Why eBay’s new links policy will kill sellers of custom made items

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In their spring seller release, eBay announced that sellers will have to remove all links from their listings. Specifically you won’t be able to put your email address or phone number in your listing (even as unlinked text), although it’ll still appear in your business seller information.

Sellers of custom made items need to get images from buyers

This is a problem in the making for sellers of custom made items. Sure it’s fine if you just need to get the initials to inscribe on a bracelet, but what about pictures for printed items?

The problem

eBay do allow images to be transmitted to sellers though their messaging system, but sellers are telling me that it’s impossible to get a print quality image through eBay messages as eBay compress them.

Test of an image sent through eBay Messages

I did a test, I sent a random photo of my cat from one eBay account to another.

The original image

Dimensions

5312px by 2988px
(That’s 15,872,256 pixels in total)

File size

4.32MB

DPI

72

You can view the original image at full size here.

Thanks to my Samsung Note’s brilliant camera that’s more than a high enough resolution to print.

The image after being sent through eBay Messages

Dimensions

500px by 281px
(The image now only has 140,500 pixels in total)

File size

33.1KB

DPI

72

You can view the image received through eBay messages at full (but very much reduced) size here (And the image is shown at the same scale as the original above… if you can spot it as it’s so small).

This image is way to small to even think about printing. It appears that sellers are correct and eBay are compressing images and reducing them in size.

Does anyone have a solution?

Sellers who need to print images, whether it be on a t-shirt, a 3 meter vinyl poster, a mug or a tea tray, need to be able to receive high quality images from their customers. It can’t be done with eBay messages. You can’t even send your email address through eBay messages as it’ll be blocked. Neither can you advertise a drop box link or similar as eBay have banned links from your listings.

The only way that I can see for sellers to request images once they’re banned from advertising their email addresses is to send an eBay message saying “Please can you go to the listing you purchased from and look for the ‘Business Seller Information’ box (Underneath the description on a desktop, but in the eBay app you’ll have to click ‘About the seller’ and then scroll down and look for ‘Legal information and click on that) to get my email address which you’ll have to cut and paste into your email program to send me your images.]

Mind you, even this advice could get you into trouble:

Q. Can I tell buyers where to find my contact details without directly linking to the destination?
A. No, we’ll consider any kind of circumvention of the guidelines to be a policy breach.

– eBay Links Policy FAQ

Frankly buyers send an image through eBay messages and don’t understand why it’s not print quality. If I sent my 5000 odd pixel 4MG cat picture I’d expect that to be perfect for printing. As a buyer it’s not my problem that you the seller get a compressed 500 pixel image less than 0.9% pixels of the original size.

eBay need to provide some assistance for sellers of custom made items and provide a method of transmitting full quality uncompressed images. Otherwise, I guess Etsy and Amazon Handmade are suddenly looking quite attractive.

47 Responses

  1. In the past when I’ve needed to give my email address to a customer and eBay have tried to strip it out, I’ve got round it by sending a jpg attachment in an eBay message with my email address in it.

    But it’s debatable whether this will work as it seems they’re searching images for text.

    We do of course get the buyer’s email address when they pay by PayPal so I guess some kind of auto-responder could be set up to send them details of how to send their image, or we could just manually reply to the payment email if that’s practical.

  2. Maybe some prominent text in the listing directing buyers to the business sellers info?

    As this appears to be off site sales related, eBay could loosen the contact info exchange embargo once it knows that a payment has been made. Of course, fraudsters could then arrange for that payment to be refunded for a better deal offline.

    Final thought… fraudsters will find a way around this pretty quickly.

  3. eBay have been trying to kill my custom-made business for years … chipping away at it piece by piece.

    They clearly are not interested in custom-made, and it’s driving all those type of customers to Etsy.

    Which is not a bad thing. I get better prices on Etsy.

  4. @Mark T

    Ebay are not so worried about the one little sale a buyer and seller might take offline. They imagine that there are lots of subsequent sales happening offline, and they aren’t getting fees for those.

    Pfttttt!! I wish.

    It’s all a question of whose customers they are they really. Apparently eBay and Amazon believe that they are THEIR customers. And we are merely cogs in the machine … easily replaceable cogs.

