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Is eBay Worse Than Early Sears Catalogs?

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the very-worst-except-for-the-rest dept.

Businesses 438

prostoalex writes "The New York Times claims eBay can learn a lot from the early Sears catalogs, which promised unconditional returns (postage paid by Sears) in case there is any dissatisfaction with the product even if the product behaves exactly as described. Apparently eBay is doing something right, but with no buyer protection, no seller authentication, and no desire to participate in seller-buyer conflicts, no return policy, can the business model be sustained?"

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After this long (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105082)

After being around this long, I have a hard time believing they're going anywhere soon. Their model can't be that bad.

Re:After this long (2, Funny)

sotonboy (753502) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105113)

Im surprised theyre still there not because of their business model, but because its not really that cheap. Often you see things selling on there for more than you would pay in a shop, with all the extra protection that gives you. Any shop stuff is definitely new.

Re:After this long (1)

quarkoid (26884) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105133)

> Often you see things selling on there for more than you would pay in a shop
I'm not quite sure what point you're making. Since it's not eBay selling the items, what difference does it make how much they cost?


Re:After this long (1)

sotonboy (753502) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105280)

As you can read above, I did not say ebay was selling anything. But they take a cut of the selling price. And if people stopped paying over the odds for unwarrantied stuff, ebay stop making money.

Re:After this long (5, Interesting)

Mattcelt (454751) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105158)

At the same time, however, Wall Street doesn't look at businesses in terms of natural progression - increase, plateau, decline. WS has an unrealistic expectation that companies will continue to have exponential (at at least unchanged linear) growth, which often causes companies to do things which hurt their long-term viability for the sake of short-term gains.

I liked Larry Page's (Google co-founder) take on it: "A management team distracted by a series of short-term targets is as pointless as a dieter stepping on a scale every half hour." Very nice.

However, there are a lot of things I (and many others like me, I'm sure) won't buy on eBay because of the lack of protection from the company. But I'm not sure that eBay should do this - the resources involved are purely losses; no revenue will be gained directly, only indirectly (hopefully) through increased traffic.

I think a better solution would be for a cottage industry to grow up (similar to Paypal or the escrow services already doing well b/c of eBay) offering transaction insurance or seller/buyer disputes for a reasonable price. If this business did well, eBay would probably purchase it the way it did Paypal.

Amazing (2, Insightful)

bnet41 (591930) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105160)

E-Bay has this great ability to avoid the fraud scandals that have hit their community. They always do a great job of getting the public to buy into the fact that they are just a marketplace, and nothing more. I am glad to see some changes coming in the AUTO's area though. It really doesn't suprise me, as the cars I'm sure make them a pretty penny in fee's.

eBay is worse than an African Bathhouse (-1, Troll)

Proctal Relapse (467579) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105085)

with no poppers in sight. CLIT represent, you have AIDS.

eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (5, Insightful)

bryanp (160522) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105097)

The closest real life analogy would be the proprietor of an exhibition hall holding a flea market. If you buy something crappy at the flea market from Joe, the building's owners aren't the ones you have a problem with. All they did was rent space and maybe some tables to Joe so he could set up and sell his stuff.

If you can't deal with this, don't shop on ebay.

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (4, Interesting)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105152)

I had this near where I lived, and one of the traders was selling extremely dodgy zip drives (all broken). Refused to give a refund, and threatened to break my neck (in front of witnesses) if I didn't leave their stall. Suffice to say the buildings owners are granted the license to hold such market by the local Authority, and took much interest in the matter, suffice to say money was returned and stall keepers dealt with.

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (4, Interesting)

phrasebook (740834) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105174)

If you buy something crappy at the flea market from Joe, the building's owners aren't the ones you have a problem with. All they did was rent space and maybe some tables to Joe

Yes they are. If they rented the space to Joe and Joe shafts you, then you can take it up with the owners that let him sell there (assuming they have some kind of policies for sellers). Same with ebay. And ebay has the means to implement more checks anyway. It isn't just a street corner.

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105208)

Maybe not the building owners, but the organizers of the flea market certainly have a problem if no one trusts the flea market anymore.

This IS a big potential problem for Ebay, and could easily limit their expansion if people don't trust transactions on Ebay. Something as simple as requiring sellers to accept credit cards on all transactions over $300 would go a long way.

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105239)

I want eBay to ban sniping at the last second. If someone at a marketplace jumped in at the moment I was about to hand over cash to a seller and grabbed the item for a little more than I was paying I'd flatten them. Unfortunately I can't do that on eBay. Unfairness rules the ebay roost

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105258)

I have't used it for a while, but I thought last minute bids added extra time to the auction? Or has this changed?

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (4, Insightful)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105292)

What's the problem with sniping? You're given X amount of time to put in a maximum bid you'll pay. If someone else wants to pay more, they'll pay more be it by sniping or not.

Say you want to buy a monitor. what's the most you'd pay for it? let's say $100. If someone snipes you at $101 that's not unfair. You didn't want to pay over $100.

If someone at the last minute pushes the bid up from $50 to $95, and you still have $100 as your top bid, it's not like they're suddenly stealing $45 from you. You wanted to pay $100, you won it for less.

The only problem I see is people addicted to the dramatics of bidding, by pushing up the price 50c at a time. If that game is part of the fun then... uhhh I guess it's what works for you, personally I use eBay to just buy things.

