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eBay Battles Power Sellers 370

DigitalDame2 writes "eBay power sellers, angered by the recent eBay policy changes, have been hitting back the auction site with listing boycotts and now with accusations of fake listings and forum censorship. EBay admitted that a "bug" in its system had accidentally placed listings from eBay-owned onto late Friday night. A California-based seller's new eBay listings did not allow users to actually bid on his items. "This guy has over 35,000 items. And there is no button for a 'buy it now' and no button for making a bid." As a result, sellers are threatening to take their complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, but eBay is not backing down." Normally I wouldn't really care, but I think this is interesting because eBay is so dominant in their field, that there is no real alternative. Watching how things like this play out is interesting to me because I want to believe that the internet will require everyone to be more responsible or lose. But the real question for me is at what point does total marketplace dominance trump that.
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eBay Battles Power Sellers

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  • I'm still lost... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGreatHegemon ( 956058 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:39PM (#22650978) to why eBay even implemented these changes. Was there some major drive for it, or what?
    • Re:I'm still lost... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oxy the moron ( 770724 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:43PM (#22651032)

      Google stock info []

      Ebay has had a major drop in its stock value over the past few months. I believe that, since the actual number of auctions/bidders has dropped, this was an attempt to get more money from those people still doing decent business... Power Sellers.

      Seeing as to how stock is back on the rise, it appears to have worked from that standpoint. At least for the time being...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        They're down 32% since october.. I don't blame them for trying desperate measures. But the power sellers are absolutely right.
        • by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:03PM (#22653374) Homepage
          No -- the power sellers are absolutely wrong. Anyone who has bought something knows that the sellers use feedback in a retaliatory fashion. Ebay realized that buyers were not trusting the rating system. Take away buyers' trust, and the system will fall apart. Sure, the fees are made from sellers but if they can't sell, they'll quit ebay.

          And as pointed out by an Ebay executive when the new system went into place -- if a buyer has bad service from a seller, and then gets hit with retaliatory feedback after leaving an honest message -- that buyer is not coming back. And he's right -- I've become extremely hesitant to buy anything off Ebay after getting hit unfairly by retaliatory feedback. That hurts all sellers if enough people decide to just bag it. []

          And of course, retaliation is no secret: []

          ... But one of the criticisms of the eBay feedback system--probably the largest public forum for judging the reputation of a business in the world--is that its ratings are far too positive to be believed.

          Go ahead, browse the site. You'll see that the vast majority of sellers have 99+% positive ratings. If you were grading on a curve, a 98% would probably be equivalent to a "C" on a report card--and it's relatively hard to find buyers with this rating. Below 97%? Forget it. No one's going to buy from you.

          There are some who point to the consistently high ratings as a sign the system is working. After all, so this line of argument goes, all the bad sellers are simply weeded out. They get bad ratings, they can't sell, they withdraw their sorry little wares from eBay. End of story.

          But there's another, less positive explanation: People are afraid of what is referred to in the eBay community as "retaliatory feedback." That's when a seller (or a buyer--it can happen on both sides) becomes annoyed or enraged at a negative comment posted by someone else about them, and in retaliation posts a negative comment in return.

    • Re:I'm still lost... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BUL2294 ( 1081735 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @02:15PM (#22652582)
      OK, so now eBay doesn't allow sellers to leave feedback on buyers--a half-assed approach to the problem. I once got burned by a seller, who decided to leave a lie that borders on libel as feedback. (The seller had no contact with me for 2 weeks after a sale, even though I paid her, so I left a "neutral", then the bitch shot back with a "negative" rating saying not to deal with me as a customer)... So, why hasn't eBay removed all those seller ratings? Seriously, what's the point of keeping them if they're shitty?

      A better idea would be that a buyer can't leave feedback for a seller until that seller has left feedback on the buyer... Crappy sellers would be forced to clean up their act while buyers can give true feedback without retribution.
      • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @02:51PM (#22653156) Homepage Journal
        And what about non-power sellers who get burned by lying buyers? My rating is less than 300, but it's 100% and I put a lot of effort into my listings to try to keep it that way. For the most part I sell old PC and Sun hardware that I no longer use thanks to upgrading. My auctions go into an enormous amount of detail with respect to an item's condition, how I tested it to make sure that it works, and I list anything that's wrong that I cannot fix, like scratches, dents, missing 5-1/4" bay covers, etc.

        I once sold an old PC that had been in my family's possession for years. Some jackass decided to be an asshole buyer and came back with "this is missing, that's not working", apparently assuming that I was some kind of clearing house who moves too much stock to know the details about a particular item. I responded by describing exactly that PCs condition as shipped as well as the statement that my family had owned that PC for years, so I knew every detail about it. I never heard back from the guy once he realized that I called his bluff and that I could have easily slammed him with a negative about trying to scam me.

        But now I no longer have that protection, thanks to this f**king moronic decision on eBay's part. So what's to protect me from asshole buyers like the idiot who tried to scam me? Ban him from future auctions? Oh, golly gee, that will certainly stop other fraudulent buyers, oh boy oh boy. And if you think that eBay will seriously consider removing genuinely incorrect feedback, you need to stop smoking whatever it is you're smoking.