  5. Our intention is to use the PayPal contact info (email address and phone number) to contact the buyer directly after the sale for custom photos. If it’s a problem we’ll just be shifting this business away from eBay.

    Typically of eBay they seem to be implementing this without putting the tools in place to help sellers – the messaging system is awful on so many levels – fixing it would probably protect the ebay business far more effectively than this insane approach. There’s a fair chance that by the time they fix it (if they fix it) this segment will have gone from eBay (and with it any related sales).

  6. @ ALAN PATERSON

    Paula is absolutely correct.
    eBay do treat a seller’s customers as their own, in fact eBay have a known reputation of treating sellers appallingly badly. 90% of the time if there is a dispute eBay will always come down on the side of the Buyer regardless of any evidence the Seller can provide. That is why most Sellers will grovel and bend over backwards in their rush to give out refunds simply because it isn’t worth the risk of losing their rating or selling rights through penalties from eBay. And then eBay bleat and moan if someone manages to sell something without them getting their grubby little hands on their pound of flesh. To charge 10% fees is (almost) palatable, but to charge 10% fees on the postage is so wrong on so many levels I can’t understand why sellers haven’t left in droves. It is for these reasons and many others that I moved my business to other platforms ages ago.

  7. They’re definitely clamping down on comms. A customer asked for our phone number, said they would prefer to deal over the phone. Number supplied.

    Hello thewhirlpoolbathshop,
    We’re writing to let you know that activity on your account may not be following an important eBay policy that requires all transactions and payments to be completed through eBay. The same policy specifies that eBay member-to-member messages may not be used to share contact information.

    For example(s), review your listing and member messages regarding the following:
    222305795930 – Carronite Carron Status RH 1700 11 Jet Offset Corner Bath | White Jacuzzi Spa

    Our concern is the deal arranged with buyer “*******” through the messaging appears to have been completed off site after a phone number was provided.

    I was told that if it happened again we would get an immediate 7 day suspension with no appeals process.

    Fair enough they want their fee’s, I totally get that but we have 4.9* for comms for a reason, we know what we are doing, we know retail.

    The most common reason we hear from buyers as to why they ring up is with issues at the checkout.

    P.S from experience a hight % of buyer registered eBay email addresses are defunct. eBay should force a mandatory update of all contact details at least once a year.

  8. eBay MUST show the business sellers information on the listing page to comply with Distance Selling regulations. See …

    “Before an order is placed, you must provide: your business name, contact details and address…”

    eBay’s own info on the subject states that…

    —-
    “What information do I have to provide?
    As a business seller, you have to provide the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner on all your listings:
    1. Contact details
    the company name and (if applicable) the full name(s) of the legal representative(s) of the company
    the geographic address of the company (a PO Box is not sufficient)
    contact details, including an email address, telephone number and fax number
    the company’s registration number and register (if applicable)
    the company’s Value Added Tax identification number (if applicable)”
    —-

    Under EU law, this is called “The right to clear information”.

    This change to policy has forced eBay to clarify this point and now we can all point buyers to our contact details openly, blatantly and with gusto.

    Buyer: Can I have your email/phone/address?
    Seller: Under EU’s Distance Selling regulations, you have the right to clear information and you will find all our information at the bottom of this page.

  9. ebay was great once, unique and it was aimed at attic items all used items unwanted items and all of a sudden high street companies started to sell on the platform and it started to get Greedy very things getting harder, and now the platform is different the seller doesn’t run the show

  10. Hi- can anyone tell me will will “ebay classified ” ads be affected by the new rules re not allowing telepnone numbers on the listing.?
    Also “ebay Premium Service ” users seem to be unaffected re showing telephone numbers- please see furniture sellers- . Type in sofas in search box.
    Thanks

  11. I got slapped with a 7 day buying and listing suspension for giving a customer my Whatsapp when they asked for it – because the customer wanted to deal with me directly.

    ebay secret service are on to me. They’ve threatened to close my account if I am involved with any more messages that could lead to sales outside ebay.

    I suspect this does not apply to large retailers who use ebay to promote their own websites such as Argos and Watchfinder..

