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The Almighty Buck

E-Bay Going After Offline Deals 76

bmongar writes: "It seems that eBay is going after sellers that make contact with people who bid on their items who were not the winners. They want those companies to sell only to those people through eBay. ZDNet is running the story It seems to me that is only likely to discourage their best customers their powersellers. I think they may lose more money from this than they loose from offline deals." Sites like eBay operate on a surprising amount of trust -- I've had happy deals there, and an unhappy scam experience, too. Raise one pinky if you think they can really do much about offline sales, though.
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E-Bay Going After Offline Deals

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  • "Buyer Beware" is all I can say with regards to people complaining to Ebay about frauds of 'offline' transactions.

    Actually, those people are quite dumb to complain to Ebay about such problems, since they decided themselves to do a transaction outside of any auction system.

    That being said, I can't say I agree with Ebay on trying to police 'offline auctions/deals'. If two parties decide to make a transaction, that is their business and no one else's, regardless of how they came into contact.

    And if Ebay gets complaints about said transactions, the above phrase should be their only answer to those complaints.

  • Moderate this one down please. Thank you.
  • The company also announced that it would start cracking down on spam, or unsolicited email, sent to its members.

    Starting with E-Bay themselves, we can only hope.

    I quit using e-bay when I started getting spam to an account I only used for E-Bay. Never posted anywhere with that account, never used it but for e-bay. SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM.

    I hope E-Bay goes out of business. I've hated their policy, "service", and attitude for quite a while. I was never scammed, but thousands were. Good ridence to them.

    In a minute I'll tell you how I really feel.

  • by monaco ( 37517 ) on Friday December 29, 2000 @11:04PM (#1423428)
    The real purpose of this is to rake in more cash for eBay.

    If you've got an item for sale, build your customer base from people who bid on eBay auctions, and sell direct instead of via auction, then guess what? EBay doesn't get any money!

    I've heard a few tales recently of sellers who were warned by eBay for listing their websites in their auction listings. They were allowed to link to their own sites, but disallowed from tagging the link with anything that mentioned that merchandise was available for sale on the site. So, "Visit for more SUPER-RARE L@@K! trinkets!" at the end of an auction garnered a warning.

    It's the same story as a lot of web companies: make things free/cheap/easy at first, to gather a userbase, and then crack down on the rules. Now that eBay is the most popular auction site around, they can afford to do this. I'm not saying that it's wrong either, but it's certainly not about decreasing online fraud -- rather, it's about increasing the bottom line.

  • From the article:
    > The company also announced that it would crack down on spam, or unsolicited email, sent to members

    Obviously eBay's own spam [] is just fine.

    Not only have they been documented spammers for quite some time (reference Dejanews over the past 6 months), they're now resetting members "no, I don't like spam!" settings.

    If their crackdown on spam is indicative of their crackdown on offline deals, offline buyers and sellers have nothing to worry about.

    (Hey, eBay, you readin' this? I DON'T LIKE SPAM. And calling it "valuable email communications with news, offers and special events" doesn't change the fact that you can't polish a turd. Now go away or I shall taunt your marketroids a second time.)

  • You are an idiot if you buy offline anyhow. Several times I was the second highest bidder in an auction and got emails from the sellers asking me to buy a similar item. I forwarded these emails to ebay and they did nothing... Great staff on hand don't you think?

    If you buy through ebay you are covered if the seller is trying to scam you. If you buy something NOT through ebay you don't have the wonderful little insurance policy to protect your investment.

    If you are willing to buy offline, you are just asking to be scammed!
  • by Restil ( 31903 ) on Saturday December 30, 2000 @12:00AM (#1423431) Homepage
    Although the measures restricting sellers from contacting non-winning bidders probably have some profit motive behind them, there ARE potentially good reasons to advise against it. However, I don't feel its Ebay's place to restrict what two different people do offline. If fraud is rampant between non winning bidders and sellers, a warning to all bidders should be sufficient. This can be displayed whenever a bid is placed. I know, people probably won't read it, but when the call comes in to the fraud dept, Ebay can end the conversation quickly, alhtough they're still not liable for offline transactions anyways.

    However, there is no reason a losing bidder can't contact the seller offline, especially if the seller is a legitimate business thats just selling for the purpose of drawing in new customers or selling off surplus/older equipment and features newer equipment offline from ebay. Auctions are very much a buyer beware excersize, but if the buyer is the one inititating the contact, thats good for them, good for the seller, and GOOD FOR EBAY as the seller will keep selling products on ebay because now not only do they pick up the top bidder as a customer, they will also drag in a number of potential customers as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone who has used ebay for any lenght of time has:

    ...been ripped off at least once

    ...tracked "reserve not met" auctions

    ...and contacted the seller off-line

    ...collected base-line pricing for interesting items

    ...found stuff that they would have never found otherwise

    ...has at least 100+ bookmarks to ebay auctions

    ...and a folder to keep them in

    ...gets really pissed off when sellers haven't a clue about how much their gear is worth and price things a "list" price established 5 years ago when the item was new

    Now, if EBay really wants to get serious about keeping items listed under auction house under their control, they would be well advised to develope auction contracts just like the brick
    and morter, atom hack houses.

    It would also be nice to see ebay collect and share a little more information about the transactions that flow thir bit of wire. Personally, I'd like to see S/N barcdoe EDI type of information along with individual contacts with buyers and sellers to sample the degree of satisfaction (feedback doesn't cut it). In addition, it would be very helpful if emergent pricing informaiton could be made public. I'd also like to see mail header information matched up with geographic location (and don't tell me that it can't be done, because there are serveral companies doing just that right now).

    Whatever... once a company gets beyond the initial thing that makes them, they forget everything about continuing that process.
  • It would seem that if eBay made the following changes that they could greatly reduce the amount of "offline" selling:

    • Do not display high bidder's name until the auction is over at the defined closing time.
    • Do not allow everyone to see the bid history of on an item. Only allow the seller to see this, and only after the auction is over.
    With these changes, if a seller closes his auction early then he won't know who bid on the item. Also, the trick of looking through the bidding history for completed auctions to locate potential buyers will no longer work.
  • by Daniel Rutter ( 126873 ) <> on Saturday December 30, 2000 @12:11AM (#1423435) Homepage
    I bought a microscope via Ebay (here in Australia, where there aren't many such items up for online auction from local sellers - you don't want to pay shipping from the USA for a cast iron 'scope...).

    Or, to put it another way, I _didn't_ buy it via Ebay, because I bid on that 'scope in more than one auction. Each time, I was the winning bidder - at a price well below my maximum bid - but nobody else had a maximum bid very close to mine, so the bid didn't make reserve, and the seller opted not to sell.

    So I e-mailed the seller, asked how much they actually WANTED for it, because I actually wanted to buy a microscope and they seemed to be pretty close to the only game in town for the kind of 'scope I wanted, and could afford. They told me the price, it was OK with me, I bought it, Ebay didn't get their cut.

    Take me away, officer.

    If Ebay want to crack down on fraud then, by all means, they should crack down on fraud. Great idea. But the offline selling rule is not one about fraud, it's one about side-stepping Ebay's revenue-gathering mechanism; various people who sell outside Ebay channels just happen to also be defrauding buyers.

    I don't think it's all that likely that offline selling of the sort I participated in really hurts Ebay much, when you _don't_ take fraudulent operators into account. Because, it seems to me, deliberately posting items for sale with unrealistically high reserve prices in order to get off-line buy offers will only let you sell stuff for about as much as the market will bear anyway, but it will greatly cut down the number of people who will actually offer to buy. So I think, overall, it would have to seriously _reduce_ your profits. It's just something that happens now and then when the secret-reserve-price system allows a patient seller to frustrate less patient buyers who just want to BUY the darn thing, but can't, because no other bidder pushed the bid up past reserve for them.

    Enforcing some rule against not-bad behaviour because the set of people who are breaking that rule significantly overlaps some other sets of people whose behaviour _is_ bad is the same sort of superficially mathematically sensible but socially unacceptable policy as choosing to arrest black people purely on the grounds of their blackness, because you live somewhere where black people are more likely to have committed crimes than whites.

    This may work, for sufficiently small values of "work", but it's still the wrong strategy.

  • The original poster said that BOTH the seller AND the bidder click the "defer to next bidder" button. i.e. both the seller and the next highest bidder have to agree to removing the top bidder. This will allow bidders to reject the offer if they have already bid on another similar item.

    On another note, Yahoo! Auctions (what could be considered eBay's arch-rival) actually *does* offer a similar feature. Sellers can return to their auction page and click on [Remove this bidder] if they cannot complete the transaction with that bidder. However, this is done without the consent of the bidder, so the bidder *does* risk winning two similar auctions.

    - Ed.
  • If you read the ebay statements, the most telling thing is their use of then and now. Back then, we had Haggle, etc. etc. to overcome. Thus we were willing to do all kinds of stuff to attract buyers and sellers. Now, we are the big boy on the block and we think that we can bully anyone and everyone. Sorry friend, but you have a very, very, thin franchise. Branding is important but in the auction game eyeballs are the commodity that you actually sell, You need folks like me who sell the high end stuff on a routine basis (in my case Bibles from the 1500s and 1600s, + other antiquarian books), to drive eyeballs to your site. Otherwise you are going to be nothing but a yardsale for crap. You gotta sell a lot of $10 items to equal a $5000 book, a lot of used 166 Pentiums to equal a new 1.2 Ghz T-bird server system. Piss the heavy sellers off (and in the Bible game there are all of maybe a dozen of us in the states) by being greedy, and an alternative auction is not hard to create. At least one dealer in this area that I know of lists some stuff on ebay with the concept that it will not sell, but that he will drive folks to his site. He reagards the listing fee as an advertising expense. Kick him out because he talks to folks at his site and you have a problem with other sellers. It appears that the biz folks have gotten ahold of this one too. Anybody want to start a site?

    As a note, I am having the feeling that ebay is starting to feel a little bit of pain these days anyway. Prices there have dropped low enough (at least in my area) that I don't really even feel like listing. Perhaps it is the novelty of the "name your price" model wearing off, perhaps it is the slowing in the economy, but the action isn't there currently.

