacity as the floor of a huge shop split amongst different products you would, if you were managing it give the most space to the lines that earned you the most money, if I were doing it I’d work out what percentage return I was getting from each square foot and obviously allocate as much space as possible to the quick shifting lines to eliminate dead space.

    Its the same on a server, if someones selling x amounts of widgets a day at a fiver a bang and your taking your cut you will give them more floorspace than someone selling two deluxe widgets a week at £150 each, as its more profitable for you.

    There was a guy who worked for Ebay a while back who I had some communication with who said that their servers were always over capacity, and they had three teirs, the primary servers, second and third teir, so going on the above (which is my opinion only)the big sellers get the primary server space, and as sales drop off on an item (probably done on a ratio of page hits to purchases) it gets placed lower down the server order, id you have a limited supply of niche products getting exposure for them is going to be hard, but you will still sell as people are actively searching for them, if you have an endless supply of common items and your not on the primary server then your basically knackered at that point.

    As I stated in my earlier post I hold four dormant accounts, 2 of which are powerseller accounts, I used them all at various times to sell the same products, listing mainly in automotive spares, the majority of which were rare parts for classic cars, but also with some common service items and more modern spares thrown in.

    Lets take for example one product thats readily available on there still, I dunno, Ford Mondeo steering rack gaiters, available from a dozen or so powersellers at cheap prices, the quality of most on sale on the bay is dire at best, so I came across a load as bankrupt stock, which were very good quality, I put them out at a quid lower than the lowest competition, and set the postage at actual cost, theirs being £1.50 higher, I used a picture of the actual stock, they used generic (always hits sales that one), so the first 3 days they fly off the shelf, and I get number 1 on best match, then suddenly sales stop, so I check the pricing of the competition, nope, nothings changed, a few days later I get 4 sales within 20 minutes to Brighton, then nothing for the rest of the day, strange, the following day I get 3 sales, again within a few minutes to the Scottish highlands, then it stops, over the next week intermitant Scottish sales, then back to the south west, then a week of Cyprus, Greece and Italy, then a week of nothing, then the cyce repeats, but in the meantime my sales and pageviews have slipped due to the geographic coverage, so the products bumped down a tier on the servers, second month, same pattern but less visibility and less sales, and so on and so forth.

    I tried listing them on 2 accounts with slightly different pictures and text, and one account would have a week of south west sales, then the following week the south west would be back on the original listing, you couldn’t make it up.

    Times that effect across 400 product lines and you can see the havoc it plays, I ended up with pallets of stock that would sit for several months then would go mad, only to stop again, and we’re not talking seasonal stock, or faddy stock, its also stock that people dont want to buy, its not a luxury, its all stuff people buy because they need it to keep their car on the road.

    I’ve seen the discussions over on the Ebay community pages, and the pinks replies of “maybe someone bought one then told a friend and they bought one”, I know the population is thin on the ground up in the Highlands, but I can assure you that when they all meet up for a monthly gathering to talk car parts they will all go home and buy a set of Mondeo steering rack gaitors because their friends recommend them : )

    Sorry for the long rambling and slightly ranting post, perhaps I’m still bitter…

  30. Sorry, thought I’d already mentioned the independant testing, the testing was carried out by a group of 60 or so people across the UK and Europe all using specified search terms and 3 seperate browsers each (browsers were specified and identical), the tests were conducted on several occasions, and all searches were run at the exact same time to ensure comparible results.

    What was found from the tests is that every search term used returned different results (the searches were run in “worldwide” search on Ebay), and in the UK searches the number of items returned were widely varied from computer to computer.

    Then tests were run to find exact items that had been listed on test auctions, searching by exact keyword, then by item number, in some cases the items couldn’t be found, even searching directly for the listing number…

    One of the people involved in the test phoned customer services to ask why their listing wasn’t visible, and gave the CS rep the item number on the phone, the customer service rep then couldn’t find the listing either, and replied with “we may have been having the odd technical issue, but its very unusual”, despite the searches being repeated 3 times over a 6 month period.

    I agree with your point on retail being unpredictable, having been in the selling game in one form or another for the last 20 years (and online for the last 10) I have plenty of past data to work with when it comes to looking at seasonal variations, although they just never counted on Ebay, their continual messing about with things that weren’t broken and didn’t need fixing whilst leaving things that were presenting sellers with a problem made any data fed back totally worthless.

    Another great laugh is the Omniture site traffic and sales data, I deliberately manipulated a months figures by clicking through my own test auctions to the tune of 100 hits the first day, 200 the second, 300 the third then back down by 100 a day on the 4th and 5th, all with no other listings present on that account, then left them alone, and save for the odd hit during the month, nothing, as expected.

    The following month I checked my omniture site traffic and that months figures were roughly 5% above the last months manipulated figures on the exact same dates, very strange, and on the third month the same occurence, at which point the shop they were contained in was shut down, doing an experiment is onething, but p*ssing money headwind into what is obviously a useless set up isn’t something I was going to continue doing.

    Im not familiar with Amazon, I’ve looked on there a few times and dont think it would be of use to me selling the items that I do, but I’m always interested to se whats happening on the sales platforms, so what happened there a few weeks ago?

  31. Whole week without any sales to Australia and then wham bang – 5 on the trot

    Now that really can’t be a coincidence – Can it?

  32. sorry just cant get our head round this theory
    of ebay manipulating servers and geographics
    we believe price, time, product& competition is the major influence on ebay sales

  33. I don’t believe in “organised” coincidence. But I am willing to believe that sometimes, just sometimes things happen that can look like coincidence. I pointed out above that I will get a run of addresses that sound like traditional thatched cottages or other buildings that have been there for generations. Another time I will get a run of addresses that sound like bungalows on modern estates or even a run of addresses in the same region or county or even in the same town. I have even had a run of similar house numbers. I am happy to think of them as coincidences. Its the idea that they have been somehow “organised” that I find difficult to accept.


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