        This new policy of theirs is going to do one thing: make eBay a haven for scamming buyers who now know that they have nothing to fear when lying about sellers.
    • by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @02:43PM (#22653002)
      that's what I don't get. They lowered the price for insertion fees and raised the final value fees. That way power sellers will lose a LOT less money when they list a thousand items and only 10% of them sell. Plus since gallery pics are pretty much mandatory if you ever want anyone to look at your item and bandwidth is cheaper, they lowered the price on them or made them free or something. It was a fantastic idea that benefits mostly power sellers. I don't get it. If anyone knows what they're bitching about besides glitches, please do post it.
      FYI I'm against power sellers. They're impossible to communicate with, they don't know anything about the items they're selling, and they take forever to ship items. If you want exactly what you want and want it fast, you gotta buy it from someone with under 250 feedback. The only thing I can think of that power seller would be pissed about is not being able to leave negative feedback for buyers anymore. But you know what, when I leave negative feedback because one of those idiots shipped me the wrong item 2 weeks later, I don't have to fear retribution anymore. That was the best update out of them all and if power sellers don't like it, too bad!
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:40PM (#22650990)
    If you want crap, Craigslist is available too.
    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:57PM (#22651316)
      Oh, please. Craigslist is only useful for items in your city (if you even live in a city large enough to have a Craigslist site). If you're trying to sell some small $50 item and want a nationwide or even international audience, you have to use Ebay. No one is going to search the hundreds of different Craigslist sites for items.

      CL is good if you're trying to sell some big, bulky item like a piece of furniture, which people generally would prefer to buy locally and pick up themselves. Ebay is terrible for things like that. Ebay is where you go for things like electronics and other things which are fairly easily shipped.
      • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @02:09PM (#22652472) Journal
        On the other hand, there's a lot less competition between buyers on CL. Things on ebay go for market price because the whole site is, well, a market. Your chances of getting a great deal because the seller just didn't know what it was worth, or just wanted to get rid of the item quick are a lot higher on craigslist.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I actually prefer Craigslist to E-Bay. It's expensive to ship anything to Alaska, especially when 99% of the power sellers on E-Bay refuse to ship via anything but Fed Ex and UPS. Sure, there's UPS ground to AK, but it's only about $3-5 cheaper than 2nd Day Air (the next option we have), and takes two weeks instead of two days. So if I am looking at a small package on E-Bay, I know it's going to cost at least $25-30 to ship it. It's not unusual for me to look at 75-150% of the purchase price for shippin
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PingXao ( 153057 )
      But Craigslist isn't fancy. The look and feel of Craigslist is that of buying and selling through the newspaper classified ads. ebay's user experience lets someone selling stuff from the junkyard behind their trailer feel like they are "in business".
    • No kidding. With eBay's fees plus PayPal's fees, I've been doing most of my selling on Craigslist lately, with a bit of Amazon thrown in. eBay does NOT have a monopoly anymore.
  • Normally I wouldn't really care, but I think this is interesting because eBay is so dominant in their field, that there is no real alternative. Watching how things like this play out is interesting to me because I want to believe that the internet will require everyone to be more responsible or lose. But the real question for me is at what point does total marketplace dominance trump that.
    Let's rephrase that last part to "When does competitive capitalism and greed cause a company to push its ethical and moral responsibilities to their absolute limits?" and the answer is: Always.

    Right now eBay's board is having a few analysts go through this list of "power sellers" and derive some nice little numbers. (A) What percentage of income on listings come from these people? (B) What is the approximate dollar value in having those auctions available to our users (probably pretty small)? (C) What's it going to cost us to retroactively fix these erroneous auctions, restore the forums and send out apologies to every eBay user? (D) What are is the probability that the FCC will act on the user's complaints? (E) What's the maximum fine we could receive from the FCC?

    Now here's the math, if A + B > C then eBay will probably send out apologies and make a good effort to please these power sellers. However, if D*E < C then I'll bet there's no chance in hell they're taking action on this.

    Now look at it from the other side of the issue, the power sellers on eBay. What dollar (or percent) value do you assign using eBay to your sales (probably pretty high considering the exposure they offer you). There are competitors however small, you could go to them but it's going to hurt your sales. So the question now becomes whether or not you've lost enough on these fake auctions and censored forums. The answer is obviously no. A young idealist might blindly stick it to the man and suffer in the name of ethics and against censorship. But the businessman would not.

    So what Taco is interested in is whether or not eBay is going to do the moral and ethically correct thing and take action C regardless of price or if the sellers are going to move to another site out of respect for free speech and standing up against shadey listings. The answer is "no" thanks to the effect of symbiotic profit experienced on both sides.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You seem to be operating under the assumption that censorship and shady listings have been put into practice on EBay, which is not something I gathered from the article. EBay has flatly denied any wrongdoing and is sticking to the position that the powersellers are just upset over the policy changes. So we don't even know if EBay is acting immorally or unethically. This still could be an Internet conspiracy (I know, who could imagine such a thing?).

      All that being said, EBay understands that powersellers
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Slashdot is too used to railing on the FCC :) The FCC isn't involved here, it's the FTC.
    • First off, you need to tone the bias against capitalism and corporations down just a little bit. It makes it so that people who don't agree with that aspect of your comment (actually a rant) will have a knee jerk reaction against the actual logic of your comment, which was pretty decent.

      As for that logic, you make the assumption that the only thing power sellers have to gain by moving to another site is a warm, fuzzy feeling from doing what they feel is right. That's just not the case. All they need to d
    • Now here's the math, if A + B > C then eBay will probably send out apologies and make a good effort to please these power sellers. However, if D*E

      Thats fine an good, but what ever happened to at least the illusion of "The customer is always right?"

      With the ilks like RIAA, MPAA, eBay, Neo-cons, oil, Microsoft, etc, its "The bottom line, those poor top 1% wealthy people, and shareholders are always on our mind", the customers don't matter because they don't have too many other choices, now do they?

      I would
  • Alternatives... (Score:5, Informative)

    by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:45PM (#22651086)
    Alternatives exist. I like (aka if your workplace filters the word "gun" in a url).

