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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

To E-bay Or Not To E-bay - A Decision We Are Really Struggling With

Last month, after over 13 years of taking the position that listing in U.S. dollars was the most effective way to sell on their platform, E-bay Canada announced that they would be phasing out US dollar listings and that all sellers would have to have their existing listings converted to CDN dollars, otherwise they would not renew and all the work that a seller did to produce those listings would be lost. I was really angry that E-bay would introduce such a wholesale change without caring about the work it would create for sellers. But after a week of fuming, I calmed down and decided that I would wait until E-bay's listing tool became available to do the conversions in May. That E-bay would announce this change BEFORE it had the necessary tools available to assist sellers wanting to co-operate with them is another matter entirely and not the subject of this post.

Last week after I had accepted the decision I started Googling ways to improve traffic on e-bay listings and I came across several articles that spoke about the importance of creating professional looking listings with graphic templates that would put all relevant information in one place so that a buyer could see it without having to leave the listing they were on. Steph had also suggested several times obtaining a bulk listing tool that would allow for the use of templates to gain efficiency and streamline the listing process. So after much investigation and comparison, I decided to sign up for Auctiva. I spent the last three days creating templates and profiles to use in my next listings to start this week.

Then yesterday at about 4pm, E-bay releases its Spring seller update in which among other things, it announces fee changes and then the fact that they want users to limit their product descriptions to between 200 and 800 characters so that listings can optimize with mobile devices. They are going to ban the use of any active content in descriptions by 2017. So, I am now completely unsure about whether or not I just wasted my time coming up with all these templates. So I have sent messages on the Community Boards to the E-bay employees on there to answer my questions about this policy so that I can decide how to move forward.

Then it hit me: what is going to happen when my store has 30,000 listings and E-bay decides that they don't want stamp dealers using their own grading systems anymore? Or decides that I cannot mention a grade unless I have a certificate for each item? Or decides that I must use their much hated Global Shipping Program? I have had bricks in my stomach for three days at the thought that despite the fact that my company owns all the inventory and pays E-bay huge monthly fees, E-bay behaves as though THEY own my business and I'm just their employee.

I am very tempted now to leave E-bay and start my own website. I am afraid that I will lose all  my short term sales, but I honestly don't know how much worse off would I be if I redirected the $500 I am paying E-bay every month towards a Google Adwords campaign? I want to make a decision that is level headed and not emotional because as much as I despise E-bay's fickle changes, I will put up with them if that is what makes the most business sense in the long run. I had assumed for the longest time that staying with them did make the most sense. I figured that since I paid them and other sellers paid them, that they would act in our best interests as a group. Unfortunately I no longer believe that they are acting in sellers best interests.

They have, in my opinion, forgotten who their customer is. Their customers of course are sellers who have entered into a contractual arrangement with them and who pay them their fees full stop. Their customers are NOT the end buyer of my stamps, or the products of other sellers. How on earth could they be? Nobody at E-bay knows Jack about stamps beyond how to spell the word stamp. They have no supplier relationships, they know nothing about the product and they have no inventory. So somebody please tell me how they could think that my customers are their business? It is MY job to please these customers, not theirs. Their job is to attract general site traffic, which they claim is what they are trying to do by making one-size-fits all policies for every single business that sells with them. Instead, they should be showcasing top sellers, and attracting buyers by showcasing product. This whole "optimize listings for mobile" makes sense for those businesses whose customer shop on their phones. But of course not all businesses have a customer base that does this. My business is an information-intensive one in the sense that I need long product descriptions to sell my stamps. Also most of my customers don't buy from mobile phones. So these changes will not help me, but will hurt me by restricting what I can do with my listings. If they remembered that I and other sellers are their customer, then they would give me a choice as to whether to opt-in to this thing and they would TRUST me to do what made the most sense for my customers, which in the end, would make them more money.

But trust is absent from this relationship if the comments in the Community Boards are anything to go by. There have been 7 pages of negative comments about the update so far this morning, and there were over 46 pages of negative comments about the decision to force us to use CDN dollars in our listings. Sellers are clearly upset with E-bay. The responses that I see from E-bay staff are dismissive at best and condescending at worst. Plus they often don't fully address the questions that are boing asked. E-bay clearly doesn't trust me as a seller to make sound business decisions and insists that I operate within their framework, which would be fine if I knew what that framework was and I could be reasonably confident that it wouldn't change all the time.

What do you think I should do?


  1. I would stick with eBay (at least for now). That is where most of your work has gone to so far (you don't want it to be a total waste). But in addition start up your own webpage (I know lots of extra work). Try to maximize efficiency so that uploading to eBay becomes a quick modification to upload to your store.

    When you have a better idea of what the current changes in eBay will do to your work, then you can reevaluate again.

    But then again I have never owned a store or sold on eBay so take what I say with a pound of salt.

    1. Hi Dale. Many thanks for weighing in. I suspect that is what we will do at least for the short-run. But it certainly does appear that relying on E-bay is a bad long-term strategy - a shame really as E-bay could really do well if they treated their sellers better.