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Assessing eBay’s Fall Seller Update

July 17, 2011

Back on Tuesday of this week eBay sent out its Fall Seller Update.  As a result of what these emails have meant the past few times they have been sent out, my immediate reaction when I saw the email land in my Inbox was to cringe and wonder what sort of damage would be done to my “business” this time around.

Thankfully there really doesn’t seem to be any damage (at least from a financial standpoint) this time around.  In fact, overall I would call the sum total of the changes to be quite beneficial, at least in terms of how they impact me and my “business” side of my involvement in the hobby.

Anyone who has read my eBay-related posts on this blog in the past will know my reviews of their policies that impact sellers are generally far from glowing, so please keep that in mind when you read what I have written today.

Below is a brief overview of the changes as identified by eBay, along with a quick examination of the effects the changes will have on my “business” and others just like it in the sports cards, memorabilia, and collectibles category on eBay.

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25 EXTRA characters in your title to draw more buyers to your listings!

Beginning in early September eBay will be allowing what amounts to a nearly 50% increase in item listing titles.  The intention of the change is to allow more keywords (the default for buyers doing searches for items on eBay) to be included in the title a seller assigns to an item.

This change is tremendously positive in my books.  At a bare minimum it will limit the need to use short forms or omit words that might otherwise allow a better description of the item up for sale.  In addition, it will also reduce sellers’ reliance on fee-incurring subtitles.  For once a change that may actually save me money!

Needless to say, I was pretty happy to read this to start things off.  Of course adding additional words to every single listing will be a lot of work, even for low-volume sellers, but a well-prepared seller should be able to benefit from this change almost as soon as it takes effect.

New protection for your US performance rating on eBay.com

This is a change that (to me at least) means there is finally some protection for sellers making its way back into the eBay selling experience.  Starting in August, any Buyer Protection cases filed for purchases made on eBay.com will not included in a seller’s count of open cases if the buyer did not attempt to contact the seller first.

Basically, some responsibility is finally being put on some of the problem buyers all sellers have likely encountered in their eBay experiences.

The gist of this change as it relates to me is that eBay is finally acknowledging that Canadian sellers are being unfairly impacted by some of their customers from south of the border.  Why eBay feels that the opinions of American customers should hold such a disproportionate weight in the assessment of Canadian sellers is beyond me, but at least they seem to be recognizing that there is a problem with that principle.

I can only hope that similar policies begin carrying over to low Detailed Seller Ratings in future updates so sellers have an opportunity to protect themselves from having the unrealistic opinions of some buyers trump the realities of buying and selling on eBay.

Keeping buyers on eBay

As experienced eBay sellers are well aware, the company been implementing changes that restrict any communication that occurs between buyers and sellers to the eBay system itself regularly for quite some time now.

That control on communication is being tightened even further starting October 1st, as sellers will no longer be able to submit new listings or renew existing listings if the item description includes an email address or link that eBay feels does not allow the transaction to occur “safely and efficiently on eBay”.  This latest change was really just an inevitability given the direction eBay has been headed.

Every single one of my listings includes my e-mail address, so each will require changes.  Thankfully I can edit up to 1000 items at a time with eBay’s Turbo Lister tool, so the impact on my listings should be minimal unless Turbo Lister somehow misses the edits that I input, in which case I could be in for a headache.  I do not anticipate that being the case, but only time will tell.

Savvy communicators will always find creative ways to get around changes like this, but it is certainly becoming more and more difficult to escape eBay’s grasp when it come to communicating with customers.

Meaningful return policy

There are a few of pieces of this change that are worth noting.  First, starting in August sellers will be able to specify “money back or exchange” as a refund option rather than being limited to choosing one or the other.  I have never run in to someone wanting to return an item, so I really cannot assess how this will impact me, but on the surface it seems to make a lot of sense in terms of allowing buyers and sellers some options in finding a resolution.

The second part is that beginning early in 2012, the option for sellers to require a return of the item within 3 or 7 days will no longer be available.  I see this as a way for eBay to stop abuse of the system by sellers who rely mainly on regular mail for delivery and return of items, since those sorts of turnaround times are unrealistic (7 days) or flat-out impossible (3 days).  If it’s stopping abuse of the system then I’ll have to consider it a good thing.

Finally, also beginning early in 2012, sellers will be required to include a cash refund as an option for any returns of items.  Again, I see this change as one that makes sense.  If a seller only offers an exchange, but has no other items that the buyer wants in exchange for the item they are returning, then what good is the exchange-only option to the buyer? And really, what good is it to the seller?  Annoying a customer is the last thing you want to do as a seller, because that annoyance can lead to low DSR ratings, or worse, negative feedback.  Requiring that the most obvious option in a return policy is included only makes sense to me, both from the buying and selling ends of things.

More buyers for your GPS devices

I won’t even go into this one since it has zero impact on my “business” or any other sports collectibles focussed businesses.

More buyers for your tickets

Same as above.  Zero impact on my “business” or any other sports collectibles businesses.

Category and Item Specific updates

This is where I tend to get annoyed by eBay and their ‘all of these great things are for you!” view on things in their Seller Update communications.  They always find a way to include some sort of incredibly vague blanket statement that in no way spells out the ramifications of the changes.

This time around they wrapped up the e-mail with this gem:

“As always, changes to categories and item specifics are included with the rest of the seller updates.  Look for updates in Tickets, Electronics, Coins, Computers & Electronics, and Collectibles in August. Find out if your listings are affected.

Translation:  ‘As always, there’s tons of other stuff we didn’t bother including here that will likely impact you, but it’s entirely up to you to find out what that stuff might be!’

Well thank you very much eBay!  Things couldn’t be any more clear, could they?!

I have fallen victim to not clicking that link before, so this time around I made sure that I did.  Thankfully I am not affected by the changes impacting the “Collectibles” category eBay referred to, but I am sure there are countless sellers who do fit in to the array of categories identified in that simple little sentence who might not realize the effect that link will have on their business.

Just once I wish eBay would lay it all out there for everyone to see.  Until that time comes, I will continue to be sceptical about every single thing they say in every single Seller Update they deliver, no matter how positive things seem to be this time around.

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How do you feel about this most recent eBay Seller Update?  Let me know if you feel as good about things as I do, or if you think I should rein in my optimism based on something I might have overlooked.  Leave a comment, e-mail me at bb_bros@hotmail.com, or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.

Until Wednesday, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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