    No restrictions on listings, other than legal things (body parts, slavery), no listing fees unless the item is sold, the costs are fair, and NO SNIPING - true actions. If a bid happens in the last 15 minutes of listing time, it automatically extends to 15 minutes.
    • Morning LOL (Score:5, Funny)

      by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:50PM (#22651184) Homepage
      I hope to Christ I'm not the only one who found the concept of "NO SNIPING" at entertaining.
    • While I love Gunbroker for my gun buying needs ( is decent too), realistically it is only a sound alternative for firearma and related products and not general stuff (this mainly because Ebay itself stupidly stopped firearms listing early in it's life).
      • True, but that is mostly due to the current customer base of the site. I think if GBH,Inc. wanted to they could get more "general auction" business going... There already are vehicles, domains, etc. for sale on GB... but because of its primary niche market, not a lot of potential - yet...
        • But that just means it's a POTENTIAL alternative. Amazon has a general purpose auction site up too and Yahoo had one until recently. None of those really help eBay's current behavior though because they control the VAST majority of the current general purpose market.
    • Re:Alternatives... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fastball ( 91927 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:57PM (#22651318) Journal
      Why do people make such a big deal about sniping? It matters not to me as a buyer or a seller. If I'm buying, and I find something that I can get a reasonable price, maybe I don't want to get mired in a bidding war. I punch in the max I'm willing to pay, and I'm done. As a seller, I appreciate the last second bump in price for the stuff I sell.

      Everybody knows the end date/time and should know how much they're willing to pay. What's unfair or difficult about that?
      • Re:Alternatives... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:12PM (#22651552)
        Because if you go to a real auction house, the auction doesn't end until the bidding ends... so as a seller, if your auction is sniped, then you aren't making as much money as you possibly could. With GB's 15 minute rule, the max value for the item is reached - or rather, an opportunity is given to all buyers to reach the max value.

        Although I do agree - when I'm buying, I put in what I'm willing to pay and if I win, I win...
        • OK, now I feel like an idiot.

          I HATE sniping on eBay on principal... and it never occurred to me that you could simply have the auction end at the latter of either a set time or 15 minutes since the last bid.

          Now THAT would be a great eBay modification.
      • Re:Alternatives... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:25PM (#22651772)
        Sniping is bad from a seller's perspective.

        I bought my house in an auction that allowed sniping. At 11pm I submitted a bid for a property of around $200k. The other party had no chance to resubmit a bid at that time since the auction was closing 15 minutes after that.

        The property itself was appraised at $240k.

        I knew that the other party would want to revise their bid if they thought they would lose it. They were trying to benefit from the seller needing to sell fast, but didn't expect someone to jump in at the last minute.

        So why is that bad for the seller? Since the auction allowed for my bid sniping, the other party never had a chance to put in a counter-offer. I was prepared to go up to $215k, and, judging by their reaction, they probably would have done the same.

        The sniping cost the seller nearly $15k because there was no period to re-evaluate the bids.

        (Not that I feel bad, I needed the property fast too since my previous home was washed away in a flood. I was just pointing out that the seller lost out on some $ because sniping was allowed)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by liquidpele ( 663430 )
          This is why I don't use ebay anymore unless I'm just using "buy it now". *everyone* snipes the auctions. There are even programs that do it for you. Trying to win an auction at a good price is almost a fools errant at this point.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by suggsjc ( 726146 )

            There are even programs that do it for you.
            Which *kinda* reinforces that when inefficiencies exist in markets then new markets will be created to capitalize on those inefficiencies.

            What is funny is that if eBay did update the site to disallow sniping, then all of the companies that were there solely for that purpose will be gone overnight and we'll have to read another article about how many jobs were lost.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MBGMorden ( 803437 )
            So if you're a proponent of the proxy bid system: USE IT. It's working as intended. If you bid what you were willing to pay to start with, then no sniper will ever pay less for the item than you were willing to.

            That's what I don't get about people complaining about sniping saying that people should just use proxy bidding: if they themselves proxy bid then the way others bid (sniping or not) is of no concern.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by EggyToast ( 858951 )
              Agreed. Those who complain about sniping are looking for "deals" and don't understand how eBay works. They're already proxy bids and will automatically adjust to "just barely winning" when a competing bid comes in. If you *would have* paid $80 if you had 15 more minutes, but only bid 50, whose fault is it that you lost?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 )
            I must be misunderstanding something...

            I have bought about 60 items.

            I put in the maximum fair bid I'm willing to pay.

            Sometimes I'm outbid in the last few minutes (sometimes grossly outbid when two or three others get involved).
            Sometimes I get it for way under my bid.
            Sometimes I get it for above my starting bid but below my maximum bid.

            I like the automatic bidding. I've never been "sniped" for 50 cents or a dollar. The bid is almost always a few notches above and at what someone else considers a "fair" pri
        • by pyite ( 140350 )
          If it's ebay, the other potential buyer had an opportunity to set his max bid at higher than $200k. He didn't. As such, the seller got what the market was willing to bear.

          • by ivan256 ( 17499 )
            That's a bullshit option, and it should be obvious that it's a bullshit option.

            Using that system, you are locked in to that specific item for the maximum you are willing to spend, even if there are other identical or equivalent items up for sale with a max bid significantly lower than on the item you are locked in to. So the only way not to over-pay for the item is to snipe.
        • Re:Alternatives... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:43PM (#22652066)
          So the upshot here is, "the original bidder was an idiot for not putting in the top price he was willing to pay to begin with." If he'd put his bid limit at $240k, E-bay would have automatically raised his bid when the bid came in for $200k. If somebody had sniped him above $240k, well, that's more than he was willing to spend. As far as I can see, people who complain about sniping are people who a) don't understand how to bid on E-Bay and b) let their emotions get in front of the judgment and decide that the most important thing is that they don't "lose" the auction.
          • Re:Alternatives... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:11PM (#22654388) Journal
            Compelling argument, but I'm not sure I agree with it.