  12. I sell custom made products and I have to agree it’s getting more and more of a pain in the backside.

    Products I sell include business stationery whereby the BUYER needs to give me their contact details for printing. I have buyers left confused because they can’t send an e-mail address or telephone number via eBay messages. I end up having decode e-mail address like b*u*y*e*r@e*m*a*i*ldotcom which just makes the whole process ridiculously tedious.

    The only positive is it seems buyers can still leave the contact details in the order notes and I do ask that they do this in the description but as can be expected not everyone reads the description properly or some may simply forget, I then have the painful task of having to get these details via eBay messages.

    I much prefer selling on Etsy now and can also see more and more sellers of handmade coming this way, it is after-all the purpose of the marketplace. It seems to me eBay just aren’t interested and haven’t been for a long time now.

  13. I agree with what most are saying here with my personal hat on – but with my business hat on its a load of junk. Its business guys, look at the bigger picture – they are fighting for business no differently to you.

    It might be sad that custom made items are going to be harder going forward – but do you not think they have considered this? Therefore their decision must reflect that this part of their business is non growth or not as important to their business going forward? Whilst sad, this is probably an indication of the future of your business? Business is about adapting and moving forward and eBay are doing this – shouldnt you be too?

    Plus this whole eBay customer or my customer is just as daft. Whilst you are supplying the product be realistic about it… would any prospective customers know who YOU are without eBay? In so many cases businesses on eBay make absolutely no effort with branding and frankly the business is no more than an eBay account and a few packing benches…Is it even a business without eBay?
    If this is the case Id say the customer is just as much eBays as it is yours – you are just a cog, no different to the cogs sat in their office running paid search in order to attract an audience for YOU and themselves.

    It goes back to the same old issue which is reliance on marketplaces. IF any legislation change on a marketplaces causes a massive upset to your business output or profitability then the main issue is the business itself… Marketplaces should be a welcome supplement to a business, not the backbone.

  14. I sell customised products and Im worried about these changes, as it will make it harder to personalise an order.
    I have no issue with ebay making this change, but they should sort out the messaging system and not compress pictures. Why do they do this? I also sell on Amazon and do everything through Amazon messages with no problem, the photo’s are not compressed so no issue with quality.
    I agree we are all just a cog and Ebay is a large part of our business, we have been a seller with them for 9 years, spent a lot of time, resources and money keeping up with constant changes to comply to thier rules. The issue I have is that you wouldnt like it if you set up your business knowing what the rules were in the first place, for the goal post to change to something unworkable. Surely ebay have a duty to ensure the functionality of the messaging system works for all types of business. One simple change is all it takes – happy sellers, happy customers!

  15. In support of Zena – one problem here is that the ebay messaging system is stuck in a time-warp of about 10 years ago. It’s clunky, poorly designed and it’s based on a time when a 2 megapixel camera was a big thing, phones didn’t have cameras and bandwidth was more restricted.

    It wasn’t all that good a system even then!

    Not just talking about wanting to transfer images for customised photo items. There are lots of everyday issues with products before and after sales where good photos are beneficial.

  16. Am I missing the point? Surely the fact that eBay must include your details on every listing solves the problem, assuming the contact details are up to date.

    Direct contact details on every listing with eBay’s approval.

    The text the seller includes in each listing can refer to the Business Seller Information at the bottom of the page and, if a buyer still sends a message through eBay’s inadequate message system, the seller can simply refer to their Business Seller Information at the bottom of every listing.

  17. Ebay as a company is incapable of making a decision that isn’t completely stupid. Surely no single individual within the company is this stupid, so it begs the question: just how are these decisions made?

    Anyway, yes ebay will block an email address if you try to send it in its unaltered form. And they also try to detect email addresses that are spelt out like so: email at example dot com. But you can send email addresses with random characters in between these words, and on new lines, like so:

    email
    .
    at
    .
    example
    .
    com

    Yes this is a pain in the arse, but it works. Ebay will eventually block this method no doubt, but when they do we can just find another. Until they have true AI or enough employees to vet every single message, this will continue to be the case. So we will continue to trade DESPITE ebay, not BECAUSE of them.

