eBay: better than you think it is.

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David Brackin of Stuff U Sell is a regular contributor to Tamebay. Here he reflects on buying on eBay.

Dan wrote on Tuesday about the potential for a third marketplace to emerge and encourage eBay to try harder. He mentioned the generally accepted view that eBay appeared to be lagging behind the all-conquering Amazon and how – with so many recent negative changes, sellers are itching for an alternative. My recent experiences suggest that this is anything but true and eBay – if it stops annoying its army of sellers and also fixes some obvious search issues – is increasingly in a position to come and eat Amazon‘s lunch.

It came as a shock to find that my home’s electrical wiring pre-dated The Beatles’ first UK hit (Love Me Do, 1962). But not as much as a shock as how much the subsequent renovation would cost. Most of the materials were up to the contractor to supply, but there are always a surprising number of purchases left to do. So while I’m more accustomed to being a marketplace seller, for three months I honed my buying skills, scouring the internet looking for inspiration and deals to complete the project.

The bathroom was easy: the excellent Whirlpool Bath Shop had a full range of goods at the right price and with great delivery options. Similarly, when it came to the expensive kitchen appliances Amazon and eBay were not competitive compared with the specialist direct websites.

For the smaller things which I needed quickly as the project advanced, I fell into the routine of simply searching Amazon and buying on Prime for next day delivery. The frustration with not being able to see when eBay items would arrive – an often reported problem with search on the platform – meant that identical sellers (most likely with identical turnaround and dispatch times) were more likely to see my order via Amazon.

However, when it came to more expensive purchases, I broke the habit and did better research. Invariably eBay got my business. One example particularly shows the strength of the so-called “spectrum of value” available on the platform. My installer had fitted an older model of thermostat and I wanted a newer one I could plug into my smart home.

Quotes from the manufacturer were eye-watering but Amazon could provide a better price. However, on eBay I was able to find someone with exactly the opposite problem to me: his installer had fitted the newer model and he didn’t want those controllers – four of them: exactly the same number I needed too. Installed and removed, these were half the price of the new in box ones and worked like a dream. The old ones? Straight up on eBay.

The final example that brought the strength of eBay’s offering home to me was in Amazon’s original category.

The Seattle bookshop has long been known to beat everyone on price and is well set-up to sell different formats and conditions: it has it’s own “spectrum of value” proposition. So when a friend recommended a book on President L B Johnson as “the best biography ever written”, I looked it up on Amazon. Seventeen quid for the first book in the set was enough to make me pause and look on eBay instead where I found a great quality hardback copy on sale for £7.50 – for delivery sometime in the next week, probably. A book written in 1982 could wait just a few more days with that kind of price. Who says buyers all want next day delivery?

eBay’s sellers are its strength and their proposition to the buyer is in many cases unbeatable. If it can step back from trying to manage them so tightly and act as a showcase for their diverse offerings, while at the same time making it as easy for buyers to search and buy, then I think it has every chance to reverse the assumed dominance of Amazon.

15 Responses

  1. eBay & Amazon push sellers to deliver faster & cheaper & they demote listings with a slow delivery time. This means less low priced products. I am sure most customers would prefer to wait a couple of days longer for a cheaper item. Some products like books or DVDs don’t need to be delivered next day. The more delivery options the customer has the better. I offer 1st 2nd & special. Almost every customer opts for 2nd class because it’s cheaper. They all prefer cheap delivery over next day delivery because I sell books. eBay should understand that the more choices the customer has the better & it also depends on the item being sold.

  2. eBay is great if you want broken second hand tat delivered in two weeks from a trainspoters shed.

    Otherwise use Amazon.

  3. Having the best stuff to sell at the best prices is not one of them.’

    Well, let’s have a look,

    Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President (Paperback) ISBN 0195159217

    14 offers for it new on amazon, starting at £12.19

    search for that isbn on ebay and…… 5 offers starting at 29.99!

    so to spell it out eBay has less choice and is more expensive.

  4. Fair play David,

    My knowledge and interest in biographies of long dead American presidents is limited so I will bow to your superior knowledge on which is the better book.

    However, the best price on eBay for that ISBN is 66.82 in VG condition from alexthefatdawg the very same seller as your 66.97 price on Amazon.

    Personally, as I’m not a gambling man, I’d pay the extra 15p and buy it on Amazon.

    Because, you know, it actually arrives in a timely manner and is as described.

  5. So you are suggesting that a professional seller will somehow treat the identical items that he sells on Ebay in a different way to the Amazon sales? Why would he do that?

  6. I merely searched using the ISBN you provided David, which is of course 10 digits not 9, that’s why its called ISBN-10.

    If you had supplied the 13 digit ISBN-13 i would have searched for that.

    The ISBN-13 for 0002170620 is 9780002170628

    But, whatever, you seem to be interested in 9780394499734 instead, fair enough.

    Let have a look….. ooooh,

    So, to correct you yet again……

    What you meant to say was

    — Amazon £26.89 – New
    — eBay £32.99 – New Condition.

    The thing is David, when you compare prices across marketplaces you need to compare the same product, ISBN codes are an easy way to this, which is why we search by them.

    This is especially important when you write an article claiming that eBay is cheaper, but use an example that shows it is not.

  7. Ebay is full of TAT…It really is, that is the bottom line, Ebay charges fees for selling and charges you fees on your postage too, Ebay Customer Services are diabolical, infact you cannot even call them Customer Services since no one from there seems to understand English and consequently cannot carry out a simple procedure, the whole site is a steaming pile of you know what, you are actually deluded to conclude Ebay is a good place, it really isn’t…Honestly.

  8. We prefer to control our stock than send it to an Amazon warehouse. Both these marketplaces are too expensive, both offer a poor deal for the sellers. Both are misleading and have caused a major battle to the bottom. eBay suffers from very poor leadership and has shocking seller support (Amazon are not far behind eBay with seller support).
    Anyway RMG strikes, and a huge decline in eBay sales we are down £35K on last year on ebay (they prefer to push their large partners), basically means we have held our breath and noses and just put everything for PEAK into FBA.
    ebay is also expensive it has nothing unique anymore. The Customers are now using Amazon (we will all suffer long term for this). We will however take our money and run after peak this year, she is already back in work and I will be following in January. We will still sell online but who will we use now, as we both will be working full time it will be FBA. We had a good run, but eBay is done.

  9. TL;DR – ebay sellers sell second hand stuff cheaper than amazon sells brand new stuff.
    for everything else, I shopped elsewhere.

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