eBay's Ongoing Seller Trust & Lagging Tech Problems

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


Two months ago I wrote an open letter to eBay CEO Jamie Iannone about eBay's seller trust problem.

eBay’s Seller Trust Problem
An open letter to eBay CEO Jamie Iannone on transparency, integrity, feedback and gaining seller trust.

Guess what Jamie? You still have a seller trust problem and it's only getting worse.

Despite all the lip service from eBay leadership, it's clear there is no real intention to engage with sellers in any truly meaningful or actionable way. Your feedback loops are shallow echo chambers, carefully curated to provide what you want to hear while filtering out anything that doesn't fit within the narrow confines of the walled garden.

Does eBay Really Care About Seller Engagement?
eBay says they value seller feedback & engagement - are they living up to their commitment or is it just lip service?

So here's a little help for you Jamie - a few of the issues sellers have faced just since I last wrote to you, in case they haven't made it into your feedback loop yet.

Lack of Transparency and Communication

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that eBay's lack of transparency and communication is just about my number one pet peeve - and apparently I'm not alone.

Many sellers were frustrated with the lack of transparency about changes to the user agreement in the Fall 2021 Seller Update.

eBay Sellers Frustrated With Lack Of Transparency About UA Updates
Sellers call for more transparency when eBay updates important legal agreements. Will eBay listen?

Ultimate, there weren't many significant changes to the agreement. However, when you don't make it easy for sellers to figure that out for themselves, you leave them wondering if there might be something hidden in all that legalese.

It's about respect, Jamie, and you can't have trust without respect. Sellers need to know that you respect us enough to put the cards on the table and communicate clearly and directly about potentially business impacting changes to legal agreements with our "partner."

Speaking of significant changes - there were significant unannounced changes made to the "item not received" claim process.

eBay Changes Item Not Received Claim Process
eBay made an unannounced change to the Item Not Received process, holding seller funds & causing frustration.

These unannounced changes may cause holds to be placed on seller funds which can have a very significant negative impact on cash flow. Seller frustration on this topic centered around the lack of communication and feeling like eBay causes sellers to waste too much time just trying to figure out how to run their businesses on a day to day basis.

Time is absolutely the whole of the problem with all of this - I genuinely don't give a flyin flip what the policy is at this point. It's the amount of time I spend just trying to figure it out to avoid a defect.

There was also mass confusion when it appeared eBay had extended the return window for buyers. It took 3 days for your teams to determine it was a technical problem and communicate that to sellers - that's just inexcusable for a 26 year old multi-billion dollar tech company, Jamie.

Is eBay Extending Return Window For Buyers?
Sellers report increase in time given for buyers to ship returns - glitch, policy confusion or unannounced change?

Of course the biggest example of transparency and communication failures in the last 2 months has been the category and item specifics changes from the Fall update.

Sellers were charged additional fees in error due to having items moved to new categories - some to the tune of thousands of dollars. eBay admitted it was an error and promised that fees would be credited automatically, but 2 weeks later some sellers say they have yet to receive the refunds.

eBay Sellers Incur Gallery Plus Fees Due to Category Changes
Sellers report additional $1.00 per listing Gallery Plus fees for items automatically moved to new categories by eBay.

Apparently eBay also forgot to map the eBay Standard Envelope shipping option to new categories for postcards, leaving sellers with no choice but to pay for more expensive postage or risk receiving late shipment or cancellation penalties.

eBay Standard Envelope Category Problems
Sellers report eBay Standard Envelope service is not available for one of the new postcard categories.

It's not just sellers who have been impacted by these changes - buyers registered their frustration as well.

Are eBay Category Changes Impacting Buyer Experience?
eBay sellers struggle with category & item specifics changes - are they affecting the buyer experience too?

This isn't the first time that item specifics and category changes have caused major upheaval, especially in all important Q4 - it happened back in 2019 as well.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, Jamie.

Glitches, Glitches, & More Glitches

Speaking of history, Jamie, do you remember how your predecessor Devin Wenig said he was pissed off about all the glitches on the platform and had even gone so far as to fire people in an effort to get the tech problems under control?

You've been CEO of eBay for 18 months now, which coincidentally is about how long this intermittent glitch preventing buyers from accepting offers and completing sales seems to have been happening.

eBay Offers Glitch - Item Doesn’t Ship To Your Location
eBay Offers glitch tells buyers the item does not ship to their location in error - how many sales have been lost?

How many sales have been lost in the last 18 months due to that glitch? How many times does a buyer have to be shown an erroneous message stating an item can't ship to them before they simply leave the platform and shop elsewhere?

Here are a few more glitches sellers have had to deal with in the last 2 months, though this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Technical Issues - Value Added Resource
The most valuable resource eBay sellers often have is each other. Value Added Resource is dedicated to the eBay selling experience - by sellers, for sellers.

There's also the massive drop in impressions and sales sellers have been reporting since September.  Is it a glitch or simply unintended consequences from the rollout of Promoted Listings Advanced cost per click advertising?

eBay Sellers Continue To Report Drops In Impressions & Sales
Reports of strange eBay traffic patterns continue - including lowering ad rates also negatively impacting *organic* traffic.

You've contracted with Khoros to provide the eBay Community forums and even that is plagued with glitches that neither eBay nor Khoros seem to be able to figure out.

eBay Sellers Frustrated With Community Forum Glitches
eBay community users expressed frustration with ongoing forum technical issues in the weekly eBay chat.

The most recent round of community glitches has dragged on for over 6 weeks now. At this point I think you should file a "not as described" dispute with Khoros, end the contract and find a provider that can actually provide a bare minimum level of service. That of course would be assuming eBay wants the community to continue to be a a useful resource for sellers and an avenue for that all important seller engagement.