    Another thing you can do is send your phone number and ask them to text you with their email address. This is sometimes a better option when dealing with people who don’t understand what you’ve had to do to your email address in order to get it past the filters. Yes, such people exist.

  18. This will stop a lot of the so called “business” on ebay who include their phone number in the listings. So many sellers in the categories I list in are running a business yet show no business information. Most likely list on the promotion weekends when they have to pay little to no final value fees and most likely pay no tax either. If ebay were to start sorting this out then they would have more income straight away. Have mentioned to ebay countless times of sellers who have 200 – 300 listings of new and similar lines of stock yet no business info.

  19. Create a custom page in your eBay shop with contact details on / instructions for your customer if you sell customised items that require customer input … direct your customers to this page… simples?!

  20. I agree we need to crack down on sellers trying to get sales off ebay, so I understand the reasons for the links policy. I am also happy to advise customers to refer to our business seller information………if they can find it depending on which device they are using.
    My HUGE issue is the messaging system that we cannot send or receive decent quality images. I wouldn’t have to ask a customer to email me directly if I could use the message system, but until they fix this outdated, Stone Age system, I am still forced to ask the customer to email me the images directly so I can personalise an order. At the end of the day, the customer doesn’t want the hassle of finding contact details, and it appears the seller is unhelpful when we can’t just give an email address when asked for, so they get grumpy and are more likely to cancel an order out of frustration. It can’t be hard for ebay to just update the message system.
    Maybe ebay should be harder on sellers that blatantly try and get sales outside of eBay and suspend their account like Amazon do with no warnings.

  21. My company supports over a thousand ebay businesses in the UK and abroad. Like many others we have put huge effort into preparing our clients for the impending removal of active content, revising over 600,000 listings in 12 months.

    I fully support the motivations behind the ACE rules, however the “target” requirement on links being added at late notice does make you question the planning which has gone into this process.

    The latest rule on contact information again seems poorly thought out. To give a specific example I have one client who makes “collar contact tags” for dogs which include a phone number. This is his only product and this puts his entire business is in jeopardy. He may only be a small seller but this is his livelihood. Sadly I only see this rule doing more damage than good to ebays relationship with sellers and it’s bottom line.

  22. I sell personalised invitations and cards. I offer a free design service whereby the customer can send me their personalisation details via an online form for a digital proof. (I currently link to the form within my listing.)

    Removing this link and using eBay’s messaging system instead is an absolute no go for several reasons:

    – Images are compressed heavily. Not suitable for professional printing
    – Upload process fails quite often
    – Process is slow
    – Only JPEG’s allowed. No pdfs
    – Doesn’t intergrate with 3rd party apps
    – Telephone and email addresses can’t be sent (how on earth is the customer meant to let you know their mobile/email for the RSVP on their invitations for example?)

    I’m a little curious to how their links policy will be enforced. Will they rely on member-to-member reporting or will there be a outright ban on ALL link tags?

    I wonder if eBay will make special allowances for personalised goods? For example allowing links in some categories?

    I’ll be speaking to eBay with regards to this, but suspect I won’t be listened to. Might be an idea to create an action group to raise the issue with the relevant team and bring it to their attention more LOUDLY!

  23. hi george i do personalised goods too,and i rang up and spoke to christine apparently in the policy expert department,i was told 2 different things from her in two days.who did you speak to if you dont mind me asking?it seems as theres no exact answer from ebay.having the email address is fine but half the time its an old address and you cant even put on your listing that you will contact them via email or direct them to the business information part,is what i was told!but she did also say a similar thing about notifying there team,so the more people ring up and shout the better!this will kill ebay if they dont find a work around and put me out of business!!!

  24. hi george ,just wondering if ebay ever got back to you over this?as i just keep getting mixed responses?thanks paul

  25. UPDATE: I’ve just heard back from Maria from Ebay with regards to links in the listings for personalisation forms and the allowance of email addresses in ebay messages. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good news, although she does understand the issue we’re facing. Links to personalisation forms that request a telephone number and/or email address will be in breach of their policy.

    Maria hasn’t given up hope yet though. She is now bringing this higher up the chain to someone even more senior. I suppose we wait again to see what is said….

  26. I’ve had emails lately from customers through ebay messaging with their email addresses in…

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