eBay and Amazon must make seller holidays easier

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summerIn the many years I’ve been involved with eBay and Amazon, one thing has struck me as remarkable about the cadre of small businesses who sell online: how bloody hard so many people work. I know loads of people in business, mostly small business, and the dedication is notable.

But ecommerce does seem distinct. It’s not just the amazing amount of labour that keeps an ecommerce business running profitably that I wow at. It’s also the variety of expertise every seller needs too. And all sellers require creativity and flexibility on tap. It’s a very demanding skill-set.

And that’s why in August, a holiday mindset is no bad thing. A bit of time off rejuvenates the ecommerce cells and provides some space to think too. A break is good for the soul.

So why do eBay and Amazon make it almost impossible for their sellers to completely switch off both themselves from the everyday grind and also their sales?

I was grateful to hear from one Tamebay correspondent this week with some personal reflections. He trades on both eBay and Amazon and just badly fancied a week or so off. This is what he said:

“I carefully plan things, as much as possible, so that we close eBay
down so no one can buy and also Amazon. The trouble is eBay pending echeques on PayPal and also eBay sales awaiting payment. There is also the issue of Amazon pending payments.”

“The worst, I think, is Amazon, as pending payments can take 10-12 days to clear. I asked Amazon what I could do to avoid a payment clearing halfway through my holiday and their answer was, “You can’t.”

It doesn’t seem beyond the wit of humans, or indeed eBay and Amazon folk, that more could be done to help sellers take a holiday and also be helpful to customers. Tamebay’s friend continued:

“We are a small company and try very, very hard to make sure customers are informed about holiday closures. But where we can put a nice list on our website to advise future closures, all that eBay and Amazon can manage is CLOSED. eBay lets the customer know when you will be back but Amazon offer nothing so grand.”

“Why can’t these huge organisations that are so customer orientated (Sarcastic? – Ed.) give us sellers a chance to communicate this information to the buyers?”

And that’s a plea, I suppose. All the salaried, superannuated, optioned-up staff at Bezos House and Omidyar Heights replete with expenses and sometime jollies presumably get at least 28 days fully paid holiday as just one part of their doubtless quite generous total compensation packages.

Here’s Tamebay’s challenge to eBay and Amazon staff this August. Gift those people who fuel your business and staff perks just some of the same vague rights you enjoy>> some time off.

Your mission: help a small business seller on your marketplace take a week off where they aren’t answering emails, processing sales, fearful of a bad review or an angry punter. Or even worse still: the wrath of an over zealous customer support rep condemning them for a lovely day by the seaside because they have tried their best but not met some ludicrous conditions.

34 Responses

  1. Agreed! eBay is easier if you have anything on immediate payment so that you don’t have the issue of items awaiting payment and echeques (why do they still exist anyway?) but its the messages and the fact that even if you have ‘holiday settings’ turned on, hardly anyone seems to read them or notice them so you still get the inevitable ‘Where Is My Item’ message.
    It would be nice to not have to take a laptop on holiday and make sure I can get WiFi when I’d like to be having a rest from it all.

  2. Lovely idea, but it’s not going to happen.

    When Amazon introduced the big stick of timing seller responses the question was asked of Amazon “what do we do if we are on holiday and a question arrives?”
    Answer: You must log in to your account every day to ensure questions are responded to.

    It’s just another hurdle for me to jump and I plan the close-down as carefully as the holiday.

  3. Sadly very true Dan. As a former small business owner I found myself never fully taking time off (even in quiet periods) and even though I knew I needed them to restore my energies for the longer term and to spend time with friends and family.

    Do you think that sellers would be interested in hiring a ‘Business sitter’ whilst they were away? They could provide anything from a basic level of ‘check email and inform you’ to run ‘business as usual’ depending on the degree of complexity and what was desired.

    I ask as I’m looking to escape a mis-guided return to the corporate world and have always loved working with the incredible bunch of entrepreneurial SMBs who sell on Amazon and eBay. Seriously do you think that anyone be up for exploring it?

    Claire

  4. I managed a week on a Greek Island by prewarning my punters to pay-up before a certain date (via the message field on the eBay invoice), shutting down my eBay shop for a week and running a 10 day eBay auction while I was away (which started 5 minutes before I left for the airport)

    I took no mobile, no laptop and I read no newspapers… it was lovely… and when I came back my holiday was paid for by the auction!

  5. In the past I have been critisised for living and working in deepest rural Cornwall. But there is a massive advantage to living close to the holiday resorts of Cornwall(and indeed all the other magnificent coastline of the UK) and that it that there really is no need to take a full blown holiday.

    If I want a day off I do the bare minimum that morning and then go out for the day. It also has the great advantage that I am not dependent on the vaguaries of the Weather Gods. If I want to take Thursday off and when I wake up Thursday Morning its raining I just re-arrange it so that I have Friday off instead.

