10p fines mean eBay don’t want your products?

No primary category set

eBay have for many years been telling sellers that they want them to list their entire inventory on eBay. Not just the fastest selling lines, not just their distressed or out of season stock, eBay want everything. So that’s just what sellers have done.

Now eBay are telling sellers that if something hasn’t sold for 18 months they’ll be fined 10p per month in addition to the normal listing fee (which for many with an eBay shop will be a rise from nothing to 10p!). So what’s happened?

Listings that eBay don’t want

Firstly eBay don’t do anything without a reason, let’s take a look at why they think listings that haven’t sold for 18 months are a bad thing to have cluttering up the site.

Dell DPortI used to sell laptop accessories on eBay, I sold thousands of docking stations over the years. The ones in the image are now obsolete, fitting laptops that went out of production years ago.

The odd one will still sell, but look at the price of the second one – no one is ever going to purchase from that listing. It dosen’t matter if it’s brand new shiny straight from the factory, the only person that will buy it will be buying it to go with a 10 year old laptop and they’ll pay a few quid, but won’t care if it’s new, old or refurbished so long as it works.

Having this is the type of listing on eBay is quite simply a waste of everyone’s time. It’s not that eBay don’t want the inventory, they just want it listed in such a manner that it has a decent chance of selling.

Listings that eBay really don’t want

Xircom ModemI hate to be the bearer of bad news, but some of the stuff listed for sale on eBay is worse than the £110 docking station. Not only is it over-priced but it’s simply so outdated that it’ll never sell.

Take for example the Xircom PCMICA card, who will ever want a 14.4 modem for a laptop in 2015? Not only is it a 14.4 baud modem which is desperately slow, but every laptop manufactured in the past 10 years has had a modem built in or more recently WiFi. Even if someone was trying to resurrect an ancient laptop (and you have to ask why), this particular modem is missing it’s dongle (the bit that plugs into the PCMCIA card with a cable to a socket to take the modem cable). I just can’t see why this hasn’t been consigned to the recycle bin years ago.

Listings that eBay should want

Jude the ObscureI can’t imagine that “Jude the Obscure” is one of the most popular DVD titles on eBay. I bet not too many people are looking for a Thomas Hardy production from 1971 on DVD, it might be years before someone decides that they want to buy it.

That’s the best part of the Internet and sites like eBay, the long tail got longer! Generally new releases sell fastest, there’s another tranche of top selling titles (like Disney) that will always be in demand.

Once you’ve listed a few thousand DVDs (or CDs), sales start to drop off rapidly. If you list 5,000 titles you’ll get a certain number of sales, but listing 10,000 DVDs certainly won’t double your sales or come anywhere close, now you’re into the long tail of specialist titles. You will get sales, but some titles won’t have a sale in a decade but by having the selection you’ll get enough sales to make it worth listing.

That’s where Jude the Obscure comes in, does eBay really want media sellers to cancel all the listings that haven’t had a sale for 18 months? All that will mean is that buyers will migrate to Amazon or Rakuten where the titles are listed and available to buy.

It’s the same for coins, stamps, postcards and many other collectables, they don’t take up a lot of room and whilst any particular item might not sell you need huge volumes of long tail product to generate the sales of those that do find a buyer.

An alternative to 10p fines

10p smFining sellers an additional 10p per month will do nothing for most sellers, although it’ll generate some cash for eBay.

The question has to be asked why don’t eBay simply terminate listings that haven’t had a sale for 18 months? They could simply end listings and dump them in your unsold items and leave you to decide whether it’s financially worth the effort of relisting or if it’s time to retire that product line.

eBid anyone?

eBid FeatOne has to consider alternatives to paying 10p per month per listing, especially if currently you’re utilising the free listings that come with an eBay shop. Alternatives could be your own website or possibly you might consider eBid. Suddenly a £49.99 lifetime membership to list all of your long tail products online seems quite reasonable.

Of course the trouble with eBid is that there’s a severe lack of buyers and just because you list all of your products there doesn’t mean that they’ll generate a single sale. eBay still has by far the greatest amount of traffic which is just the reason you’re listing your long tail products on eBay and not eBid in the first place. However in the face of 10p per month fines it’s got to be something you consider even if it’s a long shot.

Cancel and relist

RelistThe only real alternative on eBay for listings that haven’t garnered a sale in 18 months is to cancel them, revise them (title, description, category, Item Specifics, images, consider amalgamating into multi-variation listing) and relist.

For those with large quantities of listings this is going to be a time consuming pain, and for products such as DVDs or CDs where you’re listing against eBay stock images and descriptions there’s often little you can do in the way of revision. However consider the fines – if you have 100 products it’ll cost you a tenner a month, 1000 products will cost you £100/month in fines and 10,000 aged products will hit you for £1000/month in additional fees.

It is simply unsustainable to spend that amount of money on products which aren’t generating sales.

Make a strategic plan

StrategyThe 10p fines aren’t going to hit until sometime in the summer, that gives you a few months to plan your strategy.