Bid your max bid first and leave it. everything is fair afterwards.

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (2, Insightful)

hkroger (666340) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105253)

Well, that analogy is not perfect because at the flea market you actually see the product you're buying and you see also the vendor. At eBay you see only some address and that's only thing you really know about other end.

That's why there is a huge risk when buying something from eBay.

And no, I don't buy anything from eBay.

Re:eBay is not a catalog nor a retail outlet. (1)

Cyberkidd (7793) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105270)

I have to agree with hkroger here. I am *very* leery about buying anything on ebay because of all of the fraud that occurs on the site. My gf recently had great lucking finding a pair of Lands End shoes on there that she's been quite happy with, but I still treat this as the exception rather then the rule.

Can the business model be sustained? (5, Insightful)

ites (600337) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105099)


Ebay is not a retailer. It is a marketplace.

Marketplaces do not need to be perfect, they only need to be better than the alternative.

Ebay is so much better than the real-world alternatives - small ads in newspapers - that people are happy to accept its flaws.

Not if someone better comes along (2, Troll)

ValourX (677178) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105101)

Well if another auction site comes along that doesn't use the borderline-fraud service that is PayPal and offers superior customer service, decades of business history dictates that eBay will surrender to it.

The hard part, as Slashdot proves every day with its uncensored comment system, is making people accountable for what they do online.


Re:Not if someone better comes along (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105175)

The hard part, as Slashdot proves every day with its uncensored comment system, is making people accountable for what they do online.
And as also seen on Slashdot, the only way to provide accountability is to have someone looking over your shoulder. So you get to choose between government Big Brother, or the GNAA.

Re:Not if someone better comes along (2, Insightful)

ValourX (677178) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105244)

Not necessarily. There is accountability and responsibility in hosting as well as posting. Recently I had the pleasure of reporting the GNAA guy to his ISP's abuse department because he posted to the comment section of my website. Unlike Slashdot, I will not pay to host that kind of trash -- so I recorded his IP address and contacted his ISP (Keycom/Keysurf) as did another person interested in tracking down this asshole. I don't know if we nailed him, but we both did our part to help police the Internet.

Aside from that, anyone who has a website with a public comment section has the responsibility to remove content which violates the rights of others. In other words if I post hate speech (which is NOT protected "free speech") the owner or administrator of the website has a responsibility to take it down as it serves no possible good and serves to harm innocent parties.

Likewise an auction site should do its best to eliminate fradulent sellers, and to completely disregard PayPal, a service notorious for robbing its users. If you don't believe me, see and among others. I personally have lost money because PayPal decided that they needed to freeze my seller account even though there were no chargebacks or other similar activities pending on my account.

If eBay were a responsible business, it would be making a lot of changes. As Microsoft has proved, being the most popular exempts you temporarily from being responsible for your customers' safety. I bet -- and you can totally call me on this -- that Microsoft and eBay and many other online businesses will all go down within weeks or months of each other. Internet consumers (or perhaps credit card companies or banks) are going to demand merchant accountability very soon, and the crooks that run PayPal/eBay and other similarly don't-ask-don't-tell online businesses are going to be in a lot of hot water.


Re:Not if someone better comes along (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105279)

Aside from that, anyone who has a website with a public comment section has the responsibility to remove content which violates the rights of others. In other words if I post hate speech (which is NOT protected "free speech") the owner or administrator of the website has a responsibility to take it down as it serves no possible good and serves to harm innocent parties.

How exactly do hateful comments do harm to innocent parties? Sure, it's crap and a waste of bandwidth, but I don't see how the GNAA crap can be equated to, say, beating someone. Or even calling them something in person to their face. Also, the law dictates that if you police the content of your forums in some cases, you have a duty to do it in ALL cases. So if you take on the duty of deleting a few messages based on their content, you are going to be responsible for ALL the messages on it. This may be fine if you get three or four messages a day, but a real busy forum with dozens, hundreds or thousands of posts every day is impossible to do this with.

As for doing your best to eliminate fraudulent sellers... Well, that's easier said than done. To start with, how do you prove that someone is a fraud when you aren't the buyer or seller in the transaction and you had nothing to do with the transfer of the money or the item? If I tell a friend "I know this guy who's selling a car" and I tell this guy who's selling a car "I know a guy wh's looking for a car" and they get together and are unhappy with their transaction later - how am I to know what happened and who is right or wrong or if there was fraud involved or not? I mean.. you're asking ebay to take responsibility for something that they can't possibly prove or disprove. And what happens when you start kicking users who aren't really frauds? Or if someone complains about another user and you kick them only to find out you kicked the wrong one based on information from the other person?

Really.. it is FAR EASIER said than done, man...

Re:Not if someone better comes along (2, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105186)

Well if another auction site comes along that doesn't use the borderline-fraud service that is PayPal

I still can't establish if folk really are having trouble with paypal. Sure there are sites filled with complaints, but most of the complaints seem to be folk who had a weak password, saved their password in internet explorer and someone else used it, or small organsiations where they shared the password and someone with access cleaned out the account.

Paypal has made cheap processing of credit cards available to the masses, and an awful lot of folk are using it every day. Are the number of complaints really that high in comparrison to the level of use, or is it just that a high proportion of its users know how to make websites and complain loudly in their blogs?

Re:Not if someone better comes along (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105204)

Grasshopper, just take a look at this appropriately named [] site for the answers to your questions. Why does Paypal suck? Click and read.