  • I think it takes three bad deals, but the person of each bad deal has to report it. Just one can too easily be a harrasing thing, but if you get reports from three different people that their deals have gone bad then they yank you.

    I think did fine by allowing only finallized sellers & bidders to post feedback because those are official sales that eBay makes money on, and also only official transactions get dispute resolution and bidder insurance.

    I thought bids were always retractable, now bid retractions are tracked as part of the user history.

    The few times I have accepted a seller offer off eBay's system, without an official item to go along with it, I have done well but I am always cautious because there is often NO RECOURSE if something goes wrong, I have a friend that was suckered by this. The no recourse exposes the buyer to too much risk and since eBay didn't make any money on that transaction, why should they support it?

    A more convenient "defer to non-winning bidder" option sounds great.

    I know it sounds like money-grubbing on eBays part but there are legitimate non-grubbing reasons why they want to do it.
  • lmao, even though the previous was as a joke (I THINK) im interested, throw this dude an email if you wanna sell the hard drives. ( dont worry, thats my spam account.
  • ..was on an NEC Versa M/100 laptop. I was going to leave for vacation before the auction was to end. I really wanted that laptop so I emailed the seller and asked if we could resolve the auction privately. She dropped the auction and I ended up sending her a money order and getting the laptop before I left :-)

  • eBay can't stop private individuals from completing private transactions, regardless of how they came into contact with each other.

    I agree that they can't actually prevent the transactions themselves. However, their threats to jerk the accounts of those who go around them is probably within their rights. As far as I can tell (IANAL) there's nothing that can be done legally to them if they do. Flack from their customers seems to be the only outlet.

  • by Aash ( 130966 )
    This is one of the silliest things I've ever heard of. First of all, how exactly do they plan on enforcing these rules? Aside from tapping people's phones and monitoring their computers, they'll never know what people do outside of eBay. Second of all, eBay is a community of sorts. So what if it brings people together outside of eBay? How much money could eBay really lose?

    Between this, and that ridiculous patent, I'm starting to lose quite a bit of respect for eBay. What's next?

  • They have no legal basis for this at all. You don't sign a deal when you bid on an auction that you can never do buisness with anyone else without using ebay. Sounds to me like ebay is trying to regulate interstate commerce.
  • by Yu Suzuki ( 170586 ) on Friday December 29, 2000 @09:42PM (#1423444) Homepage
    It's easy to cry "censorship" and wave a fist at eBay, but for once I believe they're making the right decision. It seems like the people being targetted here are basically spammers -- companies that are using eBay's services to promote their own sites or stores. Quoth ZDNET:

    "Many small businesses use eBay like they would banner ads or newspaper classifieds: as a way to draw in new customers. "

    When I visit eBay, it's usually because I'm looking to buy something. I want to see people who are honestly trying to sell that given item, not advertisement. Corporations listing items on eBay as promotional stunt just dilute the list of "real" sellers and jack up prices. As far as I'm concerned, we're better off without them.

    If you're just an average eBay user, I don't think they're going to crack down on you just because you arranged an off-site sale once. Not only would this generate some obvious bad karma, policing it would be difficult and expensive. The ones who will be affected by this are the fly-by-night companies who consistently place ad-oriented eBay listings. Average users don't have anything to worry about it.

    Besides, the servers hosting belong to eBay, and they can ban whatever they want from them.

    Yu Suzuki

  • How could someone mod this up?

    I just don't know. This is like a hate crime! Dogs are treated better than this!
  • by Aquafina ( 198114 ) on Saturday December 30, 2000 @12:42AM (#1423446)
    I've personally have experience with this very issue. Hear me out:

    I just recently bid on some Playstation 2's on eBay. Within hours of my bidding I was receiving offers to purchase ps2's via email from those who have gotten my email from the auction pages.

    I was interested in a couple of the offers because they were lower in price compared to those being offered directly from ebay's auctions.

    So I asked for their reference, aka. their eBay screen names. I wanted to see these sellers' feedbacks.

    At the same time this was happening, I was still the highest bidder on one of the ps2 auctions.

    Eventually I opted to pay a bit more for an extra level of security and confidence, rather than take a chance with an offline seller.

    But it is true, this type of activity has the potential of ruining eBay's reputation, as it encourages bidders to abandon paying for auctions they've won. It can also create distrust in eBay's user feedbacks, as unscrupulous sellers can leverage their high user feedbacks to take advantage of offline buyers, since there's no way for victims of fraud to leave bad feedback for them on eBay's system.

    On the other hand, it seems like eBay OWNS the good credit standing of all of their members, disallowing them from using it elsewhere. This isn't fair. Imagine if your good credit, credit that can get you financed for a house, a car, and a business, can be taken away in a second by the credit card companies. How would you feel then?

  • Really though, there is not damage to their image. So what, 1k, 2k, or 10k slashdot users think its a bad idea.

    Ebay gets that many complaints a week, probably about this very problem.

    The damage to their image costs them virtually nothing, because this is such a minor thing to most people. 99% of ebay users, and even a greater number of computer users, dont care, and wont care.