            With most eBay auctions, a potential buyer is trying to judge more than just the "top price he/she is willing to pay" for an item in a given listing. 9 times out of 10, you can find numerous listings for a specific item desired. Nobody wants to feel like they paid too much for something, and you develop that overall sense of value largely by searching recently completed or auctions still in progress, for the same item you're bidding on. If, say, you want to buy an nVidia 8800GT video card, and you're personally willing to pay up to $250 for it - should you place a $250 max. bid on the first one you find? Probably so, if it's the only one you see listed. But more likely, a search would return 15 or 20 of them, at least, all with various high bids placed on them. So you might, wisely, modify your strategy then - thinking "Well, an awful lot of them only have high bids in the low $100 range right now. I'd hate to win one for $250, only to see 10 more end tomorrow at under $200 -- so I think I'll just place a $180 or so high bid right now."

            Sniping, in this scenario, causes problems because when it becomes "the norm" for the "way to win an auction", all the other bid prices no longer help accurately assess what the market, overall, is willing to pay for an item. As a buyer trying to do the research, you're getting flawed numbers - because most things are woefully underbid until the last 20 seconds or so. Furthermore, since eBay auctions are computerized, sniping has gone computerized too - meaning people buying "auction sniping" software packages and using their automation features will have better results than anyone else. Seems like if eBay is going to allow sniping as "ok" - they should at least provide sniping tools as standard-issue on their web site, to level the playing field.
      • Re:Alternatives... (Score:5, Informative)

        by segfaultcoredump ( 226031 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:26PM (#22651788)
        Here is the issue with sniping:

        On the buyers side, it rewards the person with the best timing. On the sellers side, it keeps the price lower that it should be.

        We are not talking about 'max bid' entries where two interested folks tell EBay what their max price is and it automatically gives it to the higher of the two at a price just above the loosers price. That is more or less OK by everybody's measure.

        We are talking about software run on the clients system (or a proxy system) where the max bids are secret. The packages then try and out-time each other at the very end. In this case, the auction goes not to the person who is willing to pay more, but to the person who manages to slip their bid in at the last second.

        Example: Bob and Jane both use EBays max bid option and put in a max bid of $100, but Bob entered his bid first. If they both used ebay's max bid, the auction would go to bob for $100. Simple enough.

        Enter the bid software. The auction is listed at $10 starting price. Neither users software mades a move until the last second, slipping in a bid for $11. The first one in wins, and if there is not enough time to put in a counter bid, the selling price is $11. (in reality, the software often puts in a bid 30 seconds or so too soon just in case the clock is off, which gives a chance for 2 or 3 rounds of counter bidding till the time is up).

        To the buyer, this is great. They were willing to pay $100 but got it for $11. To the seller this is horrid, they had two buyers willing to pay up to $100. To the looser this is also not optimal, since they would have been happy to pay up to $100.

        It no longer becomes an auction, it becomes a lottery. Add in a 5 minute auto-extend and sniping becomes impossible.
        • Re:Alternatives... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jhoger ( 519683 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @03:02PM (#22653348) Homepage
          I snipe every auction. I assume everyone else does too. If anyone is using Ebay and isn't sniping at this point, they're a newbie or an idiot.

          It's not a lottery, because I put in my max bid and so does the other sniper. Guess who wins? The guys that snipes with the highest max bid. Whether my bid comes in at 6 seconds or 5 seconds or 9 seconds doesn't make much difference unless we both put in the exact same bid.

          Sniping is GOOD. It prevents stupid bidding wars with idiots that can't value an item by letting me hide my max bid until the very end. No Ebay fever. It's good for them too since it reduced "Buyer's Remorse" where they figure out after the auction that oops, they paid too much because they got "caught up" in the action.

          All that does is force everyone to put in their max bid like they should have done in the first place.

          I do put in low bids sometimes to signal my presence to friends. Also it keeps the seller from materially changing the auction details, which is a positive especially if a seller has misspelled anything.

          -- John.
      • Something doesn't necessarily have to be difficult or unfair in order to be annoying. If you're winning an auction at a price that is well below your maximum bid (and naturally you'd prefer to pay the lowest price possible, regardless of what your maximum bid actually is) you may be pleased at the considerable discount you're poised to receive. Then if someone at the last second comes in and bids the item up, either eliminating your potential savings or causing you to lose the auction, that's going to sting
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You're totally wrong, sniped auctions do not benefit the seller or the buyer. From the buyer perspective, most everyone is out for a deal, and part of the auction is reacting to other bids to see how much OTHERS are willing to pay. Sniping eliminates that. From a seller perspective, I can tell you that sniping drastically reduces your final selling price BECAUSE of the fact that buyers can't react to those final bids. The selling price gets comparatively jacked up in a non-sniped auction because most people
  • If you're unlucky (and that is becoming more and more frequent) to have a buyer "give up" on your auction after winning it, be very, very careful with what you click. If you're a inexperienced seller, you might assume the FVF (final value fee) reversal link, which shows after a dispute is ended, would revert the final fee to you - when in fact it gives the FVF irrevocably to ebay. And they don't care - after all, what alternatives you have in Europe? And now with the end of sellers giving feedback on buyer
    • by Denyer ( 717613 )
      There's, which is a fairly big brand in mainland Europe and seems to be about to launch a UK variant. I've had some joy finding rare CDs on the original site, so I'll be checking the new site out when it launches.
  • Cap of "padded" listings [] on ebay.
  • by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:49PM (#22651154) Homepage
    Problem: A seller is getting his mate to bid against something you're trying to buy?
    Solution: Hide the names of the buyers