Re:Not if someone better comes along (4, Insightful)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105226)

I still can't establish if folk really are having trouble with paypal

I have used paypal for about 2 years now. I had one bad eBay transaction where the seller took the payment, then disappeared. Their e-mail address bounced, their number was disconnected, etc... Paypal "investigated" for less than two weeks, then gave me a full refund.

My father's paypal account was hacked by someone in Lithuania, who ordered a Raider's jacket. He was also given a full refund by paypal (turns out he was using a weak password).

I'd say given my experience with paypal that they're far from fraudulous, and will continue to use them. Much like eBay, their service beats the alternative by leaps and bounds.

Paypal... (4, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105246)

What usually happens in most of the "paypal problems" is this:

Person x puts money into paypal (with credit card usually)

Person x then pays person y.

Person y then (for the sake of this example) takes the money out of Paypal (e.g. to their own credit card/bank account) and sends the goods.

For whatever reasons, person x then decides to do a chargeback for the credit card (for example, if they dont get the goods, the goods are faulty or whatever else). Credit card company asks Paypal to pay back money. Paypal then freezes account of person y so that they can take back the money to pay the credit card company. If person y has transfered the money to someone else on paypal, even more accounts may be frozen until things are sorted out. But if (as in the example above), person y has taken the money out of paypal alltogether, thats when paypal will go to bank accounts, credit cards or whatever they can to get the money back from person y.

What we need is a new service similar to Paypal but:
A.backed by an existing bricks and mortar bank (to provide security and confidence that there is real money in a vault somewhere to back up your virtual dollars)
B.complying 100% with banking regulations
C.provides more ways to put money into your "e-account" (i.e. ways that DONT allow the service to take money from your bank account or your credit card without you specificly making a transaction)
D.provides a better way to handle disputes than "freezing the accounts of anyone who might be remotly involved and moving money around without permission"
E.operates worldwide so that everyone can use it (like PayCrud)
F.would not allow other services to touch the account without permission (so you could have a PayCrud account to pay people who only accept payment that way and have it linked to this account so that if something goes wrong, PayCrud cant touch it). Ideally, you would need to specificly authorized a direct debit (be it once off or recurring) before it was valid.

Course, even if such a service was set up, Ebay would probobly "prohibit" people from using it (to force more people to use PayCrud which they own)

I've posted this before (2, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105283)

your part c? netbank, as in will allow deposits from paypal, rejects withdrwals initiated by paypal..
no minimum balance, free checks, free billpay (with a caveat, if you stop using billpay, they charge you) open an account, fund with a low limit credit card and withdraw to netbank.. you can still get your token two deposits recorded to have the bank account 'verified'

Re:Paypal... (2, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105286)

Indeed. PayPal prohibits transactions from my area of the world (most, if not all, of SE Asia). This makes online orderingfrom many companies wuite difficult.

Re:Not if someone better comes along (2, Interesting)

jdreed1024 (443938) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105290)

the borderline-fraud service that is PayPal

See, everyone says this, but all the anecdotes are particularly short on details. I've visited [] several times, and have yet to see a definitive instance where paypal screwed someone over. I've seen lots of "I shipped item $foo, and the seller claimed he never received it, and PayPal stole my money". Of course, they probably didn't read PayPal's TOS which says if you want seller protection, you ship via a method that provides tracking.

Personally, I find that feature useful. I bought an item which never arrived. The seller tried to claim he didn't have to provide proof to me that he mailed it, since I didn't pay for insurance. So after two months, I filed a claim with PayPal and got my money back, since he failed to abide by their TOS. Then in retaliation he tried to report me as a non-paying bidder. It was later revealed that the item was returned to him for insufficient postage.

Personally, I find the biggest problem on eBay is the users, not PayPal. However, I agree that if another suction service comes along that does a better job for the same price, yes, eBay will suffer. But I think that'll turn out to be difficult.

eBay (2, Insightful)

SirRobin (164472) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105102)

The changing policies are a sign of the times. Nowadays, what eBay does is considered OK. I find nothing wrong with what they do. I would not want to be at fault for some seller's junk, either. eBay still does what it did when it started - to use the old saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure"

What can they do about it? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105107)

As someone who runs a large and successful (but non-commercial) auction site myself, I have to ask the following question:

What exactly is ebay supposed to do about it?

Seriously - what can ebay do about problem buyers and sellers? If a buyer or seller flakes out on the other party it's the buyer's word against the seller's. Putting aside the massive amount of man hours that would be needed to mediate disputes, how in the hell can you ever know which person is being honest or if they're both being honest and it was the shipper's fault or someone else's fault? At best, you're just listening to two people's stories and judging which one sounds more believable. That's a pretty poor solution if you ask me.

I mean... I know people complain about ebay and they complain about my site too. But just what exactly do people think we CAN do?! I'm not inside either person's head and I am just a distant third party to the transaction. I give people a forum through which to post, buy and sell with each other. That's all there is to it. I don't know them personally, I dont' process their money and I don't ship their item. How is the auction owner supposed to keep tabs on every aspect of every transaction with all of these parameters that are out of their control?

I'd love an answer, but I'll be fucked if I know.