  • Here's how they do it:

    To get many of the user's email addresses, you gotta click on a userid name to get info. Then you have to login again (or use the damned cookie) to get the info.

    If you store information requests, and cross reference with bids, you have a list of people who are contacting outside of the auction.. supposedly (God forbid I email for more info on an item!)

    Fine and dandy if they want to stop fraud. It's simple: Put up a big letter disclaimer that says for sure "WE CAN'T GUARENTEE ANYTHING NOT THROUGH US!" If you can't read the words on the page, then it's your own damn fault if you get scammed.
  • Wouldn't the flaw here be that the bidders must be allowed to e-mail the seller while the auction is underway to resolve issues about item condition, details not given in the ad, shipping costs, payment questions, etc?

    So let's say I'm selling something. With your proposal, I wouldn't be able to tell from the eBay web site who the online high bidder was, but the high bidder could simply contact me thru e-mail and then we'd reach an agreement offline.

    From experience, if I'm bidding on anything of moderate value that could have wear-and-tear or problems the ad doesn't reveal, I always contact the seller to get a better "feel" for him/her and the item. I believe that this contact is essential.
  • Maybe I'm missing something here, but if I post an item on ebay, complete the auction and then contact the losing bidders to offer addtional, identical items, how in the hell are they going to know that I did so?

    What are they going to do, send their protection racket thugs around to my ISP to insist that all my outgoing mail be routed through their Carnivore-like system scanning for any reference to a business transaction? Or are they going to use shills to contact and entice (read: entrap) buyers and sellers to make offline transactions? "Uh-oh, the ebay police are after me, I guess I'd better turn myself in. You *know* what they can do to you with those fire hoses."

    It seems this is all style (well, lack thereof) over substance - smoke and mirrors. Ok, there may be people complaining, but as many people have said here, they don't have a legal leg to stand on. I predict that this will cost far more in ill will and lost customers than it saves in fraud.

    Just like the government's unwinnable 'war on drugs', ebay should concentrate on truly fraudulent transactions and the like and not waste their energy on this issue.

  • They're not just prohibiting the seller contacting potential buyers, they're prohibiting bidders from contacting the seller offline.

    That's right, if you click on that web page link to somebody's store, you're violating eBay policy.

    Perhaps their usage policy has changed since I signed up, but I don't remember agreeing to check my First Amendment rights to free speech and free association at the door.

  • This whole thing sounds like restraint of trade to me.

    If I meet someone through an e-bay auction, that doesn't mean that e-bay then owns us, and can prohibit us from doing business together.

  • >Why don't they add a feature to sell to one of the loosers of the auction?

    They already do - it's called a Dutch Auction, and the rules are quite different.

    I've been to "auctions" where the auctioneer has auctioned off the first item as though it was the only one and then told the audience he'd sell any number of the item at that price. No creditable auctioneer would do this.
  • by Mr804 ( 12397 )
    I know a guy who does this a lot. He'll prolly be mad. heh.

  • If you look under gem and mineral rough, you will see quite a few auctions by full-blown rock shops -- they even put fancy HTML with their logo, etc. in their item descriptions. I have also heard of craft shops, like knitting supply shops, doing this. For some small businesses eBay is their major sales venue.
  • I don't think they are referring to future sales of people you've met on Ebay.

    The biggest example is someone that advertises an item, and says something like, "Don't bid, email me for prices." I've seen whole categories where there were no actual bids going on.

  • by deeny ( 10239 ) on Saturday December 30, 2000 @11:32AM (#1423457) Homepage
    As a great many transactions are now purchased through the "Buy Now" option, in which only the first bidder can elect this option, they're now circumevnting the possibility of having a losing bidder. Plus, it's a faster forum for buyer and seller and thus would also accelerate (somewhat) Ebay's revenue stream.

    I've had a LOT of good transactions over Ebay and may have had the first fraudulent one (after several hundred positives) a couple of weeks ago.

    Over a two-hour period, a new Ebay seller [] (who was subsequently yanked from Ebay) sold $56,000 worth of stuff in 60-odd auctions. Some of the people sent money right away via Paypal. Others of us took a wait-and-see attitude. So far, I haven't heard of any one of these people actually receiving the goods.

    At least one person's filed a fraud claim.


  • Do not allow everyone to see the bid history of on an item. Only allow the seller to see this, and only after the auction is over.
    As an often losing bidder, I would suggest that one allow not only the seller but also ALL bidders on that item to see the bid history. Very often, I want to know when I lost the bid. For example, recently an item I wanted went way over my limit in the last hour -- I want to see what happened.

    I know why Ebay lists all bidders: so that you can see that the seller themself is not inflating the bid price. Given that you want the buyer to know this, how would you accomodate that need for information and balance it against the privacy you suggest?

  • "I don't think they are referring to future sales of people you've met on Ebay."

    When did it become legal again to sell people?

  • by DeathB ( 10047 ) <adamp&ece,cmu,edu> on Friday December 29, 2000 @08:44PM (#1423460) Homepage
    Unless ebay plans on hooking up a Carnivore to everyone trading through them, they have no way of possibly preventing this. The article pretty much says as much.

