eBay isn’t completely at fault for ending up at their present position. Roughly half of the blame can be laid on the eBay community – buyers and sellers who commune on eBay. These users have over-hyped and under-delivered so much that its no wonder eBay recently rolled out a new set of policies. Therein lies the blame on eBay: their new policies and fees have gummed up the works.
Increased buyer expectations are the main source of headaches on eBay. All the hype has led many buyers (and sellers) to believe that eBay is an instant source of gratification. Buyers want fast shipping at a great price with no delays. This wouldn’t be so bad if buyers were understanding when mistakes did happen. Angry emails about packages that are a day late can be frustrating enough to make you want to visit the person and punch their face in.
Also, too many buyers hold the “customer is always right” motto to heart. Customers who complain because of their own mistake are the worst to deal with. Recently, I sold and shipped an item to a guy in Hawaii. I got the package back a week later with a “No Mail Receptacle” sticker attached. When I asked the guy to give me a different mailing address, he argued that he got mail there all the time and wanted a refund because of my incompetence.
Then there are the buyers who are so excited about an auction that they fail to read the listing closely enough. These buyers pay promptly and are a pleasure to deal with until their package arrives and they complain that they didn’t get what was in the auction. Upon being told what was in the auction and being directed to the Order Details page, they want a refund because ‘it wasn’t what they wanted.’ Now the seller not only has to get the package back and return the money, but also relist and ship the item once more.
Sometimes its not the listing that isn’t completely read, but the sellers’ shipping policies. Not all sellers ship within a few days – quite a few only ship once a week, regardless of sale date. Instead of alleviating problems, these policies create them because the vast majority of buyers are too impatient to read the entire listing.
While most of these buyers can be dealt with, there are always a few that manage to really cause problems. These buyers usually escalate claims and bring the eBay Arbitrators into action. Sadly, these so-called ‘arbitrators’ usually rule in the buyer’s favor, even if they are clearly wrong. Enter eBay’s new Buyer Protection Policy.
There is a not-so-blatant loophole found in this policy though: if an item is filed under ‘item not as described,’ a buyer must return the item for a refund. Basically, if the buyer claims the item isn’t as described, say goodbye to that money. eBay won’t be taking your side of the case.
Another annoying policy is eBay’s ‘new seller limits.’ Apparently, eBay imposes a $5,000/month cap on new sellers. Also, there are category selling limits – a new seller can only sell so many items in one category per month. This is bad news for anyone who starts a business and has access to large volumes of expensive inventory. Sellers who find themselves in this situation must either call eBay and plead to have the limits removed, or remain stuck selling one high-end item a month until eBay lifts the limit.
In addition to these unhelpful policies, eBay’s Contact Us widget is a joke. Its more like contact-the-computer. Honestly, its not much different than the help center. In order to actually contact an eBay representative, a use may have to spend a fair chunk of time going in circles clicking on “contact us” buttons until one can get through. Forget the calling, too (if you can find the phone number) – waiting time is at least 45 minutes.
Something very few people talk about are the eBay fees. While not overly high, these fees cut into everyone’s sales margins. Each seller loses up to 9% to eBay in final-value fees. With PayPal fees, it goes to around 13%. Factor in the insertion fees and the user is losing 15%-17% on fees alone. This may not seem like a lot, but it does add up.
There are a few niche sellers whose product – iPhones for example – have a large market and can be sold profitably almost anywhere. They sell pretty good on eBay, but for the small-time seller who can only unload one or two a week, he’s losing just around $20 per iPhone, depending on price. Again, this isn’t a lot, but since they can go elsewhere are keep the $20, its enough for some sellers to turn away from eBay.
It’s not enough to ship everything on time or get every order detail correct. Sometimes, a seller can do everything right and there will still be a problem. As sellers start and continue to realize this, eBay will start to lose ground as more user-friendly sites like Amazon, Yahoo, and Google start to overtake its market share.