Re:What can they do about it? (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105169)

Yeah, eBay does have their rating system, but the problem is, it can be so easily abused that it's not even funny. There are a number of sellers there who sell absolute crap, but are such consummate bullshit artists that they can convince people to buy this stuff and give them positive comments on their purchases.

That being said, there are far and away many more eBay users who are honest in all of their dealings, and will make every effort to get every transaction resolved properly.


Re:What can they do about it? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105178)

I'd also like to add that one way to deal with problem buyers and sellers is to leave bad feedback for them. If they screw you over, LEAVE THEM FEEDBACK. If they get enough bad feedback, nobody will deal with them anymore!

This system should be self-correcting, but the reason it isn't is that people are concerned that if they leave a bad feedback, the other person will retaliate. On my site, I've seen people with 2,500 feedbacks (ALL positive) freak out because one person left them one bad feedback. If nobody is willing to suck it up and leave appropriate feedback for a problem buyer or seller, then they're just passing the buck and letting more people get screwed over.

On my site, I ban people after their feedback ratio drops to a certain point in relation to the number of feedbacks they actually have. If more people would leave the bad feedback when it was deserved, more people would be banned. But since they don't, the system has no way of knowing the person needs to be banned. And without leaving the bad feedback, *I* certainly have no way of knowing that the user is a problem.

Really, if you're not willing to do your part - don't blame the auction site.

Make scams more difficult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105228)

For example, make it impossible to list auction that requires unverified money transfer-90% are fraud.

Re:Make scams more difficult (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105252)

The problem I have found is not so much with outright frauds like "wire me $500 for this $5,000 laptop!". The problem I've seen far more often (way too much) are users that suddenly "go bad". Users who are members of my site for weeks, months or years and have greate feedback records... then suddenly rip a bunch of people off all at once. Or people who choose to follow through on some transactions and flake off with other people. Of course, this isn't restricted to just my site - but even ebay. It's just annoying because you never know who will go bad. *sigh*

Re:Make scams more difficult (1)

lfourrier (209630) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105288)

and this is an excellent argument against TIA.

3rd party for insurance, etc (2, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105108)

It always seemed odd to me that Ebay wanted nothing to do with the insurance/escrow and buyer/seller protection processes, and allowed third parties to fill in that gap, while Ebay relies on the auction fees and listing fees, and on their massive volume to make a profit. They definitely should have provided a way from the start for a guarantee, but what are they gonna do for those jets and houses that come up for sale? That's probably what they were thinking -- since they can't really refund the money from super-large purchases, it's not really fair for everyone else. However, they could charge some percentage of the final auction price to provide a "guarantee" of sorts, which would be great.

Short answer: (2, Insightful)

alhaz (11039) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105109)


It's an auction marketplace, for crying out loud. "eBay" doesn't sell product. Comparison with Sears is apples & mushrooms.

Re:Short answer: (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105223)

Comparison with Sears is apples & mushrooms. Seems like the author of the article especially sampled the latter!

I may be missing something, but... (4, Insightful)

quarkoid (26884) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105116)

I've bought plenty of stuff on eBay and sold odds and sods too. Like most people who've done more than a few trades, I've been caught out and I know that some people who've bought from me didn't read the item description properly.

However, how is this eBay's fault? Why should eBay be responsible for my failure to check out the items I'm buying or the buyer I'm buying from? Likewise, why should eBay care if my buyer didn't read the item description?

Nanny bloody society.


Ebay provides (1)

djplurvert (737910) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105118)

A forum for buyers and sellers to get together. I don't see them as Sears, they are simply a conduit for a buyer to purchase something from one of the many "Sears" who sell on ebay. As a buyer, I do not think I am purchasing from ebay when I buy, thus, I make my own careful choices about who to buy from. As a seller, I don't represent myself as ebay, thus, I expect no trust benefit to come from the name association.

I've bought and sold a few things on ebay and on the net in general. Some deals have been better than others but I can't say that I've ever been burned.


Obviously... (1)

Thelonious Monk (667418) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105119)

It obviously us working. If anything eBay seems to be growing in popularity. People who don't regularly purchase things online use eBay surprisingly. I wouldn't say its hard, but its unusual to not know at least 1 person that doesn't use eBay.

Hilarious (3, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105120)

Look. Ebay *is* working. I don't care if it doesn't work in theory, it *does* and *is* working in practice. Yes, theres fraud, but theres fraud on the highstreet too (where there is also mugging, street robbery and car jacking).

no more e-bay for me (3, Informative)

cagle_.25 (715952) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105122)

At least not for the expensive purchases, where saving money might really matter.

I bought my wife a present of her favorite bubble bath on e-bay. When it came, it was somebody else's favorite bubble bath. I got in touch with the sender, who apologized profusely and offered to send the right stuff. It never came. And, I never got my money back.

My friend, on the other hand, purchased a guitar on e-bay only to have it be in far worse condition than advertised. He never got his money back, either.

My conclusion is to never spring big bucks for anything on e-bay.

Re:no more e-bay for me (1)

perly-king-69 (580000) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105164)

In what way did the system of feedback not work in this instance.

If the seller had less than 100% positive feedback then shame on you for buying from them.

I hope you left negative feedback.

Re:no more e-bay for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105217)

It's very difficult to maintain 100% feedback if you are a high volume seller. Why? because there are lot of kooks out there.

I once had a buyer give me a praise comment but "accidently" use the negative option. I once received a negative because "I failed to communicate" after the auction close, when in reality the buyer's email box was full and my messages were being bounced back.