    I'll be honest, I've actually purchased something where another seller contacted me after I'd lost another auction on a similar auction. The only way I'd even consider turing someone into Ebay for something like that is if they tried to screw me. The other silly thing is, they really haven't changed the rules, those have always been the rules.

  • by tshak ( 173364 ) on Friday December 29, 2000 @08:52PM (#1423461) Homepage
    I can understand why ebay want's to do this. I've always had good experiences with ebay, but I've gotten emails for "offline" items myself. While I may not blame ebay for getting scammed in an unrelated offline item, the niave may, and it could greatly hurt ebay's reputation - even though they had nothing to do with it.

    The only way I can see ebay pulling this off is by hiding all emails except for the highest bidder. If the other bidders have questions for the seller, it would have to go through a web-form that anonymized everything. This, of course, has it's own set of implications.
  • I think the lawyers at these big companies have gone batty. If they can't make an honest dollar to keep their business afloat, they sue to get the money they need. (Not that suing was stated as a preferable remedy) Don't this people realize that the slight increase in income they may make is in now way equal to damage they are doing to their image?
  • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Friday December 29, 2000 @08:45PM (#1423463)
    Is to decrease fraud in offline sales. It seems that a lot of fraud is hapening in these sales, because there isn't the whole post a comment thing. This gives them a way to deal with it. If someone does something that someone thinks is fraud in an offline sale, they can crack down and tell that person not to sell offline any more. It's really just fair warning. I think they know they shouldn't (and won't!) do anything about the majority of offline sellers who don't commit fraud and won't be complained about. Though I still don't think they should do it, I believe it is just standard legal cover-your-ass move.
  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Friday December 29, 2000 @08:53PM (#1423464) Homepage
    eBay can't stop private individuals from completing private transactions, regardless of how they came into contact with each other. What if I meet some guy on eBay, we become friends, and two years later he sells me a car. Are they gonna want a cut then?

    However, if a seller cancels an auction shortly before the close, then sells the item to whomever was the top bidder, thus bypassing eBay's fees, I think eBay has a right to go after him.

    -- russ

    The IHA Forums []
  • "defer to the next highest bidder" wouldn't work. Most people will bid on a second auction for a similar if they don't win the first auction they bid on. If the seller in the first auction was able to hold them to a losing bid, then they would have to wait until the first auction ends before bidding on a second auction or risk having to buy two of the same item.
  • by jdwilso2 ( 90224 ) on Friday December 29, 2000 @08:47PM (#1423466)
    geez guys, isn't the point of EBay to give people a forum to sell things?

    Personally, I think they could take advantage of this: Why don't they add a feature to sell to one of the loosers of the auction?

    Here's a really simple example of how to do it: both the seller and the bidder click a little button that says "defer to next highest bidder."

    Solves a bunch of problems actually (but will, of course, create new ones). The thing is, I believe that a step in this direction would impress the customer base of EBay and help them greatly. Good PR and all ya know. And I personally think it would be easier to work out the possible problems of this sort of innovation than it would be to go about things the way they are...

    (I accidentally put this in the wrong place the first time ... oops!)
  • by Le Pillsbury Du Bois ( 267730 ) on Friday December 29, 2000 @08:52PM (#1423467)
    What's to stop you from approaching a losing bidder in a real auction? I don't want to ring the bell of freedom (since you don't necessarily have rights on commercial sites) but it seems overreaching to tell people what they can't do offline. Of course, it all goes back to people blindly clicking "I accept" on large windy user-licenses that take away your rights.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If the winner doesn't get what he wants, he can contact ebay and ebay will shut down the seller's account and ban him from the site? A stricter sign-up system might prevent the villain from coming back. Or ebay might pose as another person trying to buy the item without winning an auction. - All Hail ManowaR.
  • Does this mean ebay can prosicute the guy who keeps offering to sell me 25 karma points?
  • This is kinda weird. I can see that they do not want people having a bogus auction online, only to cancel out of it and negotiate privately after.

    They do not want to be cut out of the deal. They do not want to provide free advertising.

    although this part might be closer to the truth:

    eBay is not able to collect a fee on sales between eBay members that occur offline. Some eBay members and industry experts suggested that new rules are part of an effort to boost the company's revenues.

    "Someone out there has lost their grip," wrote one member. "Obviously eBay needs to rustle up more money. Sales are down. They ain't looking so good on paper. Did it ever occur to them to be more conciliatory toward their sellers? No. Instead there is going to be a long list of 'thou shalt nots.'"

    The rules against offline trading have been in place for some time. But the company initially chose not to enforce the rules against offline deals at the request of members.

    Under the rules, sellers are banned from offering to sell items offline to people other than the high bidder in their auctions. This means sellers would violate the rules if they contacted not only people bidding on competitors' auctions, but those bidding on their own items.

    Sellers also are not allowed to send unsolicited email to people about products similar to what they have bid on in the past. It wasn't spelled out whether sellers can contact bidders about such products if they are offered on eBay.

    The rules also target bidders, banning them from contacting sellers about purchasing a listed item away from eBay.

    These sorts of scenarios are not uncommon on eBay. Many small businesses use eBay like they would banner ads or newspaper classifieds: as a way to draw in new customers.

