eBay Live Elton John Charity Event: Embarrassing "Tech Led Reimagination" Debacle

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


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eBay's PR machine was working overtime today to promote a special Elton John Aids Foundation Charity livestream event auctioning off pre-loved clothing from the star to raise funds for HIV/Aids awareness, but in classic eBay fashion all the starpower in the world wasn't enough to overcome almost three decades of tech debt and poor leadership.

Elton John Partners With eBay to Release a Personal Collection of Pre-loved Fashion in Support of Elton John AIDS Foundation
“Rocket Man Resale” offers hundreds of pieces of clothing, shoes, and accessories from Elton and friends to eBay shoppers around the world

This Pride Month, Elton John is bringing his legendary wardrobe to eBay to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation, giving collectors and fans a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own a piece of fashion history.

“Rocket Man Resale” will feature hundreds of items from Elton’s closet, including bespoke Gucci jackets, Versace robes, customized Prada loafers, as well as affordable items such as historic concert T-shirts and baseball caps. The auction begins on June 27, and 100% of sales will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

To kick off the auction on the eBay app at 1:10pm ET on June 27, creative entrepreneur Emma Rogue and singer-songwriter Stephen Sanchez will host a live-streamed shopping event on eBay Live featuring Elton John and David Furnish.

Theoretically, Elton and David were live in the room to kick off the event, but viewers could be forgiven for questioning that fact as terrible pixelation, extreme lag and buffering turned everyone on camera into unidentifiable blobs of color moving around the screen.

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Source: eBay Live

These technical issues persisted throughout the entire event and were so bad, it appears eBay has disabled the replay feature that is usually available for eBay Live events in an effort to try to minimize the brand reputation damage.

One might be more forgiving of the ~30 year old tech company if it weren't for the fact that eBay Live has been in "beta" since it was launched in June 2022 and this is apparently still the best they can do after 2 years!

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Meanwhile scrappy competitor Whatnot continues to dominate eBay in the livestream shopping space and make moves to take a bite out of eBay's more traditional static fixed price and auction business too.

When Jamie Iannone returned to eBay as CEO in 2020, he promised to usher in a "tech-led reimagination" of the platform.

Four years later, it's clear he has utterly failed to meet that goal by any objective measure - a fact shareholders would be wise to remember when they hear the next round of AI hype at upcoming earnings calls and conferences.

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Everyone involved in this operation all the way up to Global GM eBay Live Deepak Rangaswami, Chief Technology Officer Mazen Rawashdeh and Chief Product Officer Eddie Garcia need to be held accountable for this embarrassing display of technical misexecution - a public apology to Elton John and a meaningful corporate donation to his charity wouldn't hurt either.

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!


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