Re:no more e-bay for me (2, Insightful)

Hitchcock_Blonde (717330) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105241)

"If the seller had less than 100% positive feedback then shame on you for buying from them."

Highly unrealistic. Those with 100% feedback, it is safe to say, will not always have 100% feedback. You can't please everyone all the time!

Re:no more e-bay for me (1)

perly-king-69 (580000) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105347)

Always works for me. Have bought/sold hundreds of items from many countries. Only use people with 100% feedback.

Re:no more e-bay for me (1)

iamcf13 (736250) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105168)

My conclusion is to never spring big bucks for anything on e-bay.

Yes you can.

Use a third-party escrow service (with possible reimburseable shipping fees).

Pass up auctions that don't use one.

Problem solved.

Um... (1)

31415926535897 (702314) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105129)

"with no buyer protection, no seller authentication, and no desire to participate in seller-buyer conflicts, no return policy, can the business model be sustained?"


eBay is wildly popular, continues to grow in ways people don't expect. Go check out their stock growth. While I know that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good company, eBay has had solid returns for the last several years.

If eBay can get away with not providing things like buyer/seller resolution up to this point--I'm guessing they can get away with it for a while to come.

Incorruptible (3, Insightful)

CleverNickedName (644160) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105130)

...promised unconditional returns (postage paid by Sears) in case there is any dissatisfaction with the product even if the product behaves exactly as described

So it was basically a free, rental-service for all goods? I can't see how that could be abused.

Basically, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105284)

During a certain blizzard in the 70's, the local Sears sold all of it's stock of chain saws so homeowners could clear the storm debris. After the clean up, most of the chain saws, used, were returned. Sears took it in the neck on that one.

But who are they going to return it to? (2, Interesting)

MikeHunt69 (695265) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105132)

I've sold some stuff on ebay and had two returns. One was a 4 disk set of the Alien movies, but the guy returned it about a month after buying it because of "dvd rot". Fair enough.
The second one however, was for an external camera for a mobile phone. They were selling retail for 75 at the time, but I got mine free with the phone. I sold it for 50 (most were going to 35) to a guy. I sent it out, then two weeks after he got it he said it didn't work. I had already tested it, but what can you do? Call the guy a liar? Well, I refunded his money and when I got the camera back, I plugged it in and it worked perfectly. What I think really happened was that he found out he paid too much and that the quality was crap and wanted to "return it to place of purchase for a full refund".
So after that episode, I simply put a disclaimer at the bottom that there will be no refunds and all sales are final. I try to be as honest with descriptions as possible so there *should* be no problems.

big difference (3, Informative)

dncsky1530 (711564) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105137)

Sears makes money off of selling products in their catologs.
Ebay makes money off of people listing items to sell.
The big difference is that Ebay makes money even if the products don't sell, Ebay has both an excellant business model and a huge market share, plus their just plain usefull

yeah, I was worried too... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105139)

But then I heard that Apple is coming out with iBay. It may be a little more expensive, it may take longer for items to come out of auction, and they may wrap the items in cool-looking packaging, but I trust that Apple will deliver an excellent end-user experience.

business reality (3, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105153)

hah! you mean eBay should be like the FAILED business models of UBid, etc. which carried the cost of storage & transactions itself? No, eBay would not survive; it is a forum for auctions, and the buyer & seller are responsible for their own ethics. If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

ebay (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105156)

Doesn't anyone read the comments about buyers and sellers? Isn't e-bay self policed by users sort of, what was that site?

No buyer protection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105159)

with sears you know who your buying from, and exactly what your getting (I'm not complaining about ebay, i use it everyday). However i recently bought a cell phon battery off of ebay, the guy i bought it from was a powerseller, and its been three months and still not battery. I cant file a complaint because paypal only responds to complaints about items that were bought less than a month ago. So really there's nothing i can do other than leave negative feedback, but that's not nearly as good as a refund.

Garage sale a better analogy (1)

stm2 (141831) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105161)

Ebay ir more a garage sale than a traditional store. On garace sales, all sells are final, as is. Don't like, don't buy.
It is riskier than any store, but you could get prices impossible to find anywhere else.

The problem with eBay (2, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105162)

is its very business model: I've always avoided buying things online (and also over the phone) because I dislike not having a real person in front of me to do business with. Buying something over the phone or over the internet is a socially deficient a transaction as it gets, and it deprives you of the all important face to talk to (or to punch) if you were scammed with your purchase.

And don't talk to me about eBay user ratings: these are a joke. These sorts of credentials are a joke even in real-life: as the saying goes, really good con artists can sell you a turd and make you say thank you and beg for more.

On the other hand, eBay brings sellers and buyers from the entire world together, and (more importantly), there's no lower price limit to what you can sell. So if I'm looking for Star Trek paraphernalia for example, I'm much more likely to find that miniature Klingon ship on eBay than from ads in the local newspaper.

So, several years ago, the choice was tough for me: avoid doing business with people online, or be able to find great things? So one day I took the plunge, opened a PayPal account and starting bidding on things. Net result: out of 50-so items I won, I never received 4, and PayPal still owes me $150 of *my* money they just don't want to let go of.