    Problem: Buyers are giving sellers negative feedback even though the exchange was fair and square?
    Solution: Don't allow sellers to give retaliatory negative feedback

    Problem: Someone's found out about the fact you're a bunch of crooks and has posted all the evidence in a forum?
    Solution: Delete the posts and claim it was a bug
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:03PM (#22651402)

      Problem: Buyers are giving sellers negative feedback even though the exchange was fair and square?
      Solution: Don't allow sellers to give retaliatory negative feedback
      I disagree with your evaluation of this. Typically what happens is a buyer gets a piece of crap defective product and gives the seller a negative. The seller then blasts the buyer with a negative even though the buyer did nothing wrong and was just trying to inform others about the seller's crappy product.
    • by wpegden ( 931091 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:04PM (#22651436)

      Problem: Buyers are giving sellers negative feedback even though the exchange was fair and square?
      Solution: Don't allow sellers to give retaliatory negative feedback
      I see... do you not know what the issue with retaliatory negative feedback is? It prevents buyers from being able to safely leave legitimate feedback for fear of retaliation. This has become a real issue on ebay. As a regular buyer, I know that it's not enough to see that someone has a high feedback rating (97%, whatever.) I scour every feedback page for evidence that the buyer is a dishonest one hiding behind feedback threats. Sometimes the evidence is obvious enough: mutually withdrawn feedback, negative comments hiding in postive feedback to avoid retaliation, etc.

      The point is, ebay cannot expect its whole user base to be so diligent, which is why this step is absolutely the right one to take.

      I agree that ebay took absolutely the wrong track on the hidden names issue, which is why I'm so surprised they stepped up on this one. I'll believe it when I see it.
      • No, their response is LAZY, and not a real solution at all.

        A real solution would be to have a mediation and time limit, where neither review shows up until both people review or the time limit (say 2 weeks) is reached. Once the reviews show up, you can't change them and you can't respond to them.
      • by STrinity ( 723872 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:40PM (#22652032) Homepage

        do you not know what the issue with retaliatory negative feedback is? It prevents buyers from being able to safely leave legitimate feedback for fear of retaliation.
        The proper solution would be to create a feedback escrow system where you can't see what the other person said about you until you submit your own feedback. Making the feedback system one-sided is completely idiotic.
      • This is not even remotely the right solution. They may as well just disallow feedback altogether if they're going to make it so lopsided. I've spent only a little time on eBay (can't really stand the place myself), but even that was enough to see that there are a lot of people who are absolutely shameless with handing out totally inappropriate feedback. Buyer A wins an auction, then 30 minutes later posts negative feedback complaining about slow shipping. Excuse me? It happens though.

        They either nee
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xstonedogx ( 814876 )
        This really makes no sense to me.

        As a buyer I don't care if I have a little negative feedback. Sellers aren't going to care since they're getting their money before they're sending me the item. (And even if they do, so what? Their loss.) In fact, it is usually pretty obvious when seller feedback is retaliatory, and sellers who do it are usually shooting themselves in the foot. In fact _how_ a seller handles negative feedback is really more important to me as a buyer than whether or not they have negative fe
    • by artificial_grey ( 907745 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:06PM (#22651458)
      Let me fix that 2nd one for you:

      Problem: Sellers are giving buyers negative feedback even though the exchange was fair and square? Solution: Don't allow sellers to give retaliatory negative feedback

      The term "retaliatory negative feedback" says it all - it's actually against Ebay's rules. Sellers shouldn't give negative feedback just cause they failed to get something right and got called on it via feedback. The buyer's only obligations are to give correct shipping info, read the full listing and pay the correct amount (on time). If the sellers don't like dealing with difficult buyers, then maybe a new line of work is in order.
      • I can see - and understand the reasoning behind the post; however, buyers have a responsibility as well. I sold some hot wheels to a buyer who proceeded to neg me WITHOUT asking if I would refund or do anything about the transaction. I gave him a neut because he wouldn't communicate and see if I was willing to do anything about the issue.

  • Sure eBay "gave" you free gallery listings but bumped final auction fees so now your paying even more, but the point that I can't stand and no one seems to ever try to change is the double dipping on fees mandated for using eBay with PayPal. PayPal is the devil. Craigslist is the way to go, unless you have a high ticket, low weight collectable, in which case eBay might be your only option despite all the potential land mines.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )
      Craigslist really isn't very useful for lower-weight items, or items with small numbers of interested buyers. Ebay gives you an international audience, Craigslist does not, they only get you in contact with people in your city.

      CL is great for stuff like furniture, large industrial tools, rental units, and other things which lots of people in your city might be interested in and aren't easily or cheaply shipped. If you want to sell stuff that's worth less than $100 and easily shipped, Ebay is really the wa
  • by gambit3 ( 463693 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:51PM (#22651216) Homepage Journal
    You answered your own question in the blurb:

    "I want to believe that the internet will require everyone to be more responsible or lose. But the real question for me is at what point does total marketplace dominance trump that." ...

    "eBay is so dominant in their field, that there is no real alternative. "
    • by RonnyJ ( 651856 )
      I found that bit about wanting "to believe that the internet will require everyone to be more responsible or lose" quite interesting.