    It's not unusual, for instance, for sellers to contact losing bidders offering similar goods to the ones they just sold. And buyers often contact sellers to find out whether they can purchase items such as tickets in advance of the date the auction closes.

    However, fraud that occurs in those offline transactions and spam have become the two biggest complaints eBay receives from members, prompting the changes, Pursglove said.

    The company also announced that it would start cracking down on spam, or unsolicited email, sent to its members.

    I don't know. It looks like a bloody mess to me. There is alot more in the original article.
  • Here's a question I always wanted to ask: Who are these "power sellers" on ebay? I mean, sometimes I see stuff for sale by people who have done THOUSANDS of transactions.

    I've sold a Lego set or two on the Internet (via Usenet) before. I might even have hit a hundred transactions over the eight or so years I've been on Usenet. But a thousand is incredible!

    Do these people just sit around all day and sell crap online? Is it a business? Or are these folks just bored soccer moms? Are they dealers? New age pawn shops?

    It really amazes me that there is a "community" of auctioneers. I mean, we all participate in all sorts of unusual hobbies (Lego is mine) but the kind of time these people must put into this is really amazing. Is this their job? (ie, do they do nothing but run auctions?)

    The other thing I always wanted to ask was: Is it me, or are a lot of these things being bought and sold again, and bought and sold again, over and over again? ie, are people making money by rehashing the same auction items repeatedly?


  • But deferring makes it sound like they are going to take it away from the winner, and will no doubt cause mass confusion. But if it was set up to allow the seller to mark multiple quanitity for runner ups and specify how many (or if the winner wants multiple, but not Dutch levels),etc. Good idea man, better go patentent.
  • ya, they say they are trying to prevent offline fraud, but I'd guess most people see the real motivation as trying to squeeze more pennies out of the customers. but come on, charging someone more for selling to a non-winner? they already paid ebay for the auction in the first place, making them pay twice is beyond the call of business, I'd say. And as the /. article says, the people who are going to be upset most by this are the power sellers, who probably make up a good chunk of ebay's business. this is a bad idea in my book.


  • Someone in eBay has the idea to help stop people from being ripped off from offline deals, originating from an eBay auction. Then the legal dept get a hold of it, and figure the best way to stop people from doing something is to sue them if they do it.

    All they have to do is just have a message saying that offline deals might be a good idea, but have none of the protection that eBay offers.


  • The ironic thing is, E-bay encourages you to contact the bidders in its 'promotional' e-mail. especially if you have a high-reserve auction, and no one is near the reserve. (In that situation they wouldn't get their $$, untill the product sold .. since you could keep auctioning it eternally.
    I sold 4 UO accounts on e-bay (yeah yeah .. im a greedy bastard) and only ONE of the auctions was sold to the highest bidder.
    The first one the winner contacted me once, then vanished, no $$ no nothing. SO I sold to the next one down in the list.
    The second auction was the same deal.
    the third auction went great .. the high bidder acutally BOUGHT the account.
    and the fourth action I was contacted by someone with more money than common sence, and ended the auction early. (for a lot of too ! so e-bay didn't get their cut.)
    Honestly, in the end .. I still had to pay auction fees for all these auctions. Not to mention the countless times I have gotten stiffed in the past as well. (probally about 8 auctions of the 50 or so i have bought/sold in .. have gone bad - not a very good ratio.)
    Is quite possible though, that they are attempting to get rid of the 'buy a car for $4.99' people .. where the user is redirected to another web page with idems for sale, if they open the auction. those have been multiplying latley - and i can see where that is just BLATENT disregard of e-bay. (but really, would *you* buy from a site like that?

  • What did we ever do before eBay? Thank goodness their ideals are oriented towards providing a better service for buyers than being purely profit driven.

    No really, what a bunch of twats, the've noticed a loophole in their system and the're trying to plug it.
  • Minor nit pick, it is not necessary for another bidder to "bid close to your high bid" in order to push you over the reserve price, if you bid higher then the reserve then the "current bid" will reflect the reserve price, regardless of the presence or absence of other bidders. What happened with the microscope is the sellers had their reserve price higher then what you put in for the maximum bid, but were ultimately willing to sell for lower then the reserve price.

    I have bought a few things on ebay, and have delt with sellers "offline" who were clearly manuplating the reserve price in order to avoid ebay fees. Clearly it is pretty silly for a seller to do this in the long term, but people do it. What ebay should do is just make it clear that any transaction not within ebay's purview is "at your own risk." (of course, that is the case with any ebay transaction anyway.)

  • Ebay probably doesn't have the right to do this, but something is equally wrong about pretending that you only have one copy of an item, letting the price be driven through the roof between a couple people bidding, and then selling that item to both of them at that price.
  • How is a small business or some such not a real seller? I've bought several peripherals from peecee part distributors; in all cases, the cost from the auction was lower than the cost at their websites. Whenever I've seen this, it's apparently been the small biz offering a product at a lower price on eBay in hopes that (a) it would draw attention to their website and/or (b) the bid would eventually go high enough to make money.

