eBay Sellers Panic As Listings Disappear In Massive Outage

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay sellers were thrown into a panic early this morning as a massive site glitch caused their active, sold and ended listings to disappear for several hours.

Reports were pouring in with DownDetector for both the eBay US and eBayUK sites lighting up about issues with the app and website.

My account shows zero active listings when I should have many listings. They're just GONE. Certain pages will not load.

Sellers also flooded eBay's social media support channels and community forums with complaints.

The issue appears to have been resolved after several hours and sellers report they are seeing their listings again, but that does not resolve the brand trust damage caused by these kinds of technical failures.

eBay recently announced a mass layoff of ~1,000 employees, including over 100 software engineers in California alone, leading to seller concerns about site stability and use of AI for critical support functions.

The increasing occurrence of serious, business impacting technical issues on the site brings to mind another period in eBay's history that saw sellers, media, and even activist investors take executive leadership to task for their technical misexecution.

Ex-CEO Devin Wenig infamously said at eBay Open 2018 that technical glitches are "unacceptable" and really pissed him off.

There've been a lot of site glitches recently on eBay. What are you guys doing to get rid of them?
Here's the simple answer - unacceptable, unacceptable. And we're making a lot of changes. When you make changes there are times that things happen but that's not an excuse and it's not ok with me and this summer in particular there have been a number of issues that directly impacted sellers like people not being able to see their view counts and a few other things and it's just not ok.

I'm extremely proud of a lot of things we've done, I'm not proud of that and in fact I hold my team accountable and it's not important, it's an internal matter but, we made changes to people and teams because shipping product that isn't ready is not ok. It's not ok with me and it's not ok with my team.

So the short answer is it's not like we don't get it. We are making a lot of changes and I want to make those changes, we need to make those changes, but making changes and then having to back up and fix things is not cool and I totally get it. Most of the issues from this summer have now been remedied but I was pissed off.

Those glitches and other executive failures caught the attention of activist investor Elliott Management, resulting in a very public letter calling for substantial changes in their proposed Enhancing eBay plan (emphasis mine).

Elliott Management Sends Letter to Board of Directors of eBay
Elliott Management Sends Letter to Board of Directors of eBay, Outlines Unique Value-Creation Opportunity, Path to $55-$63 per Share
...As an online marketplace that provides a critical forum for millions of buyers and sellers, the efficient and effective functioning of the platform is paramount. Unfortunately, eBay has been plagued by technical problems and operational challenges for years...

...Fast forward to recent years and the platform still faces issues. In 2018, eBay sellers complained about countless technical issues including incorrect billing, lost photos, warped titles and many others. On this month’s end of year podcast, eBay senior management apologized to sellers and admitted, “This is a 2018 that we don’t want to repeat on a number of levels. And the technology issues that we have had with the platform is top of the list.”

We agree: The consistent reliability of the platform is central to eBay’s success, and management must do all that it takes to achieve it.

While innovative endeavors in new pursuits like machine learning and augmented reality are promising future technologies, eBay’s publicly touted initiatives in these areas will add little value if the core platform continues to have critical functionality failures.

Current eBay Chief Technology Officer Mazen Rawashdeh, who was Chief Infrastructure and Architecture Officer at the time, somehow managed to escape the wrath of a "pissed off" Wenig.

He was then promoted to Chief Technology Officer in 2019, after a brief period where he co-led Core Product & Tech along with Mohan Patt when Steve Fisher was being shuffled from CTO to SVP Payments "in order to focus on a personal matter."

Five years later and very little has changed - eBay is still plagued by technical problems and operational challenges and management is certainly not doing "all that it takes" to achieve consistent reliability of the platform.

Will current CEO Jamie Iannone face similar pressure from the board and investors to address these long standing issues and legacy technical misexecution?

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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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