Maybe it's time for eBay CMO/VP Seller Engagement Andrea Stairs and Khoros CMO Katherine Calvert to get together for drinks at Walker's West and hash out a plan to get things back on track?

Rules For Thee But Not For Me

Many sellers are tired of feeling like eBay is an unequal playing field full of landmines and very little real seller protection.

Your service metrics penalty scheme threatens to add an additional 5% in fees for sellers who receive too many cases filed against them.  These policies are often unfairly enforced & cases which eBay's own policies say should not be counted often are.

This seller was wrongly charged over $26,000 in penalty fees due to cases that should have never been counted in the metrics.

eBay Authenticity Guaranteed & Service Metrics Penalty Fees
eBay’s Service Metrics policies are a clear conflict of interest -costing one sneaker seller thousands in penalty fees.

eBay finally admitted the error and refunded the overcharges, but only after significant public pressure was brought to bear on the situation.

Sellers are also very concerned about the growing problem of chargebacks and so called "friendly fraud" - a problem that eBay has refused to provide significant protections against or tools to proactively manage the risk, often leaving sellers with lost money, lost product, and a $20 dispute fee on top of everything else.

eBay’s Growing Chargeback Problem
Chargebacks are a hot button topic for sellers in Managed Payments. What can eBay do about this growing problem?

Day after day, we're constantly reminded that eBay allows some sellers to play by different rules.

The Unsweet Side of the eBay Pokémon Oreo Craze
eBay hasn’t always been transparent when promoting hot trending products- are Pokémon Oreos any different?

Despite violating eBay presale policies and FTC regulations that provide explicit requirements for timely shipping of orders, eBay is more than happy to allow scalpers to overrun their site every time a hot new item is released.

Another Day, Another eBay Xbox Mini Fridge Scalper Story
It’s déjà vu all in the land of eBay presale retail arbitrage- will eBay ever enforce their policies & stop the scalpers?

How about this promotion where eBay partnered with Samsung to give a free gift card with purchase of a certified refurbished phone? Offering 30 day free returns is supposed to be a requirement to participate in the Certified Refurbished program, but conveniently that requirement was waived for this promotion.

eBay & Samsung Bend Rules In Certified Refurbished Promo
Samsung & eBay partner on refurbished promo, but only offer 14 day returns, not 30 days required by policies.

I'm sure Samsung appreciated you bending the rules and allowing them to provide only a 14 day return window, but consumers who were shown explicit promises of free 30 day returns may be a bit upset when they find out about the fine print.

One might even think the FTC would be interested in the lack of "truth in advertising" on this one - but apparently eBay isn't terribly concerned about such things. Is this what you meant by "doing business with integrity drives our success", Jamie?

Is there any point at which CMO Andrea Stairs or anyone in her department who is responsible for these often misleading and ethically questionable marketing campaigns will be held accountable?

Where are Chief Compliance Officer Molly Finn and Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber in all of this? I would think they might have some concerns about possible violations of FTC regulations and liability for false advertising.

Finally, in another failed history lesson, eBay Ads is pushing a narrative about Reebok's amazingly successful partnership with a quote from Don Larkin, Head of US Digital Commerce at Reebok, "you know, eBay is invested in our brand and commercial success."

Reebok Is The Poster Child For eBay Ads?
eBay Ads highlights Reebok partnership & success - have they forgotten the Reebok eBay Feedback Fiasco of 2019?

Yes Don, and Jamie, those of us who remember eBay scrubbing literally tens of thousands of negative feedback from Reebok's profile after a pricing snafu are very much aware of exactly how much eBay has invested in their success - though reminding us about it may not be the best marketing strategy.

Vertical Strategy & Tech Led Reimagination

You've spent a lot of time in the last 18 months talking about your vertical strategy and plans for a tech led reimagination of the platform - how is that working out for you Jamie?

The vertical focus has been slow to expand, leaving sellers who aren't in sneakers, watches, handbags, or trading cards feeling excluded and forgotten.

Sellers Grow Weary of eBay’s Vertical Strategy Focus
Sellers are losing patience with vertical focus, calling it exclusionary. Is CEO Jamie Iannone paying attention?

The "vertical strategy" looks to me like a massive loss leader proposition with sellers in other categories effectively subsidizing these initiatives but not getting any significant added value out of the deal.

How about the magical tech led reimagination? Your competition is doing some really cool innovative stuff like the Etsy House augmented reality experience - what are you doing to keep up?

Does eBay’s Tech Led Reimagination Stack Up Against Competition?
Etsy’s new augmented reality experience draws a stark contrast to eBay’s somewhat tepid tech led reimagination.

We've been promised video in listing capability since Q1 of this year (a feature competitors Depop, Etsy and Poshmark already offer) - however, it seems stuck in the beta stage with very limited rollout in March and no real progress since then.

That's not the only new feature that seems to be stalled in production - it looks like a lot of the "work in progress" has ground to a halt since Harry Temkin left in June.

I've put together a release tracker to keep tabs on the progress of the tools, features, and experience you've promised - feel free to share it with CTO Mazen Rawashdeh and any appropriate stakeholders in the dev department.

eBay Release Tracker
Track the progress of seller tools, features and experiences as eBay’s multi-year tech led reimagination continues.

In closing, I have to say it's disappointing there has been little to no progress on improved seller relations or significant advancements in your tech led reimagination of the platform.

My previous offer to engage on these and other serious seller impacting issues still stands Jamie - you know where to find me.

Liz Morton ~ Value Added Resource



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