Great experiences with ebay.. shrug (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105298)

I took the plunge awhile ago - I needed test equipment for a small company, and I just didn't have the funds to get proper SMT rework gear new, refurbised, or otherwise. I bought several thousand dollars of items from ebay - most of them under $500, and haven't had a single problem with equipment or buyers. You can spot many of the suspicious ads if you look, and if something bothers you, pass it up.

One scam I hate is the shipping.. $5 items that fit in a courier pak costing $15 to ship? Please. Ebay needs to do something about that.

I've used Ebay exensively for car parts as well, and most people have been very plesant to deal with. I don't bid if something seems amiss, though. Even if I took a few hits, I'd still come out way ahead - I saved over $10,000 on the test gear I got, even after recalibration.

No, "problem" is with PayPal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105320)

PayPal has essentially positioned itself as the electronic equivalent of a cash transaction and you have the same protection of a cash transaction. That is, not very much.

Regular credit card purchase are different in that the credit card companies have more options such as reverse charging the merchant or charging high interest rates to cover losses.

What's common is both business models don't have them left holding the bag.

Re:The problem with eBay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105349)

Cost of being bitten by PayPal when trying to buy something from a seller in China: $60.

Cost of plane tickets to fly to China and buy the goods face-to-face: $600.

I think I'll keep risking it with eBay, thanks.

Feedback fills the gap (2, Insightful)

peterdaly (123554) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105165)

All the while, ebay offers something no bricks and motar person to person broker can offer. (Is there even such a business!?)


It's priceless. Any of the larger sellers have loads of honest feeback from purchasers. You can guage your own risk. It a model that works well when you understand it. Not only does it help the buyer, but it motivates the seller knowing that public feedback about the transaction will be left by the buyer.

It's a system that works quite well, regarless of a lack of a bricks and motar parallel.


Re:Feedback fills the gap (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105207)

The problem is that people who are screwed over often do not leave feedback, because they're afraid of retaliatory negatives. I run an auction site with about 30,000 accounts and about 5,000+ items at any one time. It's totally free and I've been running it for more than five years on my own dime and time.

I do what I can to deal with problem users, but I'm just one person. I have to handle maintaining the hardware and writing the software - I barely even have time for *that*.

It would be very helpful if my users would leave bad feedback when it was deserved. My system automatically boots people who are consistant problems but this is based on their feedback rating and if the good users are too concerned with having a perfect record of feedback to bother leaving negatives for the bad users, then it makes my job impossible. I can't very well say "I'm banning you for having perfect feedback, because I have heard rumors that you're a bad buyer/seller"...

*sigh*. I don't know. It's a difficult job. I'd love to find some logistics genius who could help me devise a successful system/algorithm for handling situations like this. I just don't have the mathematical background to come up with it myself.

Network effect and customer service (3, Interesting)

logic-gate (682098) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105166)

With the exorbitant fees that ebay charge these days, you would find a way to offer buyer protection.

What really cheeses me off about businesses that benefit from a network effect [] (like ebay) is that once they have their customers "locked in" there is no incentive for them to improve their business because it is very hard for competitors to challenge them.

On a sidenote, check out New Zealand's version of ebay [] . The interface is so much cleaner and easier to use. I'm surprised how e-bay can have such a crap, ugly interface and continue to operate as a successful company.

Re:Network effect and customer service (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105194)

I'm surprised how e-bay can have such a crap, ugly interface and continue to operate as a successful company.

Marketing 101 my friend: eBay tries to reproduce a garage sale, therefore their interface is carefully designed to be slightly hard to use, to make people warm and fuzzy when they find what they're looking for, just like in a garage sale.

Re:Network effect and customer service (1)

logic-gate (682098) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105229)

Yeah, but that doesn't explain why its difficult to use for sellers too. Logic should dictate that they would have a nice clean easy interface to encourage you to list things and a messy, eccentric interface to give buyers an authentic rummagey feel.

Re:Network effect and customer service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105234)

I compete with eBay. I have lots of users each week who open up accounts at my site because they are fed up with eBay. Sure, I don't have the customer base that eBay does, but I don't charge a dime either.

( []

In fact, I've been offering a number of features for a few years now that ebay has only now started to implement in their beta interface. It sure would be nice to have the funding to make a living out of this, though. Or - at the least - to generate enough revenue to improve the service and features of my site.

By the way, even ebay has advertisements on their site. After five years, mine is still completely devoid of any banners or ads or commercial tie-ins. And no charge to buyers and sellers either. 100% free.

Of course, that's the only way you CAN compete with ebay, really. If people wanted to be charged an arm and a leg, they'd go to the place that already has tens of millions of eyeballs.

Here, in .CH (1)

mirko (198274) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105176)

We've got some nice feature offerd by the Swiss Post :
By sending goods per "Nachnahme" (pay upon reception), both the seller and the buyer are respectively guaranteed to get paid or get delivered.
But it sounds like is a little fuzzier than, though. More traffic but also more noise.

Re:Here, in .CH (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105304)

Unfortunately, the post office charges a lot of money for this service in America. The fee starts at $4.50 for a $0-50 COD.

USPS COD Fees []

No buyer protection?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105183)

That's simply a false statement:
see here [] .

I't maybe not all you could have hoped for, but it's something.

PayPal does a reasonable seller authentication, arguably the safest method to pay for your auction.

Why do article submitters find it necessary to include false statements??

Re:No buyer protection?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105199)

btw. _please_ don't reply to my last (rethorical) question with a "your new here, aren't you". It's hilariously cute, but as original as smoking after sex.

