My Love/Hate Relationship with eBay
In the early years of eBay, it was pretty exciting! People could sell off the stuff laying around their abode that they didn’t need anymore, and often, someone out there would buy it. Heck, I remember selling off a decorative olive oil dispenser that I thought was pretty hideous looking for $10. Selling something personally that had been gently used (or was never used) was pretty easy – you took a few pictures, admitted any dents or nicks, and you could do okay for yourself.
As a business owner, however, I have come to learn just how much I love eBay and just how much I hate it.
Here’s why I love it:
1. Customers! We reach a variety of customers who would not have otherwise found our direct website. There are a lot of people who absolutely love buying on eBay, and wouldn’t necessarily try to find the product they are looking for outside it. We are certainly grateful to be able to reach a whole new audience that way.
2. Search results! Listing products for sale on eBay gets crawled by Google-bots fairly quickly, which helps people who are searching for those products find us faster. This is great, because it used to be that it would take weeks to MONTHS for the little spiders and bots to crawl around and discover something they didn’t have before. “Oh hey look! Wellspring Trading has a new essential oil for sale! Let me add that to Google search results now…” As a smaller business, it’s key to be able to let customers know we have what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
Here’s why I hate it:
1. Mind- numbing set up! In order to sell something on eBay, you obviously need to list it. Going through the steps to list one item can be incredibly time-consuming and aggravating. Making sure you have checked the right boxes, put in the best description, given all the shipping details can be a slow, bulky process. Then imagine doing that for 100+ products. *sigh*
2. Fees! Sure, they have a right to make money, but their fee schedule is CRAZY. EBay charges a fee just to list something, whether it sells or not. If it does sell, they take a percentage – pretty high percentage, too – of the final price. Then, because eBay also owns PayPal, they get a percentage of the processing fee (and the percentage they take is higher than our other credit card processing company).
Oh, and get this – eBay encourages sellers to list items for “FREE SHIPPING”, saying it’s because buyers prefer to purchase when told free shipping. While that may be partly true, it’s really because eBay does NOT get a percentage off the shipping cost. Here’s an example… Say you sell a DooDad that costs $10, and it fits in a Small Flat Rate box from USPS for $4.95. EBay takes a percentage off the $10. Now say you sell the same DooDad for $14.95 and “free shipping” – eBay takes a percentage off the entire amount. SO, in order to cover costs, sellers have to INCREASE the price of the DooDad. How do they encourage sellers to list items for free shipping…?
3. Listing Visibility! Another part of their fee structure revolves around getting your product to show up higher on the list. EBay either makes you PAY for better visibility, or you will get it IF you offer ridiculous terms such as 24 hour turnaround on shipping PLUS free shipping. While it seems pretty simple to receive an order, pack it up and slap a label on it, there are times when illness or emergencies arise, or a product is a custom order job that cannot possibly be processed in that amount of time. We work so hard to get our customer orders out within 24 hours as it is, but stuff happens sometimes that prevent that from getting done. Which leads me to…
4. Customer expectations! Let me say that there are a great deal of WONDERFUL eBay customers – level-headed, reasonable, and just a joy to deal with. Then there are those special folks who do not read descriptions, or do not communicate with the sellers, or who are ridiculously unreasonable. EBay has made to so that sellers will get the short end of the stick a majority of the time. And these special folks like to take out their frustrations by way of…
5. The Feedback! Feedback is truly the most ridiculous thing about eBay. Sellers cannot leave anything but POSITIVE feedback for buyers, or leave none at all, but then you risk angering a buyer who is eager to see his feedback number go up (yes there are buyers like that). Buyers, on the other hand, can leave whatever feedback they want. Plus, there are detailed ratings they can give, on a scale of 1 to 5… here are the questions:
- How accurate was the item description?
- How satisfied were you with the seller’s communication?
- How quickly did the seller ship the item?
- How reasonable were the shipping and handling charges?
Except for asking about how accurate an item description was, the rest are DUMB.
Communication is now hindered by the eBay site. You can no longer email a customer directly through the site once a customer has made a purchase. You CAN copy and paste their email address, and email them through our own channels, but eBay doesn’t make the process simple anymore. Plus, if I’ve received their order and shipped the item in a timely manner without needing to contact the buyer about anything, communication is not applicable.
As far as how fast a seller ships should really be a pass/fail, and this is easily determined by eBay’s own system. Sellers are required to give a shipping estimate, and for most items it is within 3 business days. Most of the time products ship well before the 3 day timeframe is up. Ebay’s system updates with a tracking number as soon as I print a label. But then there are custom made products, such as massage tables, that take time to build, and we make sure the listing discusses the shipping timeframe for custom products. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a manufacturer to receive an order, build a table to spec from scratch, and ship it within 24 hours. Yet we’ve had customers mark us down for just that.
How reasonable were the shipping and handling charges is a stupid question to ask. Obviously the buyer thought they were reasonable enough at the time of purchase because they CHOSE TO BUY THE ITEM. We don’t make up shipping after the fact, shipping charges are included in the listing (or the customer can enter their zip code to get an estimate before final purchase). We also do not inflate shipping charges to try and make some extra cash – shipping can be very expensive, but we do everything in our power to have the customer charged actual shipping costs. There have been numerous times where a customer overpaid for shipping and we have happily refunded the difference. But for some reason, some customers feel we charged too much and mark us down. This also goes back to how eBay pushes the free shipping – customers believe we didn’t charge them anything and give us high marks, eBay makes more money, and we are left with less of a profit margin.
All of these detailed ratings affect what fees we pay eBay – consistently high marks in all the detailed ratings will rank us higher as a seller, and the criteria for meeting those ranks are incredibly difficult to achieve. Just a handful of customers who didn’t like that their gallon of fractionated coconut oil actually cost $18.75 to ship from New Jersey to California can cost us in the long run.
I can only hope that over time, eBay realizes the value their smaller sellers are to the eBay community. Just a few minor changes would make selling there so much more enjoyable and less aggravating.