    Besides which, I feel more comfortable buying from a place with a real-looking business website and a real business phone number than from someone who is just a small-time eBay person; the former gives more ways to be tracked down, whereas the latter does not. *shrug* I've bought from both, though.

  • If I have an auction, and, for example, it doesent reach the reserve price -
    eBay's involvement with the auction ends *there*.

    Any further communication between me and any
    of the people that bid on that auction is a private
    communication and/or transaction, in no way
    involved with eBay.

    If they think they can
    control who I send email to, or who I deal with
    outside of their web site, someone there is
    smoking some seriously good drugs.
  • You are an idiot if you buy offline anyhow.

    You mean, like going to the store?


  • I was contacted by a real sleazebag after I "lost" the bidding on a GeForce2 card. He offered it to me for $190 as a direct purchase. I was a fool and bought it, and got completely jacked out of $190. I paid him with PayPal (via my credit card) and both he and I are verified PayPal users, so I contacted PayPal to get a "fraud investigation" conducted, but as usual the response from customer service is utterly atrocious. I'm working with the credit card company to dispute the purchase, but I may be out the money. Has anyone else had this kind of experience? I think it's reasonable for eBay to crack down on direct seller/buyer transactions to prevent scams. Also, if you have any suggestions as to how I can recover my losses, please contact me! P.S. NEVER, EVER buy something from "comopsomida" on eBay (e-mail address: unless you want to lose your money... Comments? reach me @
  • That's what the world needs. eBay bounty hunters! I'll become an undercover NARC for "the Man," hunting down these offline sellers in exchange for getting my own selling fees waived. I have to make a profit somehow. "Sealed Box Of Random Contents" aren't selling for much. :\ LK
  • But what if the seller has kept a number of similar items for himself, which he is selling independantly?
  • In a real auction house, the auction house has some resposiblity to prevent fraud. E*Bay seems to not want to take this responsisblity.

    Is that card really signed by Mark McGwyer? Does that video card really work?

  • eBay, don't take this the wrong way, but quit being a Microsoft. You're not big and powerful enough to get everything just the way you want it. The people out number you far too greatly for you to control their actions revolving around your services. I think eBay's just jealous. The people making sales through eBay but not using eBay's service are making money directly and selling items more cheaply than they would leaving the item on an auction for six days... eBay wants their cut. Sounds like a Microsoft way of thinking to me, wanting their cut of just about every major market on the planet. Most notably right now, the console gaming market. Oh, and so you know, I've never had a problem with Microsoft. I've never disagreed with their "questionable" methods of business. However, I will not be buying an Xbox. No, I shall be getting a GameCube... Just to clarify the parallelism of Microsoft and eBay...
  • I guess, if you look at it in a certain light, this could be analogous to a government putting regulations and tariffs on commerce and trade. Of course, according to PR, they're doing it for the good of the citizens (ebay customers) but everybody knows they're just impeding trade to get their cut of the buck. With all the buzz and hype on peer to peer, I wonder how long it will be before someone develops a really cool, decentralized, peer2peer auction forum network. I suppose encryption, digital signing and PGP-style "webs of trust" could be developed, and there would be no "government" trying to take it's share of the pie. You can call it wild-eyed dreaming, but I prefer the term "prior art." Now that I've mentioned it publically, it should be difficult to patent, no? It would be great. It could be really decentralized like Gnutella (or maybe OpenNAP's ircd based model, because it's probably better) and each entity could have their rating dependent on other people's transaction approval. Or maybe I'm just really stoned... bomb weed, I tell ya... ;) Jeremy McNaughton

  • Once enough of their users say "Hey, what's wrong with doing that?" They'll back track and try to make nice. There's not much they could do about it regardless.

  • people meet people, however it is done doesn't matter. if someone doesn't want your business or wants to make you feel unwelcome to pay to use their service when it is useful. there are a number of other auction sites who probably don't mind what you do outside of browsing their website.

    I _used_ to use ebay a lot.
  • I had two problems with them, and their responses in both cases were inadequate.

    I directed them to close my account after someone had tried to change the password, since I was not using it anyway. We had a protracted exchange before they finally agreed to close it. About six months later I received a message from someone wanting to know when he would receive the baseball cards that he had purchased from me. I checked it out and my old account was active, with several card auctions going. I complained to E-Bay and copied the victim in. I never did get a response from E-Bay.

    Coincidently, about a week before this there was a fraud attempt on the credit card that E-Bay knew about...
  • I've sold a Lego set or two on the Internet (via Usenet) before. I might even have hit a hundred transactions over the eight or so years I've been on Usenet. But a thousand is incredible!

    Yet not unfathomable. Imagine a long-time sports-card collector or dealer who's whittling down their collection. Been to a card show? Some of them have multiple truckloads of boxes of cards. Just one example...

    Do these people just sit around all day and sell crap online? Is it a business? Or are these folks just bored soccer moms? Are they dealers? New age pawn shops?

    There was an interesting take on one possible answer to that question in an article [] on Salon [] a while ago. In some cases, people were scouring the surrounding regions (flea markets, estate sales, meatspace auctions, etc.) to find stuff to sell on eBay, sometimes for hefty profits. In some cases, they did turn it into a small-business enterprise.

