I read on The Technologizer that eBay is suffering from a drop in visitors (SAI has some more stats too). This comes as no surprise to me, as I believe eBay has abandoned its core over the years.
eBay is one of those “the community really matters” success stories. The company slowly and steadily built a community around niche products, antiques, hard-to-find stuff, collectibles, etc. eBay was so successful that neither Yahoo nor Amazon could even dabble in the space.
But that was a few years ago, and many things have changed. For one, we have a whole new generation of Internet users. The “millenials” are less likely to seek out collectibles or memorabilia, as they’ve been brought up with the Internet right at their side. An old Sega Genesis kit is much less exciting to a 25-year-old than an Atari 2600 is to a 35-year-old.
More relevant to the decline in eBay traffic is the erosion of trust for the brand. As the company served the needs of its shareholders, instead of its users, it catered to the bottom line. And that bottom line meant foregoing the concept of nurturing the community, and instead to increased sales and transactional revenue. Which, in turn, means less value is placed on the individual seller, and a higher value to the institutional or semi-pro seller.
When faced with the challenge of selling my Vaio (now $1000, want it? anyone? I’m throwing in the docking station too!), my wife and I initially turned to eBay. We put up a fairly standard listing, but have a zero rating. We had a handful of inquiries, every one of them turned out to be a scammer (including one who very cleverly had establish a history of 35 items purchased, but as I checked I realized they were all under $5). Similarly, I’m going to assume we had no other offers due to our 0 rating. I’m trying again now.
The above experience is the core problem of eBay today. It works for power sellers, and is probably still just fine for the collectibles and hobbyists. But “regular people” trying to sell decent-sized items are unable to leverage the millions of people who use eBay. It’s almost off-limits to us. I actually found the process more daunting and nerve-wracking than experimenting with Priceline and playing Call of Duty 4 on Xbox Live with 12-year-olds.
As I’ve polled my friends and peers, many have expressed similar doubts and concerns. “eBaying it” is no longer the action verb it once was, and if a company loses it’s position as brand-category, it’s in trouble. Their stock price is down over 50% this year alone (I sure hope nobody takes that one too seriously, but hey, it’s the Internet).
The interesting thing to me here is the opportunity. I think eBay could easily rebuild, but they’ll have to make some tough decisions. I also think it’s a great time for another brand to attempt to enter the online auction market (you’ve got to lock that down!), with an emphasis on trusted sellers and buyers, integrated community selling (I tried importing my sale into my facebook account, but it was very non-obvious and failed miserably), and empowering individuals.
I had a similar experience recently when trying to sell my Nokia E90. First of all, simply listing it was a hassle, as I had put a staunch warning that I would *not* ship using Western Union or MoneyGram or similar. It seems as though Ebay’s listing checker thingy took the presence of these keywords to mean that I was trying to sell USING those tools, and warned me to remove them – only, it started with Western Union, and when I’d removed Western Union, then it informed me that MoneyGram wasn’t kosher, either.
What made that more annoying is that each error required me to correct the listing, a process involving at least one more page load, during which several checkboxes and entry points were changed.
Once done, I also got 15 questions, 14 of which turned out to be spammers. I even have 31 feedback, so I’m slightly better positioned than you. The listing cost me $3.25, which isn’t bad at all. However, the biggest problem is that I used Paypal for payment, which means that not only did I have to pay a percentage to collect my earnings, but…
They have this RIDICULOUS new ‘Buyer Protection’ system that I was NOT informed about until after the auction had ended. Basically, your money is placed on HOLD for up to 21 days. It will be released earlier however, once you either get positive feedback from the buyer, or show delivery confirmation that the package arrived. The delivery confirmation *still* holds your money hostage for another 3 days, but the positive feedback releases it within 24 hours.
By the time it was all said and done, I ended up waiting 5 extra days to get $30 less than what the auction ended at for my phone. It would have almost been cheaper for me to just pawn the thing, sadly.
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I haven’t used eBay in a couple of years. Had two incidents where I sold working items to people who later tried to claim that they didn’t work. In those cases, the burden was on me to prove the items were in good shape when they shipped. Very tough to do after the fact.
In both cases, the buyers threatened to post negative feedback if I didn’t give them a refund on the items that were listed “as-is” with “no refunds.” In both cases, I took the hit on my feedback rather than cave to someone who was having buyer’s remorse.
I eventually resorted to shooting a video of the products I was selling showing them in use. Those items sold without a problem; however, I wasn’t willing to keep up that amount of work to sell things (not to mention pay all of the listing and PayPal fees).
I am exclusively Craigslist now for both buying and selling. There is a lot less of a hassle, plus you can negotiate the price. Sure, it’s harder to find those A-team Colorforms, but it’s perfect for things like furniture.
My ebay rating maxed out at around 400 a few years ago, which probably represents only half the transactions I participated in. Due to fraud and annoying people, I gave up. Over the last year, things I’ve needed to “ebay” I’ve brought to an ebay consignment shop. They take a steep cut, but all the problems (and resolutions) are theirs to deal with. It’s worked out well. No muss, no fuss.
Search the internet for
“Ebay Stockholders and Sellers Calling For Immediate Termination of John Donohoe CEO Petition”