      Who here really thinks that Slashdot is really 'responsible reporting'? There's too much sensationalism, bias, misleading summaries, etc - not that I expect a site based on user submissions to be accurate all the time, but a site like this that very likely gets a sizable advertising revenue should really be able to employ someone to do some checking.
  • by Fastball ( 91927 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:52PM (#22651222) Journal
    You'd think with all of the complaints eBay has from both sellers and buyers that an alternative would have blossomed by now. I've used eBay extensively to buy and sell goods, but I'd love to have an alternative auction-style, online marketplace to delve into. Paypal seems to be eBay's killer app, but you'd think Mastercard and/or Visa could come up with something else to compete and go get those dollars from fees and such.
    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:10PM (#22651522) Journal
      Critical mass. If you are a seller, you want to sell your item on the site with the largest number of potential buyers in order to get the highest price. If you are a buyer, you want to sell your item on the site with the largest number of potential sellers in order to get the lowest possible price. If I start a competitor to eBay, at launch I will have no buyers or sellers. Buyers won't start visiting until there are items listed, and sellers won't start listing until there is evidence that buyers are visiting. You can spend a couple of years charging no fees and hope you can build up the critical mass required to make people visit your site, but until then it's not going to be making you any money.
    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:24PM (#22651748)
      It's simple: Ebay has mindshare. Because they're so big, if you want to sell an item, you need to go there because all the buyers are there. If you want to buy an item, you need to go there because all the sellers are there. It's a catch-22. So, if you try to go to an alternative place, like the now-defunct Yahoo auctions site, you either won't find what you're looking for, or your item won't get bid up to a decent price. This is why Yahoo finally gave up.

      Even worse, Ebay now owns Paypal, which is the only way left to transfer small amounts of money online, and the sites are tied together.

      Because of all this, a new auction site can't just start small and build up to being a good competitor to Ebay/Paypal. No one would bother using them because no one else is there. The only way to compete with Ebay is to start BIG, and offer everything Ebay/Paypal offer, but for much lower cost. And even that would be a huge risk, because it's banking on the idea that so many people are pissed at Ebay that they'll try it out.

      The only company I can see pulling this off is Google. They have the size and money to make a full-featured auction site and get it mostly right the first time out of the gate, and they already have some sort of payment system which could be adapted I believe to be a real Paypal competitor. They also have a reputation for providing many of their services for free, and their reputation overall is very good, unlike Ebay's (or Microsoft's; if they tried this, it would fail immediately just because of their tainted image).

  • I want to believe that the internet will require everyone to be more responsible or lose. But the real question for me is at what point does total marketplace dominance trump that.

    An auction site is just a natural monopoly. It's in the interests of the sellers to have all the buyers on one site (increased buyers/item), and it's in the interests of buyers to have all the sellers on one site (increased items/buyer).

    Ebay is a public company, so even if there's some virtuous people running the company, there's
    • Ebay is a public company, so even if there's some virtuous people running the company, there's still the interest of the shareholders.

      Ebay is NOT run by virtuous people; it's run by weasels. To see this, just like at their recent rate increases: they sent out emails to all their members loudly proclaiming their new, lower listing fees (which in reality were only lowered a few percent--BFD), and saying NOTHING about any changes to their final value fees, which make up the bulk of the fees sellers pay. To s
  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:54PM (#22651266)
    I didn't see one - everyone's claiming that there were 10% less items for sale, but for what I was looking at, the numbers seemed normal. I expected things to run a little short near the end, but it didn't happen, other than the nominal "cheap listing day" crap they pull every so often that spams all my searches with a billion identical items.

    Which is a problem for eBay. When they make their insertion fees cheap, everyone spams a billion auctions, drowning out the stuff I want with cruft I don't. The problem is, those items can't really be searched away - they are the item being looked for, technically, just not the one you want.

    I believe probalby 95% of people on eBay really don't give a damn, it's just a vocal minority spouting. I certainly didn't see any changes. Then again, I use eBay for finding hard to find stuff. Stuff you can buy in a store, is usually less of a hassle buying it from the store (B&M or online) - rather than eBay. eBay's for all those items one either can't find in stores (sold out/not made anymore/rare items), and the ones complaining are those who sell what everyone else can find at an online store. It's not like eBay even has many deals, so bargain hunting isn't an option.

    As for the reasoning behind the changes, well, consider "feedback hostage" is rampant on eBay. The seller won't post feedback until you (the buyer) do. If you post negative feedback (say, item was fraudulent), the seller will do the same to you, even though you fulfilled your obligations (i.e., paid seller in a timely fashion, tried to resolve issues with seller, etc). Most good sellers will leave feedback immediately since the buyer's fulfilled their contractual duty to pay. (Part of the changes also involve the buyer not being able to give feedback for 3 days or so, to prevent the buyer from the lesser idiocy of "I paid seller within hour, item didn't arrive 5 minutes later" crap, or the more common "item did not arrive" when buyer hasn't even paid for it!).

    There's no real good solution to this - you could do feedback escrow (buyer and seller can't see feedback until both have submitted it), but that won't protect against buyers doing what I mention.

    I don't know if the changes are good or bad, but I'm guessing they came out of all the complaints from buyers who left negative feedback because sellers deserved it, while getting retaliatory feedback in return when they did their end of the deal.
    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:58PM (#22652292) Journal

      Ebay is closer to an auction engine, it suplies the tool but the SELLER is the one who is the auctioneer, this is odd because usually in auctions there is a threesome going on. Seller, Buyers and Auctioneer. The auctioneer is the middle man and makes sure BOTH sides keep up their side of the bargain.

      The whole thing about negative feedback doesn't happen in real auction houses. Rememeber that deal with the vizors of the La Forge not being the real one worn by the actor? Was it the seller OR christies who took the heat for that? Answer,the auction house, they accepted the item and certified it as being real.

      If I buy something at an auction I pay the auction house and THEY hand me the item. E-bay is a far cry from this and people forget this.

      Auction houses are an ancient invention, there is a REASON they work the way they do so it is only natural that when ebay tries to change this ancient process problems will occur.

      If ebay worked like a normal auction house then there wouldn't be any problems other then the typical buyer beware, but that is try anywhere.