    So may I suggest that ebayers and Amazoners consider re-locating their premises to locations close to the Coast. After all the Post Office operates exactly the same across the Country(At Present)and the quality of life is far better in deepest rural Britain than in some horrible City.

  6. I agree and I don’t with this. If you had a high street store you can’t just put ‘closed’ on the door for two weeks can you?

    Therefore the same could be said with an online business, either your a business or a hobby seller.

    It is easier for me now as we have staff that can cover if I do take holiday (I still don’t seem to find the time) but it was difficult when it was just me but I worked around it without any help from ebay or amazon.

  7. I have been known on numerous occasions whilst being abroad to log-on to the local wifi in the town centres to check how my ‘sales’ are going.
    I think its just another catalyst with being self employed – can you ever switch off?

  8. .
    Last year I had 4 ‘long weekend’ breaks, but NO actual long break [ie + 1 week].

    We’ve always found our orders drop off Thursday/Fridays, so clear orders on Thursday & Book flights for late on Thursdays & return on Monday.

    This year I decided not to & hammer the business. I have regretted this & when a stack of problems arrive, that’s when I feel ‘I need a Holiday’.

    The other thing that still amazes me Is our many buyers still do not READ the listing/description.
    We have a Summer product that every year we sell 0000’s of. At the mid/end of July we really had a run on this item & ran out. Our supplier was waiting for the new stock to clear Customs & we plastered a great big message in RED across the top of the listings.
    STILL buyers complained of slow delivery & when we pointed out the message, 1 even said it was not there when he ordered otherwise he would have gone elsewhere. This year we took screenshot of the listing and sent it to the complainers.

  9. Nice article Dan.
    What I would love is to be able to put a start of holiday date, a return holiday date.
    From this a month or week prior to the closure customers are advised that if it’s not paid cleared by the holiday closure then it will remain undispatched until the seller returns. Forewarned is for armed.

    Ttfn
    Simon

  10. I’ve invested in technology to allow me to log into my inventory and sales on Linnworks. Recently they launched a mobile app which means one click and I can see my sales. I take a laptop with me and I can log into Linnworks full systems.

    Recently I went to Portugal on holiday and found a company called Rent-A-Dongle. They had my dongle waiting at the car hire company! I could sit by the pool with skype open and communicate with my team, whilst logged into Linnworks to guide them as to specific orders, or trouble shooting issues.

    At the end of the day, my business and the success or failure is down to me, and my management. Customers dont care if you are on holiday. If you make items available for sale, you should organise your business to ensure fulfilment can occur.

    I am now looking to moving stock into a 3rd party fulfilment centre. I already have 1000 items in Amazon FBA. This is probably the only way a holiday is possible with minimal contact!

    Ebay and Amazon are there to enable a sale between and buyer and a retailer. I dont expect them to do anything other than enable me to sell my stuff efficiently.

  11. A pause button on lisings please, so the sold value is not reset. That will fix it. If selling on eBay, Immediate Payment only and obviously out of office reply in messages/ email.

  12. This is the biggest issue I have. My wife does not deal with this well.

    We had a long weekend and I managed to reply to most emails on my blackberry. The biggest problem was where cases are opened. It is not possible to simply reply to an email because it is all wrapped up in the case. They also don’t get the out of office response through ebay messages.

    Unhelpfully all these are the ones that need addressing quickly.

    I am planning to take 10 days off next summer but I plan to shut my shops down 1 week before I go so that hopefully most of the issues will be dealt with.

  13. Unless you are big enough to have staff to cover you are effectively on call 24/7 and all you can do is mitigate the worst as others have described.
    Plan carefully & shut-down in good time, use FBA or fulfilment if you can but regardless you will have to deal with emails and support/returns issues in any event.
    Ecommerce can be a tough mistress sometimes which makes me wonder why so many choose to do it frankly.

  14. regardless of if its online or selling from a suitcase in a shop doorway , when you work for yourself 5 o clock never comes, your always on duty ,you never shut the door and leave it behind you,

  15. Holidays are good for mind body and soul. Online retail is 24/7 – if u want sales 24/7 then be prepared to serve customers 24/7 and manage and plan ur breaks.

    My wife and I have a nice big holiday home near Looe in Cornwall which we use a few weeks of the year and I let my family use it as well. Yes it is empty for 83% but that is my choice.

    I pay some cleaner to give it the once over monthly – couldn’t get a local, she is Polish. I love the area but notice that alcohol is a big thing for country folk, a lot of alcoholism is the countryside that is for sure.

    That might be why the pubs are great and locals are friendly.

    Anyway, now is the time to have a break as Q4 is nearly upon us and it will soon get so busy. When u say to yourself *when was the last time I had a proper holiday* that means u do need one.

    big time

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