Do marketplaces do enough to recompense sellers when there’s a glitch?

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On Tuesday evening, we think for about an hour, Amazon UK experienced a glitch that meant that shoppers couldn’t check out and buy. Both Chris and I tried to buy items (on mobile and laptop) and we received an error message. You can read about that here.

Needless to say, although not for a fair while, eBay has also been guilty of serious technical glitches that hamper buyers from making purchases too. And, let’s be honest, any platform is likely to be afflicted from time to time. Errors are inevitable. But our usual point remains: problems happen, it’s how you deal with them that counts.

It all raises a question: what should marketplaces do for sellers when buyers can’t spend their cash? An outage or wobble or glitch means that sellers lose out on sales and even an hour on Amazon must represent a millions of squids worth of lost purchases?

In the first instance, we trust that the marketplaces (and it’s not just eBay and Amazon here but any platform) is always working to ensure there are no such outages. It’s hard to imagine that they don’t make every effort to stay up 100%. It’s totally in their interest in terms of both profit and credibility. But it is also difficult. The scale of eBay and Amazon et al is huge and it’s pretty much impossible to engineer for all eventualities.

So it is, therefore, inevitable that sometimes there will be problems. So what should they do to recompense?

There are a number of difficulties. It’s hard for a marketplace to quantify lost sales in the event of a problem. It is also almost entirely impossible for them then to extrapolate that into compo. Should they cover all the money of lost sales? Make a refund in goodwill? An across the board courtesy credit? It’s very tricky.

Perhaps the big contribution could be transparency? Let sellers know exactly what’s happened and what went wrong and promise to redouble efforts on keeping the site working as it should. Some marketplaces are better than others on this basic courtesy. But it is, at least, a sign of partnership and respect, and a start.

What would you like to see?

5 Responses

  1. Surely the more important question should be how these failing sites will persuade customers to return, after their abysmal experience trying to buy.

    Short term losses to sellers is one thing, and we already know Ebay/Amazon do nothing to address that, but if customers walk away then everyone is screwed.

  2. They only care about their customers,and do not take the same care for sellers.

    At the beginning of December, our account was closed for over 24 hours, on the peak period where you sell most just before Christmas, and after many emails they finally replied, admitting they had closed our account by mistake.
    When asked about a compensation for the thousands of £ lost on that day because they made a mistake, providing figures of previous days as proof of how much was estimated as missed sales and takeover, we were told we could not be compensated, and the only thing they offered was a month’s subscription fee for free.

    Well thanks…

  3. When the marketplace glitches you have no sales on that marketplace, and if the marketplace didn’t exist you would have no sales on that marketplace either. You’re in the same position you would be in if the marketplace didn’t provide you with a service in the first place, so no compensation is necessary as there hasn’t been any true damages

    Should they cover all the money of lost sales? No. Never. The value of a sale is not the same as the profit a seller would make from that. So should they cover the profit of lost sales? No. Absolutely not. The seller still has the item that could have been sold and so can still sell and make that profit which would be cashing in twice if there was compensation offered.

    I understand the view that this may result in a customer never returning, but the reality is the vast majority of buyers are loyal returning customers. If they can’t purchase it now, they’ll return for it later. Amazon is a massive ecosystem they’re plugged in to and even an hour downtime isn’t dissuading anyone, which i hope covers the goodwill gesture point

    Can’t disagree that transparency is the real answer here!

  4. Andy is right. Such problems are very damaging to customer loyalty. Having said that these marketplaces still offer the best place to buy.

    From experience Ebay never do enough, and have consistently over the years left a bad taste in the seller’s mouth. They send out corporatespeak guff which is frankly insulting to sellers. They fail to accept responsibility or compensate sellers when they are clearly at fault.

    To give an example, on a recent change to categories on my major market they completely fouled up the move to the new categories, so that if I had 2 items correctly categorised before, after the change 1 was recategorised correctly by Ebay, and 1 not. On analysing the problem I discovered it affected approximately 35% of my listings. Subsequently these listings disappeared from search results because they had been put in the wrong category. It took me days to manually change everything, when if the change had been made correctly by Ebay in the first place it would have been unnecessary. Right from the beginning they said they would look at it, understood the issue, would get back to me but nothing ever happened despite me repeatedly chasing. At the very least they should have cancelled my fees for a couple of months, but they just wash their hands.

    In my view what they do (or fail to do) is probably in contravention of current Sale of Goods and Services legislation, but who has the time or money to sue them?

  5. what compensation is offered to the steaks when a butchers closes for the day?
    we’re not respected or considered a partner by these big marketplaces, so why would we expect to be treated with respect, or like a partner, in that regard?
    i genuinely expect the butcher’s steak to receive compo before any ebay seller ever does, thats how the heirarchy works.


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