  • by wpegden ( 931091 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:54PM (#22651268)
    In the long term, the feedback changes are really important for the sellers too. I've known lots of people who got ripped off on ebay, buying from sellers who had 98% positive feedback, because they hadn't bothered to go through and actually read all of that feedback---some of "mutually withdrawn"---to recognize that they're dealing with a sometimes dishonest seller who knows how to use feedback threats to keep their ratings high.

    If ebay doesn't want people to be turned off, they need to get this under control.

    Yes, I've heard it all, there are jerk buyers as there are sellers, and this will mean some honest sellers absorbing negative feedback they don't deserve. The point to keep in mind, is that this effect will be distributed more or less evenly among sellers, leaving it possible to reliably distinguish the good sellers from the bad. Under the current system, the dishonest sellers benefit the most, because they are the ones willing to use threats and retaliatory feedback to prop up their profile.

    I'm still surprised ebay had the foresight to do this.
  • I am a case study (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clonan ( 64380 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:01PM (#22651384)
    The last time eBay did a major change to their fee structure, I was a large power seller.

    I sold jewelry $15-%50 range. Mainly silver with gemstones, almost no costume. I had a rating of about 9000 and % positive of 99.7. I was netting about 35K a year. My system worked on volume. I would make $0.50 to $1.00 per sale. At that size I ended up sending eBay about $70K a year.

    The last time they cahnged their fees they essentially killed my profit margin. Now I could have adjusted at that point and probably survived but at the same time they started using some incredibly poorly written bots. These bots decided I was selling illegale stuff and even though I had exceptional records eBay refused to have a human even look at what the bots were reporting.

    After over a year fighting with eBay and holding my last months worth of fees (about 2K) I finally got someone from their collections department to give me some information...I ended up settling the debt for $1600 plus a printout of what the bot was reporting.

    To sum up, because eBay did not treat me fairly while at the same time demanding more money from me I have completly left them and they no longer get my $70,000 a year in fees.

    While eBay is still huge, Google and other search engines provide independent sellers almost as much visibility so I predict that these sort of heavy handed tactics will only speed eBay's decline from the throne of online reselling services.
    • This is a good point -- Do real power-sellers really need EBay? How many people come to EBay because they did a Google search for an item, and the EBay listing just happened to be among the results? How much does it cost to get special treatment from Google, and how does this compare with EBay's fee structure?
  • by Tweekster ( 949766 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:02PM (#22651392)
    Are exactly the sellers that should leave ebay or simply be banned outright.
    Get rid of the storefronts too.

    Ebay is great when it acts as a garage sale, but that is rare since all the professional sellers turned it into a gigantic strip mall.

    The FTC will laugh in the faces hopefully.
  • I did over $6,000 worth of book business in December and January, and I haven't listed anything since the rate hike and changes were announced. The new Final Value Fees hike takes too deep a cut in profitability for new small press books, and the "no negative feedback for buyers" is a non-starter, especially since everyone knows eBay's promise to crack down harder on deadbeat bidders is a lie. If it means spending more time and effort, you can always be sure that eBay is going to blow it off.

    Since my feedback just recently went over 1,000, eBay keeps sending me e-mail to jon the PowerSeller program. I told them what they could do with it...

    Lawrence Person
    Lame Excuse Books []

  • the final straw (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:10PM (#22651520)

    The problem with eBay is that it has shifted away from being a private auction site used by people trying to sell their own stuff. The modern eBay is home to thousands of somewhat shifty "Power Sellers" who buy stuff at estate sales, thrift stores, and garage sales. They list the stuff with often misleading descriptions and rip people off. Unfortunately, these junk dealers generate huge profit for eBay (I worked out the total fees related to a transaction once, and they came to about 15%, including PayPal, listing and final value costs).

    It's time to split eBay into two sites - Pro and Casual Sellers. Let users quickly and easily filter out the "power sellers" and others who sell hundreds of items a year and focus on the amateur sellers offering their well-kept vintage cameras, video game consoles and so on. While they're at it, they also need to fix their feedback approach once and for all. Disabling negative feedback from sellers hamstrings good people and puts them at the mercy of sometimes irrational and mentally unbalanced buyers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      To take this further: It's shifted to a 'free' market place for China (Any word on if they still are letting China sell for free). Sometimes I like it because if I need cheap LEDs eBay has 100 sellers selling them but the 'auction' format is completely no-ideal. Google needs to setup a free/cheap 'marketplace'. There's no reason 100 pc LEDs should cost $.50 with $5 shipping and paypal/ebay getting their cut. Just set up a damn website and sell it.

      But I agree 100%. If I'm looking for a used, cheap iPod I'll
    • It's time to split eBay into two sites - Pro and Casual Sellers.

      Isn't this already done? Craiglist and local papers, etc, for casual buying and selling. And use Google or a known company for a more professional business transaction. You know, stuff like being able to do returns, warantee, service, support. Does any of these "normal business practices" exist in an eBay "Pro seller" world? And from the "Pro Seller's" POV, they get no protection from eBay from bad customers.

      Personally, I don't understand
  • monopoly is always bad.
  • "Normally I wouldn't really care, but I think this is interesting because eBay is so dominant in their field, that there is no real alternative."

    There was a time that people said the same thing about Hotmail in the webmail market. In the end, if people call for an alternative, someone will fill the emergent niche; if this alternative is of wide enough appeal, it may become the new mainstream. So, I agree with the summary that this will be interesting to watch - it always fun to see the lightweight newcome
  • No competition? Now's my chance to launch a Sealed-bid second-price auction [] site; something which actualy provides benefits to the buyers.
  • by TrumpetX ( 445716 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:12PM (#22651558)
  • Watching how things like this play out is interesting to me because I want to believe that the internet will require everyone to be more responsible or lose. But the real question for me is at what point does total marketplace dominance trump that.

