Even Large Companies Get It Wrong Sometimes

You CAN argue with success. Look at Google’s displacement of Yahoo! as the number one search engine of the internet.
Ebay has a pretty darn good model and their continually rising profits prove it but I think the bubble is getting pretty tight. Lately I’ve recommended finding particular items on Ebay to several people and been told, “I don’t like Ebay.” Huh? I thought EVERYBODY except the hardcore “I never buy online types” loved Ebay.
I’ve bought and sold a lot of items on Ebay. I launched my thriving coffee business (www.InnisfreeRanch.com) on Ebay. Using Ebay gave me a lot of exposure for a minimal cost. Now experiences with sellers are driving buyers away from Ebay.
Bad Sellers. Throughout the past year I’ve seen an increase in less-than-honorable sellers. It used to be a community of buyers and sellers that self-regulated with a rating system. If you had a bad experience with a seller and posted negative feedback about your experience, it would hurt the seller’s reputation and sales. That was before the super high volume sellers came in. Many of these sellers have a high percentage of bad transactions but they’ve found a way to manipulate the feedback. They post negative comments about their buyers if the buyers complain!
I have over a thousand transactions logged at Ebay—mostly as a seller. I have received negative feedback only three times—all from sellers who failed to deliver what they promised! After endless emails trying to get an item—I paid for an item and never received it—I posted negative feedback about the seller. The seller in turn hurt my reputation by posting negatively about me. Under Ebay’s rules, you cannot modify feedback once posted unless by mutual agreement. It took months, but I managed to have that one removed but I had to withdraw my comment about never receiving my item! The seller even admitted to never having had the item.
The buyer’s ONLY obligation is to pay. If the buyer pays promptly, why is a seller allowed to slander the buyer? This makes no sense. Many buyers simply will not post feedback.
The other squeeze sellers are putting to buyers is “we will refund your money less shipping if not satisfied”. That means if you buy a radio and it’s defective when you get it, you pay to return it and you won’t get all your money back from the purchase price. This is the policy of MOST sellers on Ebay. It was never mine. Not happy with my product? Just tell me what you’d like and it’s done.
If you receive a damaged item, most sellers will tell you it’s your fault for failing to buy insurance. Many sellers will tell you the same thing if you never receive your item even though they have no proof of ever sending it.
The sellers get away with this abuse because the system is in their favor. Since Ebay was permitted to buy Paypal, you’ll get even less less help from Ebay if your transaction goes bad.
Why is the system rigged like this? The seller is Ebay’s customer. They collect a fee when an item is listed. They collect a fee when the item is sold. They collect yet another fee when the item is paid for if the buyer uses Papal (most do). All these fees come from the seller. The buyer has no clout. None. I’ve had a lot of problems with dishonest sellers on Ebay lately, no wonder people are telling me they don’t like Ebay.
The model is wrong now. Things have changed. Ebay has grown from a community trading post to a multi-billion dollar business. During this growth they’ve failed to adjust their service or policies to favor the person spending the money.
Don’t believe me? Go to Ebay’s website and see if you can find a phone number to call in case of fraud. Good luck! It may be there but I’ve never found it.
I watch telescope listings because I’m an avid amateur astronomer. Recently I saw an ad for a telescope “worth serveral hundreds of dollars”. They stated a diameter of 11″ for the main lens. That’s a pretty big telescope. From the picture I knew it wasn’t an 11″ telescope and I further knew it wasn’t worth more than $100—if that. I wrote the seller a note and received back a very hostile threat which I reported to Ebay. Ebay responded only by “robot” with a “do not reply to this email” footer.
The seller got a lot of email, I’m sure. They changed the diameter to 8″. Then 6″. They played dumb. How hard is it to measure the front of little telescope? Playing dumb is another common ploy used by dishonest sellers. Finally, they changed the diameter to 3.5″ and added that they would refund your money less shipping if you’re not happy with your purchase. They got caught. BUT two-way shipping costs exceed the value of the telescope!
I’m not writing this to complain about Ebay though I’ve nearly quit buying and selling there. I’m writing this to point out a BIG opportunity. Poor customer service by a competitor ALWAYS presents you with an opportunity. Unless Ebay changes the way they do business, they’ll see the buyers go away. Then the sellers will go. The exodus has begun—ask your friends about their experiences with Ebay. Somebody can grab this big juicy market.  Stay tuned.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog