Harry Temkin on eBay 15th October Item Specifics SNAFU

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Kathy Terrill of I Love To Be Selling caught up with Harry Tempkin, VP of Seller Engagement, eBay at the recent eBay Up Front New York event. She grilled him on the recent disastrous roll out of eBay Item Specifics on the 15th of October and the one thing that sellers will welcome is that Harry undertook never again to roll out new Item Specifics and make them mandatory at the same time.

Harry was insistent that items were visible in search and aspects were mapped on the back end of listings keeping them visible in search to buyers. This however was no consistent with our experience where, for instance, in the Jeans category there was no way for a buyer to narrow their search by size for a period of time – neither the old size attributes nor the new ones were visible to buyers.

We’ve transcribed what Harry Temkin had to say below, or you can watch it in Kathy’s interview:

“We have been on this since October 15th every single day, 24/7. I think you guys have seen the seller news updates we put out. Our intent with Item Specifics as we said at eBay Open is to make the listings flow more efficient, to show you the buyer demand data, to bring the Item Specifics that are most relevant to buyers to the surface so that you can focus your energy and your time on the most important ones.

And Clothing, Shoes and Accessories, electronics, home and garden, we’ve been putting them through this process of re-bucketing the aspects to required, recommended and additional and providing that buyer demand data.

And in doing so, with Clothing, Shoes and Accessories, we tried to normalise the categories, so things like ‘Women’s Size’ and ‘Shoe Size’ we made them all just ‘Size’ and when we did that we also made ‘Size’ a mandated field and we had never done that before and I can promise you we will never do that again. We learned from that.

I want to assure all of you, we know we created friction on that day, but your listings were always visible in search, we didn’t lose any data, all the Item Specifics were there, it’s just that what we didn’t do a good job of was showing you when we renamed an aspect like ‘US Women’s Size’ to ‘Size’ we didn’t show you that mapping but under the covers that was all mapped so you had your aspect.

So we had the data, so ‘US Women’s Size’, it was mapped to size, but the size field showed blank. So from a visual perspective, from the listing flow perspective, it was challenging to understand that we had mapped that. You had to go and look at the seller update and a PDF file and that’s no efficient and we know that and you can see from the level of communications we are putting out now that we are really trying to be much more open and in the weeds with you guys showing you exactly what’s happening and what to do.

So, based on all of your feedback, we’re actually going back ok, and looking at the Clothing, Shoes and Accessories category, and we’re going to put back ‘Women’s size’, we’re going to put back those aspects that you were so accustomed to and you’ll see we started to do that already. Some of them are done. We’ve been rolling them out slowly. We’re taking out time and really putting them through staging and making sure everything is correct before we do it and as we indicated to you guys, for the size field that we changed we’re also going to copy the aspect into the new field for you.

Going forward, we really want to improve this process. We want to make sure we put a lot more information out about it and in the listing flows to identify which aspects might have changed and how they’re mapped. And so those are some of the things we’re going to do and it’s all part of the process now.

But I can assure you that going forward we’re never going to change an aspect and make it mandated at the same time again. Because that’s what created most of the issues.

The other thing I want to say again is that none of the data was lost. OK. And your items – the listings – were still visible in search to buyers. Even on the 15th, I know there was a period of time that made it hard to edit the listings, but whatever was in the listing at that period of time was visible to the buyers.

So there’s a lot going on in the Clothing category, compared to say Home and Garden and we learned from that and again your feedback is important and we’ve taken that feedback and now you’re going to start to see us update those categories again with that feedback.”
– Harry Temkin, VP of Seller Engagement, eBay

4 Responses

  1. As a seller of Vintage Clothing on eBay, I can confirm that what Mr. Temkin is saying is not consistent with what I experienced.

    This leads me to the conclusion that Mr. Temkin either doesn’t know what he is talking about, or he knows very well the damage these changes have done, but he is trying to gloss over the fact.

    After the changes on 15th October, I did hours of research and for many of the items I was selling, it was completely impossible to search for them using the old or new item specifics.

    Even today, nearly 5 weeks later, it is impossible to search for items using the size buttons at the top of the search results.

    Ebays handling of these changes has been awful.

    Initially, eBay removed the old “Inside Leg” Item Specific and replaced it with “Inseam”…

    After I spent a few days changing the item specifics over, eBay seemed to back-track on this idea, and the new “Inseam” Item Specific disappeared and the old “Inside Leg” Item specific was back.

    I then had to spend another 2 days swapping them back to how they were previously.

    Similarly, in the Coats and Jackets category, on 15th October, eBay introduced a new Chest Size Category, with size range options such as 36″-38″, 39″-40″ etc…

    I spent days filling these in and then eBay decided to change them to the exact chest size, such as 36″, 38″, 40″ etc…

    I then had to go back and change them all again.

    Initially on 15th October, the size options for jeans were 28″, 30″ 32″ etc….

    I spent days filling them all in and a day later, eBay changed the options to 28W, 30W, 32W etc, so I had to change all these again.

    I am now too scared to change the Item Specifics on my items, as until eBay decide what they want, it is pointless me changing the item specifics, only to have to change them all again when eBay decide they are going to change things again.

    The communication from eBay, regarding these changes has been terrible too.

    Initially eBay put out a few announcements, acknowledging their mistake and reassuring sellers that they would keep them updated until things were fixed.

    These updates dried up very quickly. The item specifics are still not working as they should and sellers are completely clueless as to when things will be back to normal or if it is safe to start changing the Item Specifics themselves.

    I even tried asking eBay Customer Services if they knew what the situation way and the Customer Service agents response was “What is an Item Specific, is that like a description?”

    What hope have us sellers got, when even eBay’s own Customer Service team don’t know what is going on.

    Mr Temkin should be ashamed of the way eBay have handled these changes.

    As for the timing, just before Black Friday and the run up to Christmas, I really do give up.

  2. Temkin’s the typical executive type which you’ll find at eBay. Nothing but outright lies, diversions, don’t know how to do their job, or they’re really that clueless and don’t have an inkling what’s going on at all. eBay is getting more sleazy by the day. These people are only interested in cashing in their gifted stock/options which by they way are exactly that: free, costs them nothing. eBay executives rarely buy stock. All they do is sell.


    Look at the giant disparity between sold shares and “bought”. One of the very worst sell/buy ratios of any company on the planet.


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