    If ebay doesn't shape up, won't their total marketplace dominance end? What obstacles are there to starting a competitor to ebay? Is it illegal or something? Will noone use it? Don't these disgruntled sellers constitute a perfect marketplace for such a competitor?

  • by achaios ( 1224786 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:24PM (#22651746)
    Some Power Sellers have it good. I like to browse the coins->ancient->greek category, and I have to wade through the listings of high volume sellers hawking crap like jewelry (not even all coin related) and reproductions (even though there is a specific category for these). One of the reproduction sellers didn't even bother to list the fact that it was a reproduction in the auction title. I tried reporting them to eBay as being listed in the wrong category, but that was as effective as yelling at the crack in the sidewalk that I tripped on, and a lot harder to do to boot, since I had to wade through several web pages to actually send the message on. Apparently, these dealers had the "terms of service = suggestions" package. I do use other sites than eBay, but unfortunately, they don't have the volume or selection. I guess the most frustrating thing for me is that I can see how much better it could be, if they could only work up the energy to care. They have drifted too far from their garage sale roots, and I don't see any improvement coming. But then again, they are "only the venue", as the keep telling everyone who threatens to sue. With all their marketing, that defense is becoming a bit shaky... -- Tom
  • Not only in the US. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:29PM (#22651820) Homepage Journal
    The recent moves of eBay puzzle me. The scientology backdoor is one thing, but the action in Poland is entirely different. is by no means dominant site in Poland. In Poland, THE auction site is, with more than 90% of the market. They charge very little for putting an item on auction, the percentage for a successful sale is low too. The second one is, which, being much smaller, offers no fee for putting your items on auctions, and restricts all fees to people who sell lots, feature their producte etc. eBay used the same strategy until recently, keeping a firm third place close behind

    But last month or so, they introduced fees for putting items on auction. Result - almost all sellers from Poland vanished. It still lists some 80000 items 'from Poland' but if you check the listings, you see that over 90% of them are "e-book, electronic form, free electronic shipping everywhere world-wide." Currently there's some 8000 non-eBook offers )many of them duplicates from the few remaining desperate powersellers putting the same item in multiple categories) on eBay (vs almost 4 millions on Allegro), and essentially is dead.
  • Ebay would be great if it were still a trading site. Some people like to sell, some people like to buy. Those that like to sell put stuff up, and those that like to buy have a way to pay no more than they think it is worth, and those that like to sell know they got as much as possible at that particular moment. Those that are follow minimal ethics will suceed. A perfect, frictionless, massless, marketplace.

    IMHO, ebay has done much to destroy the marketplace, likely as the perfect market is not really p

  • As a VERY part-time seller on ebay (I may make $5k this year, and with everything I put into it, I may not really be making any money), I can attest to the oddities that ebay is trying to pull.

    Right now, I'm doing okay, except I can't make much on an item I sell for .99 and cover the fees unless I add about $4-$5 to shipping, which is REALLY starting to cheese people off at times. Ebay hates it, too, but I don't really care about that.

    Of course, other major sellers on other sites (Amazon, or any major re
  • by zonker77 ( 252314 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:37PM (#22651966)
    Ok first the disclaimer, I do work for eBay though I have no specific or internal knowledge of this particular case.

    The part of the article here that caught my eye was "One forum thread from Friday pointed to a California-based seller known as sdc_prod_434012 with no previous eBay transactions whose new listings did not allow users to actually bid on his items."

    Like I said I don't have any specific knowledge of this user or case but lets consider the facts and possibilities here. Its a user with 0 feedback, who has apparently never bought or sold a single item on eBay, despite being registered on the site for almost a year now. Then one morning he suddenly wakes up and in a brilliant display of speed and efficiency posts 35000 items for sale at once. Now then, is it more likely that this is:

    a) An ambitious new user who was waiting for just the right moment to post his entire inventory for sale.
    b) A scammer who is trying to get as many quick fraudulent buy-it-now transactions as he can before being noticed by the security filters.

    I'd be willing to bet the correct answer is b, and that the anti-fraud programs correctly detected this user and disabled his items before people were able to bid on them. If this was a legitimate user then its unfortunate and I'm sure that customer service is apologizing profusely, but in 99 out of 100 cases like this its just your garden variety scammer and the fraud detection programs at eBay worked exactly as they were supposed to.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @01:44PM (#22652092) Homepage

    Online auctions are a business which tends towards market concentration. The biggest auction is the most valuable, and the auction systems are closed. eBay objects if you write a search engine for eBay auctions, or a system to manage auctions across multiple auction sites.

    In contrast, e-mail systems are today open - Hotmail can mail to Gmail, and vice versa. That wasn't always the case. There was a time when MCImail, GEnie and AOL didn't talk to each other; eventually, the open e-mail system of the Internet wiped them all out. Search is open from the consumer side; all search engines can look at all sites. But it's not open from the advertiser side, not since Google bought DoubleClick.

    So there's an inherent tendency towards monopoly in the auction area. It's a legitimate subject for antitrust enforcement.

  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:07PM (#22655170)
    I just canceled my eBay account last night. I received a message from eBay that they are changing their policies forcing you to offer PayPal as a payment option, or to obtain a merchant account. Basically, you must offer a credit card payment option period.

    I have heard to many horror stories about Paypal that gives me no confidence in them at all. I don't want anything to do with Paypal. I also don't do enough business on eBay to need a merchant account at all.

    So since this will affect casual users like me quite severely, I do find it interesting to see what the Power Sellers are going to do in response to the rules that are affecting them. I would also be interested in knowing how much business eBay gets from casual users like me.

    There have been a lot of news articles lately about eBay and its policy changes, and I have yet to hear anything resembling a positive response.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears