Custom made items: eBay, Amazon and Etsy compared

Following eBay’s announcement that they’d be prohibiting sellers from publishing their contact details on eBay listings and their eBay shop there were many concerns aired from sellers of custom made items that they wouldn’t be able to receive images to print or send proofs to their eBay customers.

The issue is that eBay compress images to an unusable size when sent through eBay messages and there is no alternative mechanism in place to transmit images. We did a test by sending an image (of my cat, Stripes) through eBay messages to see what would come out the other end and you can see the result on last week’s post – it’s massively compressed to less than 0.9% of the original size.

This week we’ve done some further investigation – is this just an eBay problem or does it affect other marketplaces and what happens if you get a retailer of custom made products to actually print the picture?

What you get from eBay Messages

We asked Invite Designs to actually print the picture of my cat, both the original and once it had been sent to them through eBay messages. As you can see from the image above, the original prints just fine, but the second image is just way too small when scaled to the same size.

We also asked Invite Designs to blow up the image so that it was the same size as the original. Zooming in you can see how pixelated the eBay message image prints in comparison to the original:

eBay delete contact details

Another issue with eBay’s insistence on eradicating contact details has also been raised. It’s not just compressing images, but eBay are stripping out telephone numbers and email addresses. If you’re buying some party invitations or business stationary it’s usual to want your contact information on the printed product or what’s the point of having it. Has anyone worked out how a buyer can send their telephone number and email address to the seller so that they can print it?

How do Amazon perform?

Amazon don’t appear to have any problem at all forwarding original images to sellers without compressing them until they’re unusable. If you sell custom made items on Amazon you should have on problem trading.

How do Etsy perform?

Having checked out how eBay and Amazon handle images, I couldn’t resist a test with the other big selling venue that handles custom made items – Etsy.

The results from Etsy are interesting, the image is compressed but it’s not resized. The image size was retained at 5312 x 2988 pixels. The DPI remained at 72 but the file size reduced from 4.32MB to 2.55MB. This is a lossy compression, where some information in the file has been deleted and so the picture isn’t quite as sharp as the original. However due to the original file size I couldn’t detect any difference on a computer screen – it may make a difference if you’re ordering a five foot poster print, but for most purposes it’s safe to say that images sent through Etsy are perfectly usable.

If you’d like to compare, the original unedited image is here and the image received through Etsy messages is here.

What do sellers need from eBay?

Sellers of custom made items aren’t asking for a lot – just two things really:

  1. Either send images through eBay messages uncompressed or allow seller to use email.
  2. Enable sellers to receive contact information when a buyer wants a phone or email address printed onto a product.

Sellers aren’t asking for a lot, just to be able to serve their customers. But in trying to eradicate fraud and off eBay sales, eBay are about to kill off custom made items and prevent them being sold on their marketplace.

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There is a tick box you can set in eBay Site Preferences to ask for a phone number from the buyer on checkout. May help keep comms open to enable sellers to get the info they require from the buyer.

Jane • 22nd May 2017 •

Jane, this would not help in any way, nor do we have time to call each customer when we have 50+ orders to process every day. All we need is to be able to receive photo's that can be used and not compressed. There are thousands of sellers selling personalised goods, so somthing needs to be done to address this market - we are in the 21st century using a pre-historic message system. Have you tried uploading an image on ebay - half the time it crashes and you have to keep refreshing the page - it's very frustrating.

zina • 22nd May 2017 •

thats fine but this would mean we would end up on the phone all day and wouldnt get any work done!it also means theres no record of what the customer requested to be personalised as we copy and paste what they send us to prevent any errors,so now you will get loads more people complaining opening cases etc,as theres no evidence of their personalisation

Paul • 22nd May 2017 •

We had a customer on friday who ordered a personalised banner - they sent the photo via ebay messages which we could not use. We emailed the customer back asking them to email the photo direct to us and explained that ebay compress the photo. The response from the customer: i'll have to cancel i;m not happy with your service So, we lose a sale and the customer is not happy with our service - thanks Ebay!

zina • 22nd May 2017 •

"Amazon you should have on problem trading" ... should be.. "Amazon you should have no problem trading"

Mark.T • 22nd May 2017 •

also reading chris' comments on the other thread on this site about a clients dog collars and tags etc require a phone number on them by law,so if you cant send a phone number through ebay what is the point?theres 21,500 sellers just doing custom tags alone,alot of customers,and collars theres even more!!

Paul • 22nd May 2017 •

You can get the full size image out of Ebay messages by modifying the URL. 1) Right click on image > open in new tab 2) Change the $_122 in the URL to $_57 Other numbers work but 57 appears to be the largest.

Kyle • 22nd May 2017 •

That's a really good hack :-) Sadly it still only gives a 1600x900 pixel image and a 290KB file compared the the original 5312 x 2988 pixels 4.32MB file. It's better, but not really print quality.

Chris Dawson • 22nd May 2017 •

best. tip. ever.

james • 23rd May 2017 •

The situation is beyond ridiculous. There are over 250,000 listings on ebay UK with the words "personalised photo" in title. Items include plaques, invitations, T shirts, bibs, mugs, key rings, pencil cases and many more. Photos sent in ebay message are not usable and not only are we now not allowed to put email address in the listing, we are not allowed to state how buyers can find contact details. Business contact information is hidden away in "Legal Information" on the mobile app and who is going to buy an item when they have no idea how to send the photo when they read the listing? The quality of photos sent through Etsy is irrelevant as I have never had a problem displaying my email in Etsy listing or sending Etsy Convo with email in it for those customers who have not read instructions in the listing. I have phoned eBay CS many times and they are unable or unwilling to offer even a hint of a workable solution. Ebay messages are already being blocked if they contain email. If a customer buys a photo item from me and sends a message saying "Hi, How do I send my photo?" I cannot give them a sensible response. Whilst customer email is available to seller after purchase, I have found it is often an unused account and I am now not allowed to send eBay message to say "Please check your email for instructions to send your photo" because that will also be contrary to eBays new policy. I can't have a link in listing to use third party software for photo to be uploaded because that has also been banned. It is beyond a joke.

dottyfox • 23rd May 2017 •

If anybody needed more proof of the lack of braincells at eBay they have stepped up to the plate and provided it.

Fred • 23rd May 2017 •