Tuesday, 9 February 2010

eBay u-turn - but is it too late?

Well, this is an update on my earlier rant about ebay bringing in rules to prevent sellers charging postage for books and similar items. As predicted this caused a huge furore. Many sellers abandoned ebay, others tried to bend the rules: the result was less bargains for the book collector and an atmosphere of chaos and unrest. Now, eBay have suddenly decided they were wrong (well they didn't actually come out and admit it, surprise, surprise) and have done a complete about turn on the postage policy, scrapping forced free postage and once more bringing in capped limits.

I think this is partly a direct response to a huge number of complaints, but probably due for the most part to the falling sales/profits over the period that the policy was operating. According to Advertising Age (an advertising and marketing journal) eBay's income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was down a massive 31% and it's stock prices have also plummetted. At the same time its rival Amazon reported increased profits over the period: perhaps due to disgruntled ex-eBay sellers (and their buyers) flocking there?

Whatever the reason for eBay's u-turn, it is still debatable how much this will help them. Many sellers have left vowing never to return, and it has perhaps pushed some small businesses who were once totally loyal to eBay into exploring a wider range of selling platforms. People have begun to lose confidence in ebay and it may take more than this volte-face to restore it. For eBay is still tinkering around, changing the rules every few weeks so that no-one - buyer or seller - knows where they are. Sadly they have completely ignored the old adage 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.' If they want to regain the halcyon days of the eBay of yore they have to do a lot more than this - but perhaps it is a step in the right direction. I just hope if they are trying to bring back the old-style eBay it is not too late to do so.


pullein-thompson-archive said...

Interesting Claire. I had a look at the ebay announcement and it says that for the children's books subcategory that the maximum you can charge is £2.75. In fact it is the maximum you can charge in the whole of the books category, with the exception of Antique & Collectable (£4.50) and Collections & Lots (£7.00).

Whereas in the majority of cases £2.75 will cover it, it wont in some cases. Which means again a big loss. I have a very thick book and if I was going to sell it then there is no way that £2.75 is going to cover the postage. In fact I suspect a £5 would be nearer the mark. That is inland postage, not overseas. But that means you automatically make a loss.

I do agree that there should be limits, but I do think that ebay have set the bar too low. I think they should be tackling the mass item book sellers (those that have thousands of books and a tiny description with no photo) more than worrying about postage rates. They should be charging mass item sellers more and less for the smaller seller.

Claire said...

Thanks for the comments. I dislike those big sellers who dont even bother to put photos on, and they clog up all the listings when you are looking for a bargain. Sadly those sellers get charged much much less than small business or private sellers. (Also they can charge less postage at business rates)
There has been talk amongst the ebay forums of wanting to have 2 ebay sections, a bit like Amazon with their normal shop and Amazon market place. I think that would work much better.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

I liked it when they had auctions (with and without BIN) and the market place BIN seperate. So if you wanted to see a listing lasting 28 days (for example) you had to click rather than seeing it automatically. I dont get why ebay just dont seperate them again - the majority of mass item sellers fall into the marketplace category.

There is a way of not seeing them by saving the search and excluding certain sellers. The only thing it is very time consuming to set up - for example I have a search going for Patricia Leitch's books, but I have about 10 sellers excluded. Each time a new one appears then I have to amend the search though.

I wish ebay could do like abebooks and let you filter out people who do not provide a photo - it would perhaps make people like awesomebooksuk sit up and do individual photos. Also it would make us see what we are getting instead of relying on their (poor) description.

I am after a particular edition of the last 3 (one with gold banner not the blue) Hollywell Stables books, but the ones that I keep on getting are those mass market. As the rest of the series is a gold banner one and not a blue, I dont want to take a chance until I know what I am getting for sure. With the mass item sellers, it is making a harder to find book near impossible.

Claire said...

I think photos should be obligatory, even if its just a stock photo, so at least you know what edtion, etc, you are getting. When you are buying 2nd hand or collectable stuff it really is essential.
But those 'bucket shop' people have 1000s of things on they don't have time to upload photos or provide good descriptions.
Sadly, it ain't what it used to be!