What are you going to do? There’s no point burying your head in the sand and waiting until the fines start to hit, you need to get a strategy in place before the fines start rolling in.

Is it time to liquidate some of your stock, time to reduce the catalogue of products you sell (especially if you don’t own the stock and simply back order products if they sell), or will cancelling, revising and relisting be a better strategy for your business?

45 Responses

  1. Jude The Obscure lives up to its name, eg it is “obscure”. Anyone who knows me will know how many DVDs I’ve sold in the last 15 years and I’ve sold maybe 5 of these? Certainly less than 10. Having said that somebody somewhere, will at some point, very possibly want it.

    I agree with what Chris suggests, simply terminate the 18 month listings with the warning “must revise etc”. Oh and he’s right about the modem, 14,400 in 2015? Don’t make me laff.

  2. “The question has to be asked why don’t eBay simply terminate listings that haven’t had a sale for 18 months?”

    Exactly! Ebay could do this BUT, why not make some more money and P&^%SS the sellers off even more.
    I know that people don’t want to look at hundreds of pages of products but who would just keep looking through hundreds of pages for a dvd of “Jude The Obscure”.
    If I was looking for that birthday present for Aunty Gladys and she mentioned “Jude the Obscure”.
    I would type into Google “ebay “Jude The Obscure” dvd”
    This returned
    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Jude-The-Obscure-DVD-NEW-/291274218763
    And others and a few clicks later Aunty Gladys will surprised on her birthday.
    Ebay gets their fee.
    The seller gets rid of Jude the Obscure.
    Im happy.
    Aunt Gladys is happy.
    PS Aunt Gladys is not real.

  3. Some of these ‘long tail’ listings have been on the site for years, some 5 or more.

    eBay has made a lot of changes to site format and funtionality in that time. In order to get a (slightly) better chance of being surfaced in search IS will almost certainly need updating.

    Then there is the title. Some were written before the not so recent increase in allowed characters.

    Then the description. eBay seems not to like much by way of description these days.

    IMO the behaviour that the want is a total seller rethink as to the structure of (old) listings.

    The 10p fine is a tax on the lazy and on the ignorant.

  4. Having said that why should eBay be the ones to decide? They are supposed to just provide a “venue” remember …. Do you think the companies/councils/whatever who provide a “venue” for market traders have any say in what their sellers sell (other than with regards to the law etc)? You see my point?

  5. A balanced view of this new rule seems on the face of it a good idea, but and here the problem, eBay once again screw up in the execution, at least currently this is how it looks. I am one of the sellers that lists the slow selling product categorised as collector items. I would love the opportunity to list for a set amount of time, lets say 6/12 or 18 months at a time, so when the items come to an end i can reprice, re-photo or add more photos or even if i had made a mistake in my listing, incorrect photo for example, i can fix and relist. Another idea would be to allow promotion manager to discount by a set % after the item has been listed for say 12 months and for this to be an automated process set up when listing. A fine as a previous poster has said gives us the ump.

  6. I think the ‘fine’ is a great idea, it will make sellers house keep their listings more often which is perfect for ebay and actually perfect for the seller as well.

    The great thing about the internet is people can find anything, so if you want a docking station for your 10 year old laptop or a Jude The Obscure DVD you can find it, often within seconds of searching for it.

    What ebay want is listings that are given a refresh every so often, this helps with housekeeping for the seller, google, the site search & more.

    Let’s take the DVD I don’t think it’s about not selling it, it’s about making sure if someone does search for this item and wants to buy it, you as a seller have the best offering. When 18 months hit, you should do all the things ebay want, re-list it, update the title, image, description & price. If this happens you will likely be at the top of the search for this item.

    I think in the future ebay will start to lower the 18 months down. I think it’s a great thing and not something to cash in on sellers, you should always be housekeeping your listings on any platform you sell on, I know of about 100 right now that need attention in my own business, if not more as it’s a constant job.

  7. Out of all the changes they’ve made over the years – which we’ve worked hard to comply with, often at massive expense and time to ourselves – this is the one things that has genuinely made us consider putting a load of money into other venues and the reason is this.
    Yes, I totally understand why they’re doing this because we, like most people searching on eBay, are fed up to the back teeth with being returned results for utter crap which is not relevant to what we’re looking for but the problem is that for our stock range it’s VERY common to sell a good deal of our stock in between 18 – 36 months.
    Me and Andy here are both 20+ year experienced in car parts and the associated inventory management and we’re VERY astute at making sure that we do something about aging stock and for our current profile. We’re looking at £275 A MONTH in extra fees and that’s just not an option.
    However, as with all these changes, it’s pushed us to get cracking on a new website and off-eBay sales so it’s not all bad.
    It’s just a shame that they’re cracking the whip (again) at professional sellers who know what they’re doing in the same way as the people who upload huge databases of utter rubbish to the site.
    There ought to be some criteria based on your business model as a get out for these fines, but as usual it’s a broad stroke approach that will only serve to hurt (again) the smaller, professional sellers.

  8. I don’t think, JD, calling people “lazy and ignorant” is useful when you have absolutely no knowledge of their business philosophy and aims, their detailed business model or the market they sell in.

    What is reasonable, is to say that if it hasn’t been sold for 18 months you are probably better to cancel it and relist it, just because it will improve search results.

    There are many collectable and used product sellers out there, and buyers, who genuinely enjoy the product they sell, recognise long tail, and are happy to live with it. It isn’t always about making a fast buck. If I and many others just wanted to do that we wouldn’t sell in the sector we do.

    As it happens pareto analysis of my stock is what you would expect. 80% sell, 20% or just under haven’t made a sale. The question every seller has to ask is not just about the value of having that stock on ebay, not only whether it could sell better with a refresh, but whether it is worth spending the time doing that, or should they be putting their time and effort into the 80% that does sell. For a lot of my 20% tail spending time on it does nothing for my overall financial performance compared with concentrating on the 80% of movers.

    If Ebay were serious anyway, they would spend a lot more resource on removing the ridiculous multiple listings (and not just from Chinese sellers) but of course that would require effort and expense on ebay’s part.

  9. You only need to end the listings, wait 7 days & then list them again. No need to change anything. According to 3 ebay agents that I’ve spoken to… after 7 days relisted items are classed as new listings. You could also use the bulk editor (when it’s working) to knock 5p off the price for a month & then add on 5p for amonth.

  10. My inventory on Ebay is around 50/50 New to 2nd hand goods. The 2nd hand goods sell very quickly and I think it is unlikely any of these listing will get caught in the 18 month trap. The new items are much slower in selling but the sales from them are worth doing. I would estimate at least 50% of the new items have not had a sale in 18 months. The thing is that I know that the prices are competitive its just that that are not getting enough views to get sales. Putting a a search on google brings up plenty of other websites with the items but rarely any of of mine on Ebay.
    I don’t necessarily blame Ebay for this, If I had the time I would put more effort into other avenues but the 2nd hand side of the business is more than enough to keep me going. My point being is that I’m paying thousands a year to Ebay in fees and not seeing any external promotion for this money.

    On a side note, the only time I ever hear about Ebid is on Tamebay. If the comments were more complimentary I would think Tamebay had a vested interest!!!

  11. I think it’s absolutely crucial that we would be informed on Sell Manager which items are going to fall into imminent fining. Perhaps a seven day notice would be OK.

    As I said on the other thread, if I do nothing, then my listings fees jump from £250 to £1,250, and I am wondering if it is legitimate to automatically re-list into a penalty zone which did not exist when the item was listed.

    I think cancelling them after 18 months is a bad idea, but at least that is consistent with the premise of tidying the site, and allows the seller to decide if he wants to list into the new 10p a month parameters. Stinging me for a grand arbitrarily sounds a bit dubious legally. It’s certainly not moral, but blah blah blah to that.

  12. As I said in the first post in this chain, Ebay CS told me there would be a filter available before implementation so that sellers can manage this. It will only be a really big deal if like Jonathan Browne (with whom I sympathise) you have a large number of listings that will mean consistent and may be too onerous admin on a daily basis.

    Maybe the answer is to end the affected listings say on a weekly basis, and then do a bulk Sell Similar relist, again weekly, so it is a once a week task. That shouldn’t take too long. It is still a pain, but doable.

    For people in this situation it is like ebay are forcing a change in your business model just so you can operate effectively, which I don’t believe any seller would welcome. It just creates a headache for you.

  13. I understand why eBay are doing this, although yet again it seems they are trying to shoe-horn everyone into the same business model irrespective of what they sell and how they prefer to run their businesses.

    However, I would be more sympathetic if they would tell us at the same time as the announcement what tools (if any) they would be providing. As it is, it feels like they’ve made the announcement, and are still looking to find a 17-year old trainee to cobble together some reporting tools. I’d also be more sympathetic if the recent changes to their bulk editing tools actually worked at faster than a snail’s pace.

  14. I’ve been reading all the threads regarding this 10p fine fiasco on older listings and have found the comments very helpful. For sellers like me who sell long tail items it has been quite informative. None of us will really know how this works until it is implemented. I bulk relist my 2,000 items every month and all the items have different id numbers when relisted. Hopefully there will be a way around it as people have suggested on here. Hopefully we can identify the listings with the 10p “fine” so that we can remove them from the bulk uploader and tweak them. I’ve had to do this on occasions regarding photos/combined postage etc when Ebay decide to impose different rules regarding relisting. The slightest little tweak on the listings may result in a further 18 month stint without incurring this extra 10p per item. Like people have said – just relisting them 7 days later might work….Let’s see….

  15. Well if all else fails on the 17th month of listing I’ll reduce all my items to 1p and get a ghost buyer to purchase them all, the fvf’s on them will be cheaper than the 10p monthly fine…. that way I can relist at the normal price and save myself many pounds lol

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