What about buyer authentication? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105190)

As a long time seller, since 1997, eBay still allows anyone with a public e-mail account the ability to sign up unchecked. At least force them to enter a credit card or bank account number. ... but eBay won't do that since they profit on fraud. When a buyer with a 0 rating wins an expensive item and doesn't pay, the seller can only recoup listing fees and not the final auction fees. What a load of shit!

The end result is driving away the good sellers to category specific forums. If you want to list a musical instrument go to, a telescope go to, computer equipment go to the AMD or Intel forums.

Buyer authentication on eBay/listings credits (2, Informative)

adzoox (615327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105238)

You are incorrect. eBay and Yahoo auctions DO REQUIRE credit card registrations (now) - but that doesn't prevent anyone from multiple registrations. eBay DOES NOT profit from fraud either. It's bad public relations and turns people away. eBay DOES NOT collect ANY fees from an auction that you state you were not paid for. This is why they have the area in the "Non Paying Bidder" section for you to fill out:

Did you receive any money from the buyer: Yes ______ (amount) OR No

eBay then sends a confirmation email to that buyer where they have the opportunity to say yes they DID send money or no they didn't didn't send money. Not responding goes in favor of the seller.

Unauthenticated buyers is usually a SELLER scam and not a buyer scam. Many con artist sellers register their own bidding email addresses as well and schill bid in their own auctions - jacking up the price.

There isn't really a way beyond honesty that this "multiple" registration could be prevented other than by fingerprint. Which actually isn't a bad idea.

Since the post office and UPS receive so much business from eBay - I would think it would be a nice service to provide at both for a fingerprint scan that could authenticate email and registrations on websites like ebay.

I dunno. (3, Insightful)

Gary Yogurt (664063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105192)

I always thought of eBay as more of a venue than a store, sometimes it's a con's back alley and sometimes it's a friend's showroom. Either way the blindfold isn't removed when your package arrives, as described. (Or it's removed when you're alone in this metaphorical place and you start to wonder if anyone is still around.) I think people might be asking too much. I've only won about 35 auctions on eBay in four years, and I haven't been ripped off because I try really hard to research everything before bidding.

I mean, it's a bit like expecting the guy who owns the parking lot to pay for your broken flea market merchandise.

PS... (1)

Gary Yogurt (664063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105202)

I meant, "...isn't removed until your package...". Proofreading. Pssh!

Why buy on eBay? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105197)

In most cases one can get a better price and full CC protection with regular eShops (Hint:

What's wrong with eBay - a list (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105200)

1) People selling links to pyramid sites instead of products
2) Small groups of bidders buying things off each other to boost their ratings and add favourable comments before proceeding to rip off real buyers
3) People blatantly selling pirated software
4) Vendors promising to ship goods at cut-price rates from far-eastern countries - yeah, right 5) No facility to report plainly dishonest sales to eBay

List continued ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105248)

6. No credit or bank verification for new users
7. No option to prevent excessive negative or foreign users from bidding
8. No reimbursement of final auction fees if bidder doesn't pay

Re:List continued ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105285)

I wish trolls would stop posting the "no final value fee reimbursement crap" YES YOU DO GET THIS BACK!!!!

Re:What's wrong with eBay - a list (1)

MassonJohn (776171) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105259)

You can be fine on eBay as long as you stay away from all the crap. I have never been burned once, as a seller or a buyer. Be smart, pay attention to seller ratins, see what they've sold before, do they buy .99 recipes or do they buy $100 stereo systems. As long as you use common sense, and have a good business ethic you will never get burned or taken on eBay. Just my .02

I just wish.... (1)

Justabit (651314) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105211)

Yes, yes , marketplace and all that. I just wish they would do something about those bastards who didn't pay for the laptop. You know who you are, and when I get my hands on you why I' help me.... I should have known something was wrong with the address being in the Ukraine.

This is a really stupid question (4, Funny)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105216)

Ebay has been in business for over ten years now. They have been profitable for most of that time.

And the submitter is asking if the business model is sustainable?

Re:This is a really stupid question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105272)

I found great irony in that too. Last quarter they did the unthinkable and DOUBLED profits - FAR beyond analyst expectations.

eBay has immense growth potential - and as they grow and internet security becomes more mainstream - even MORE people will bid and buy there.

No, not really (1)

Pan T. Hose (707794) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105222)

Is eBay Worse Than Early Sears Catalogs?

Personally, I don't really think so. The question is basically: "Is an auction worse than a catalog?" and I strongly believe that the actual goods being sold and the quality thereof notwithstanding, an interactive, free-market, user-centric laissez faire, laissez passer community (capitalism) is not only not worse, but is in fact much better, than any single centralised catalog (central planning), let it be early Sears or otherwise.

Buyer protection not worth anything (2, Interesting)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105224)

I personally have had a bad experience with an ebayer recently... Luckilly I only lost 45 ukp.

I wanted a 802.11g card with a specific chipset (PrismGT), so having found a seller on ebay I bid and won the auction. The description of the item in the auction was very specific, quoting the modeul number, etc.

3 weeks later (nice speedy delivery... not) I received a package, which I paid import duty on since the seller was in the states, only to discover that I had been sent an 802.11*B* card worth under 15ukp (and completely useless to me). So I tried to contact the seller to resolve the problem - the seller ignored all my emails. I opened a SquareTrade complaint which the seller ignored. The seller's account had been suspended by ebay shortly after the transaction so they obviously had complaints against him.

