Tuesday, 26 February 2008 06:46

eBay sellers strike extended yet again

eBay sellers, horrified by rising fees and changes to the feedback system, have decided to extend their eBay boycott until March 9, with the boycott already having already caused a 13% drop in eBay sales.

eBay’s sellers, an essential part of the eBay equation, are not happy with recent changes made by eBay management, and have vowed to continue striking to drive home their message.

The strike calls for all eBay users to cease activity – no buying, no selling and no listing. Sales activity at eBay has seen a 13% slowdown, according to USA Today but clearly there’s still plenty of activity happening at eBay sites worldwide.

An eBay announcement, from the 29th of January, 2008, notes that eBay was lowering its fees to list items (insertion fees) by 25 to 50%, depending on the country, from the 20th of February, 2008.

To balance this, eBay said it was “increasing the fees it charges when an item is sold”, which eBay says “lowers the risk [for sellers] if an item doesn’t sell”, with eBay’s President and CEO-elect John Donahoe saying that "put simply, we will make more of our money when sellers are successful."

Quite why there has to be a balancing, a ‘giving with one hand and taking with the other’, is explained to some degree by Donahoe’s statement, but it has enraged successful sellers who feel that eBay is really just raising prices anyway.

eBay said they were “also eliminating fees in the U.S. for its Gallery option, which should spur sellers to include more photos of the item for sale, something buyers normally want when they shop”.

There are also changes to the way eBay works with sellers, as well as a list of issues that eBay sellers are concerned about. Please read onto page 2.

eBay says that “the company is making its minimum standards more stringent for anyone who sells on the site, primarily to discourage behavior that causes buyer dissatisfaction, such as charging excessive shipping fees or not describing items accurately”.

eBay will also “begin decreasing search exposure for the listings of sellers who have high rates of customer dissatisfaction”, while requiring a safe payment option, through PayPal or a credit card.
Donahoe said that: "It is our intention to reward great sellers. Sellers that describe items accurately, ship on time, and ship at a fair price will enjoy preferential pricing and discounts on eBay. We think this will significantly improve the buyer experience overall."

Donahoe also “revealed that eBay will update its feedback system to reinforce healthy, vibrant trading and keep bringing buyers back to eBay”.

According to a ‘Boycott eBay’ page created at MySpace, the problems that sellers have with eBay sound quite serious, with the MySpace page linking to a range of other "anti-eBay" sites.

There are also some interesting "anti-eBay" images that have been posted, along with a range of songs to encourage eBay's affected sellers to 'stay united'.

Here’s what they are claiming on the MySpace hosted site, which appears to be a good summation of eBay sellers’ concerns:

“Our demands are simple and fair:”

“1. Bring back sanity to the fees. When ebay raised final value fees to 5.25% they nearly broke the small seller. By increasing these fees to 8.75% they will. For those who do not understand, 5.25% and their listing fees in addition to ebay's PayPal fees of 2.99% (including s/h fees, which ebay expects we keep at actual rates) with their per transaction fee typically takes away 30-60% of a seller's profits. For which they REFUSE to offer support. While many would oppose any fee increase, we realize they too are a business, and have the right to raise their fees. We simply ask that it be legitimate, and fair for us”.

So, what is the eBay protestors' other big beef? Please read onto page 3.

The MySpace 'Boyott eBay' page lists another big issue that sellers have with eBay:

“2. Revamp the Feedback System. The system has been broke for a long time. However, the changes ebay is planning is wrong. Sellers have the right to leave negative feedback. There are concerns over retaliatory feedback. This is NOT the way to fix that. Losing what ebay considers "irrelevant" feedback is not a correct way to revamp the feedback system. We demand that ebay return to the way it was, but, continue to find ways that will fix the crippled system. Not find ways to annihilate it completely”.

The original boycott was scheduled for February 18 to 25, but now the boycott is being extended to March 9th, according to an article at Indybay.

For more information, type ‘eBay boycott’ into your favourite search engine. The boycott looks like it will continue for some time yet, although some sellers say they are feeling the pinch and are listing a few, but not all, of their items.

Sellers also talk of listing at other auction sites, with some complaining that the competing sites simply don’t have eBay’s traffic. eBay can certainly afford to ride out the boycott for quite some time to come, so the ultimate resolution to this crisis is still unclear.

It would seem that eBay have made decisions without widely consulting their members, or taken into account their feedback, and now find themselves the subject of a boycott.

One thing is certain: few people are ever in favour of a price rise, unless they are the beneficiary of the higher prices.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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