‘Sellers are no longer listened to by eBay management,’ says eBay merchant

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Sellers are no longer listened to by eBay management,” is how one eBay merchant describes communication between sellers and the marketplace. As he admits: “There was a time when there were forums and good interaction between sellers and eBay. That has changed.”

Speaking to Tamebay on the lack of sellers’ inclusion into changes made to their operations, Andy, who wishes to remain anonymous turns over 500k per year with 100k items in all collectable categories on eBay, argues that merchant news announcements are rarely made to benefit sellers but those in power.

“Announcements and seller releases now arrive with little or no warning and are rarely good news from a selling perspective. Often these seem to complicate the process of selling, or add to costs, without benefitting sales.”
– Andy

eBay isn’t on buyers wavelength,” that’s the expression Andy uses to describe the status quo of trading on the marketplace.  He points to the barriers he says prevent eBay from improving sellers’ commerce including their lack of grip on sellers’ reality due “lack of insight” and possibly not “having to ever sell items [themselves]” on the marketplace. Simple factors such as user experience on the website “can be very frustrating” to search for items which contribute to “sluggish growth in sales” and “a lack of growth.”

Looking at the time when eBay’s development stopped “moving forward” he cites Devin Wenig, chief executive officer (CEO) of eBay coming to power as the root of the problem. Andy was prepared to give the CEO time to improve the state of affairs on the marketplace but he says “sadly” things didn’t live up to his expectations. Contrary to his hopes, he found there was downward pressure on prices.

There has been a general trend towards catalogue items, despite non-catalogue areas, such as our own, representing a hefty chunk of eBay’s turnover, as well as differentiating it from Amazon. It has become much harder to sell standard items on eBay. To explain: a few years ago, I could sell reasonably priced standard items fairly well. Now, those items are virtually unsaleable on eBay, unless the price is slashed to the bone. To counter this, I have increasingly moved into more distinctive areas, which have not yet been crowded out, as well as focusing on rarer or higher value stock.  The margins on these aren’t as good, but at least they still have a market on eBay.  I don’t feel that Rob Hattrell has made any significant impact on UK eBay, either.
– Andy

When talking about his “specific fears” in the long run – he starts describing the lack of growth in sales and buyers on the marketplace as well as comparing Amazon’s growth to eBay’s “as not impressive.” Pointing to empty promises of “increased profits” without seeing “any substantial sale increas[es] on the site,” Andy says the future of the marketplace’s growth will be built around the merchants’ labour rather than any work eBay themselves. He claims that there’s a substantial increase in the cost of selling on eBay, with 24% soar up in fees from 17% “a couple of years ago.”

“eBay’s future plans revolve more around increasing the amount they make off sellers (taking payments in-house, promoted listings etc) than in increasing sales. In fact, eBay’s previous market statement indicated they do not expect future sales on eBay to grow strongly.  It also now takes longer to list items than it used to.   Instead of a thousand listings a week, I can only list a fraction of that now due to increased complication and constant changes, despite using various listing tools.  There are still the same ongoing problems with the checkout, searches, seller metrics etc.  None of these have been addressed.  Not because they are impossible to solve, but because I genuinely don’t think eBay considers them important.  Besides, some of them make money for eBay from overpaid fees. ”
– Andy

eBay’s future uncertainty over investors relationship also adds to the equation. Last time, an investors’ disagreement saw the marketplace ending a partnership with PayPal and the ramifications of that are continuing with eBay starting to roll out eBay Managed Payments in the US.  Now,  Elliott Associates, who own shares in eBay worth about $1.4 billion have added fuel to the fire over the way that the business is managed, bringing a ripple effect to sellers’ disappointment.

Voicing merchants’ concerns over “the potential for shareholder groups to split eBay, in order to gain short-term dividends for themselves,” he pointed to the possibility of this happening as a result of bad management. He says that eBay’s power is in selling “quirky off-beat ones,” which he describes as unique items, and the marketplace should capitalise on this point of differentiation to not become a “pale imitation of Amazon.

Most worrying of all, however, is the potential for shareholder groups to try to split eBay up, in order to gain a short-term dividend for themselves. This is now possible due to the failure of the current eBay management to sustain any serious growth and enables these groups to gain traction at board level. It’s starting to look like a lame duck. eBay’s strength still lies in the fact that it has a far more diverse offer to buyers than any other site. You go onto eBay looking for one thing and come away with something found completely unexpectedly. The retail areas sit well with the more quirky off-beat ones because they are all hooks in their own ways to get people onto the site. Take any component away and you diminish the pulling power and number of visits, resulting in fewer sales all around. The battle with Amazon has been lost for retail items, but eBay risks an even faster decline if they try to become a pale imitation of Amazon, or fail to keep both fixed price and auction options under one roof.”
– Andy

While Andy’s sales are currently down on eBay, he still considers the marketplace as a place to “make a decent living.” However, eBay need an “understand[ing] management team in place” to fix existing issues before they end up “split[ing] up or rebrand[ing].

