That’s where I live: I’m an eBay Top Rated Seller. I didn’t aspire to it, I didn’t try particularly hard to become one, and I don’t believe that a fraction of the buyers who look at my stuff know what it means.
But eBay thinks it’s pretty important. And they also use it as a weapon. I get a little discount from my monthly invoice for being one. I didn’t ask for that either. I’ll lose the discount if I don’t follow their recommendations, they frequently remind me.
Now they’ll give me “five automatic stars for communication” if I DON’T COMMUNICATE with my buyers. That might be a step in the right direction since previous to now they have never DEFINED communication, but what a shocker that the best is none at all.
Even though I’ve had fewer than a half dozen returns in my 13 year history, they would like me (or to force me) to make my return policy more liberal.
The return policy is ALREADY pretty liberal-any buyer can just fabricate a complaint any time up until 45 days after they receive something and they get a refund. For the Thing and the shipping. Without an investigative process.
I also can’t have that discount anymore if I fail to offer one-day domestic handling time (overnight shipping). They charge me extra if my shipping costs are not embedded into my auction starting prices.
It’s all about the buyers’ “experience”, they say.
I’ve maintained all along that my buyers seem to be having a pretty nice experience, since my Detailed Seller Ratings in four categories are all 4.9 out of 5.0 and since my stuff sells through at an amazingly high sell-through rate.
And, I might add, in the antiques business (the bulk of my sales), a 14 day return policy would be laughed out of 100% of the shops I’ve visited. You get what you agree upon, and when you go out that door, you don’t bring it back. Since buyer and seller can’t conduct their business face-to-face in real time at eBay, I offer a 7 day return policy as an accommodation, but eBay’s “buyer protection” really makes that redundant. If it isn’t what I say it is, the deal isn’t final.
eBay would have everyone believe that if they have problems, those problems rest squarely on the shoulders of “the sellers”. There will always be plenty of sellers. Buyers deserve their courtship, not the guys with the stuff. Yeah, we can tell, by the unprecedented tons and tons of free listings offers they’ve been throwing around for about fifteen months now.
It’s too bad they can’t call a spade a spade. Their biggest competitor gets the drop on them day-in day-out year after year. I list a little over there, but I don’t like it because if you don’t like the directions that eBay is taking you REALLY won’t like the people they are copying.
We used to have these discussions: at Amazon, whose customer is it, at eBay, whose customer is it? and the answers were different.
So now we’ve got two giants who own the customers. They don’t belong to me at either venue according to the venues.
I think it was customers I was after when I came to the Internet for sales. Not “experiences”, not “friends”, not “stories”, not graphics and flash. I came from a little town and didn’t have enough customers. eBay solved that overnight and took over a decade to take them away from me.
Of course, in 1999, it wasn’t practical trying to imagine developing my own platform (web site) especially since I knew nothing about it and literally didn’t even own a computer.
Today, it’s eminently practical. I tend to prefer my own architecture, but for very little money anyone can register a domain and employ some easy-to-use templates and get online. Millions have already done so.
THAT learning curve can be very high because the ONE thing that eBay used to be good for and to some extent still is good at, was getting your Thing found, or seen, and they are still able to be very arrogant about that fact that they enjoy lots of traffic.
But if you think you have a “store” because they sold you a subscription and called it that, you have another thing coming. You have a coattail and you get to ride on it and that’s all you’ve got.
They will set the policies, the formats, and they will tinker with the search results and if they see something that works better than theirs, they will buy it and bring it down to their level.
I’m going to have an organic problem with my tenure there this year, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with their asinine procession of policy changes (perfect communication is no communication will keep me muttering for a long time though). It has to do with the kind of people with whom I am associating and their world-view and their corporate ideals.
Does the guy who is buying a two hundred dollar antique glass oil lamp from me REALLY care how many days I take to ship it to him, placing the most importance on haste? If he can tell that he is dealing with a trusted authority (somebody who has sold a lot of those), does he REALLY care about a return policy, or would he prefer to be doing business with a dealer who also really cares about the damn lamp?
At this moment, and I’m sure it’ll shift, eBay really cares about container loads of new crap from China and otherwise-illegal frozen chicken nuggets auctions from Iowa and anything that’s capable of flashing in a pan for a week or two. If they cared about the buyers’ “experiences” there wouldn’t be any of those commodity crap sellers with 96 negatives per month at all. Those “diamonds” are not concerned about their carrot-and-stick discounts; they have negotiated special arrangements that makes all that stuff look like kids’ fantasy play.
They care about mobile shoppers, instant gratification, and fluff.
I’m hanging out with guys I don’t like.
If you’re independent enough, you don’t have to do that. I like to eat and be warm, and in my climate you must wear clothes, so I’ve got some basics and essentials to consider, and my own site doesn’t meet them yet.
But it’s getting there, and it’s just as easy to direct my time and effort to benefit myself and my customers as it is to benefit the self-absorbed Venue, and they’ve just helped me decide where to allocate that effort this year.
The sellers are the problem? Really? Right now, one of my favorite items in this week’s list is an Aladdin lamp: Aladdin Corinthian B-101 Dark Amber Oil Lamp Font. We’ll always have plenty of sellers, but we need buyers? Mr. eBay, sir, I have the ONLY Aladdin Corinthian B-101 Dark Amber Oil Lamp Font for sale at the moment (there are two other similar but not identical listings), and under circumstances like that, you will NEVER convince me that whoever buys that Thing is not my customer.
It’s just up to me to teach him how to find it elsewhere.