    Some time ago, in several of the computer hardware categories, you could find quite a few sellers who had a large quantity of sales-by-auction under their belts, and numerous items up at any one time. Several of these were small to mid-size computer shops, clearing out older inventory for which there wasn't a local market, but for which some general demand did exist. (One fella used a little rubber frog named "Skippee" and had lots of old Mac and Apple stuff. Cute.)

    he other thing I always wanted to ask was: Is it me, or are a lot of these things being bought and sold again, and bought and sold again, over and over again? ie, are people making money by rehashing the same auction items repeatedly?

    There's some of that, too, both by small-time sellers and the power-sellers. It's really no different than speculation of any other kind to try and make a profit - it just seems like that's too much work for the general eBay going price.

  • My mom was telling me about her friend's son, who makes quite a bit of money trading old collectible toys on eBay.

    I have heard of people making various things for the purpose of selling them on eBay - stay at home moms who have nothing else to do for example..

  • You *do* know that if you contest a credit card charge w/PayPal, that they close your account, right? At least thats what their TOS *used* to read...
  • There are a couple of ways they could know.

    One, and they don't do this yet but it wouldn't surprise me, is to mask all email addresses with an eBay resident proxy (kind of like which then forwards the mail to the member's real back email... but lets them monitor whatever they want to monitor. This lets them control everything. If a buyer wanted to encourage backchannel contacts they could make their real email visible somewhere, but in that case you presume the buyer isn't worried about fraud or likely to complain about it.

    The second thing they can do and probably are doing is simply responding to customer complaints. If ten of us lose an auction and we're all contacted afterwards by the seller saying "guess what, i found an extra one after all" then the chances are pretty high that someone will rat on the seller. If the practice violates an enforceable seller agreement, game over.

    While it can be argued that what people do offline is their own business, eBay would certainly not escape liability for "bringing together" fraudulent sellers and their victims, so they have a legitimate interest in policing this behavior.
  • Thanks for the update... I did not know that. Either way, I'd rather they close my PayPal account and I recover my money than they force me to pay $190 for a product never received. There are alternative services, like BillPoint so I could still send money online, though I'm becoming increasingly disgusted with the whole online auction scene and the prevalence of fraud.
  • I have to say that I have had nothing but good experiences with Ebay and the sellers. I have a few rules about who to buy from - they have to very few negatives, the fewer the better, and the farther back "in time", the better. They have to have a positive rating above 10 (and I read those that are low, to determine if they are a new seller, and had bought 10 things, or if all ten things are sells - which if all are positive, is a good thing). If they have 200 positives, and have had 10 negative comments in the past 30 days, it is a no-sell for me.

    Out of over 40 transactions, I have only had one go bad on me, and that was when I was selling - someone didn't send me the money after repeated contacts, so he didn't get the item, and I relisted the item - and it sold, and this time, I got the money, the buyer got the item - and everyone was happy.

    My most recent experience has involved a VGA->TV converter that didn't work after I bought it. I have since contacted the seller, and he has said he will refund my money - we are still working things out, but I expect this transaction to go good as well.

    There are obvious scams out there - some you have to watch for, and others are fun (I actually tried, knowing what I might find, to buy the Projection TV converter - I got a lens, and instructions - and they suck! - but I had a laugh - I got what I expected, and the seller got his money - so I did get sold something, and it wasn't a true "scam").

    I think Ebay goes too far with this, though - I don't have a problem with a seller using Ebay as advertising, as long as they really sell a product (I do hate those sellers who put up Ebay ads with a price of 1 cent or something - all to get you to come to their site, only). I have gone to some seller's sites, and actually found it cheaper to buy from their own site, than from the auction (just because it is fixed price).

    Online auctions are wacky things - sorta like real life f2f auctions, but in other ways strange...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • You're fucked. Part of PayPal says that you can NOT get your money back by calling the card company, and this has been verified by CC companies. Police call is the recourse.

  • You try to compare apples and oranges here. When stores get up, run away and hide, people notice. When some anonymous person who emailed you is never to be heard from again, that's just expected. Besides, if it's a store you can look and see that they do indeed have the product, and you don't give them money until they give you the item. There are big differences here
  • The only way I'd even consider turing someone into Ebay for something like that is if they tried to screw me

    That is exactly what they are dealing with:
    "However, fraud that occurs in those offline transactions and spam have become the two biggest complaints eBay receives from members, prompting the changes"

    Basically eBay is worried about people scaming users through this method, over which they have no control, and blaming eBay.

    However, the question to ask is why doesn't eBay make it clear that these are transactions that they accept no responsibility for, and just leave it at that? I would bet that their [internal] answer is because of the money they loose from not having those transactions going through them.

    echo $email | sed s/[A-Z]//g | rot13
  • And I've also done something similar--lost a bid for a box of old Shadowfist [] boosters--then I contacted the dealer to see if he had some others he would sell me direct. (He did, and subsequently did.) We made contact via eBay, yes--but that does not give eBay the right to forbid all subsequent business transactions between us just because that's how we met.

    That's just plain dumb.

If you're not careful, you're going to catch something.