“I don’t think eBay is helping sellers at the moment and the fear is that it could be taken over, or split up, or even rebranded as something else.  I doubt very much that eBay will exist as it does now in three years time.  I meet a lot of dealers and traders at fairs and events, and most feel that eBay is not really succeeding at the moment and will probably fade away.  That should be worrying for both sellers and buyers.  Sellers need to ensure they have some alternative selling platforms in place. Even without these concerns, it isn’t a good business model to have only one option to sell your items.  So my recommendation would be for sellers to use eBay as a tool to drive business to their own website. That way, you can gain maximum advantage from eBay while minimising the risks.
– Andy

Andy is a reader on Tamebay, who shared his personal views with Tamebay. If you would like to share your opinions feel free to email me via [email protected].

11 Responses

  1. This does not match my experience.

    I feel the UK team are probably the most seller-centric that they have ever been in my time selling on eBay.

    Does that make it a perfect experience for the seller? Absolutely not — there are still many cultural and organisational hurdles that stop the organisation from behaving effectively in a seller-centric manner — but I think an increasing number of individuals have good insights into seller issues within management, and are able to alter, delay or reverse changes which impact sellers’ ability to offer attractive inventory to buyers.

  2. He said all of those words and never once was specific about any aspect that actually needs to be fixed or changed. No suggestions on how to fix any of the issues he’s facing either.

    Not sure how listing items is anymore difficult at this point either. I’m listing items just as fast as I used to, even by hand, without using any tools.

    Also, without the specifics of the types of items he’s selling outside the general “collectibles” umbrella, his words mean nothing. It’s entirely possible that his items are selling less because they’re less popular. That’s how the collectible market works.

    Due to the amount of listings that he has, I’d say his collectibles are sports cards or trading cards. Which aren’t anywhere nearly as popular as they used to be and are a dying industry with prices across all sports and brands steadily going down. And yet this type of aspect seemingly isn’t even a thought to Andy. It’s all entirely eBay’s fault.

    If your items won’t sell unless they’re “slashed to the bone” on eBay, that’s not on eBay. That’s on your product and listing offering. eBay isn’t dictating what people will and won’t pay for an item.

    Just another example of a seller that won’t take personal responsibility for their own listing and product issues and instead looks to blame eBay rather than realize the reality of their products and their market.

  3. Who said ebay don’t listen? ……. they do listen but they ignore you completely. Support based in Philippines listens to you, asks you same question many times, sympathize with you, tells you that they value you, appriciate your business etc.. BUT there is no solution to your problem so you can go to hell (politely). Or they will call you back but never do. You can plead with them beg them to put you through to Dublin but that won’t happen. Yet ebay has the audacity to lecture sellers on the importance of good customer service.

  4. I used to work for a large organisation where at one point the culture of the company was not great it was, look after yourself with individual bonuses and employee not listened to.
    New CEO came in, re organised structures etc and each quarter all staff were sent a survey to rate people at the top, to the departments you worked in.

    Would be good to have that type of thing with eBay where each quarter they send out a survey so we rate: sellers feel they are treated, what level of trust we have in the top level management. What are the main areas we would like to see improved.

  5. There is an anecdote about Napoleon – when he surrendered to the British on HMS Bellerophon after losing Battle of Waterloo, he inspected the soldiers onboard as they went through their manoeuvres. One marvelled to see how the erstwhile emperor stepped in to correct the way that one of the sailors was holding his gun. This demonstrates the fact that Napoleon had risen through the ranks of the army and had not lost that basic knowledge.
    Perhaps we could have a CEO of eBay who has at least some knowledge of what it is like to sell on the platform so that they would know what merchants want and need.

  6. I don’t really understand why Andy’s singular experience has had an entire article written about it? As if he is some sort of oracle?!

    This seems to be pretty unbalanced as it isn’t weighed up with any other sellers experiences or matched against any wider context of seller opinion. Basically:
    ‘Andy’s unhappy – stop the press!’

    Ebay has lots of failings but I’d expect a writer to conduct research and speak to a range of sellers to gain insight in to the issue and look for a pattern.

    Frankly if I just wanted to hear people moaning about eBay I could go on to any forum or Facebook group ??

  7. Yet another eBay bashing article…

    Have you had any experience selling on Amazon or contacting Amazon seller support?

    eBays seller focus is an absolute dream in comparison.

    Are you guys on the Amazon payroll?


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