However, the auction was paid for over PayPal and had a "PayPal buyer protection" icon on it, so I thought that I was safe... Wrong! I logged a complaint at PayPal, expecting them to refund my money and they said that the seller sending an incorrect item isn't covered by the protection.

So what it comes down to is that if the seller had sent me what I ordered but it wasn't quite as shiny as it was described, I would've been covered, but since the seller sent me something completely different to what I ordered they won't cover me at all.

IMHO the buyer protection scheme isn't worth anything and in the future I will be treating auctions covered by the buyer protection policy with the same suspicion as the unprotected auctions. As far as I could tell from the policy terms, I was covered, but PayPal (who are part of ebay) just weaseled out of it.

Buyer protection not worth anything/not true (2, Informative)

adzoox (615327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105255)

Eventhough Paypal doesn't like it and tells you that you can't - you CAN make a chargeback that is successful 99% of the time.

That is of course if you fund your transactions with credit cards which should ALWAYS do!

Re:Buyer protection not worth anything/not true (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105302)

How exactly do you make a chargeback? Presumably just send printouts of the original auction description and copies of the box of what actually arrived to the credit card company? Would they make a chargeback on such a small transaction?

Re:Buyer protection not worth anything/not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105322)

just call your credit card company - they will explain the process - it takes less than 15 minutes. Chargebacks for even $10 are worth it based on principle/integrity alone (at least for me)

If you are a Libertarian, yes. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9105261)

As in "We don't need no stinkin' rules" libertarians. Anyway, an iteresting test to see if libertarian rules and principles work in practice. I.e., can an unregulated market in effect regulate itself?

Authentication (1)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105273)

Apparently eBay is doing something right, but with no buyer protection, no seller authentication, and no desire to participate in seller-buyer conflicts, no return policy, can the business model be sustained?"

Every system is open to abuse of some kind (even well established banking systems - think phishing). eBay are at least taking some steps to protect the people that use its service (which is the only thing they sell - a service). AFAIK new users are required to provide a credit-card number, both to authenticate age and as an incentive not to rip people off. And some amount of user disgression is required - buying an expensive item off someone with low/negative feedback is a no-no, whereas you can be fairly confident buying something expensive off someone with lots of positive feedback that has sold similar items in the past. I've bought lots of things off eBay (including a widescreen TV) with no problems whatsoever. But I have been very careful to check feedback and use some judgement.

More machine than man (1, Interesting)

mrshowtime (562809) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105274)

Ebay's has two very big problems. It has grown beyond the ability to effectively police itself. Also, it has integrated way too many things into the eBay system. It's hard to maintain "We're just a 'marketplace," since eBay collects fees from paypal and ebay for processing the auction and processing the payment. It would be very easy for a judge (especially in a tort crazy state like Mississippi) to levy a judgement against eBay/paypal. What irks/scares me, is the fact that eBay and Paypal share ALL of your personal information with each other. They can cross check your bank account numbers, credit card numbers and your personal info. Plus, since paypal requires so much personal info (way more than a bank does), I shudder at the possibility of my accounts on ebay and/or paypal getting hijacked, or Paypal getting hacked. I guess what is scary, is the fact that eBay has more info on it's sellers and buyers, than most banks do on their customers. Plus Paypal outsources their "customer service" department to India. Lastly, if anyone has never been to or it's surely an eye opener. Paypal has always been, and will always be the achilles heel for eBay. The overzealous "limiting" of accounts, lack of true "seller protection," and the good old "Your account access has been limited, check back with us in ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY DAYS, and you might get your money out of your paypal account."

Resolving conflicts. (1)

Calz (154745) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105276)

In fact, eBay does work with a third party mediation company, SquareTrade [] to help buyers and sellers resolve conflicts. It's one of the services listed on eBay's services page [] .

Granted, like in most mediations this does not guarantee a favourable outcome. But if you feel you have been defrauded of something, most credit card companies protect the buyer anyway.

Re:Resolving conflicts. Squaretrade may be a scam (1)

adzoox (615327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105345)

I have always had bad feelings about Squaretrade.

Paying to have negative feedback removed?

If a negative is truly worthy of being removed eBay HAS TO REMOVE IT. Now - the catch is - what you think should be removed and what actually SHOULD be removed are different.

Either way, Squaretrade makes no mention that eBay will remove MOST negatives (that should be removed) on their own without going through the process of Squaretrade.

I have not had a successful Squaretrade case to EVER work out. (me: ADZOOX = 7 years on eBay & 8 Squaretrade mediations) It really just ends up a place where the other party who was typically unreasonable to begin with, posts endless diatribe and rants.

I have always believed that when profits/cash flow were low at Squaretrade, that THEY may have influence over buyers & sellers that have PAID to have feedback removed in the past. See this Journal Entry [] I made concerning the topic.

The deciding factor … (2, Funny)

Compact Dick (518888) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105278)

... is the jerk-worthy quality of the lingerie section [] .

One Satisfied User Here.... (1)

darth_silliarse (681945) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105281)

I've been an eBay buyer/seller for approximately 6 years and at no time have I ever been ripped off with no goods or money arriving. On the contrary, the users (myself included) I have dealt with have literally bent over backwards to gain positive feedback for themselves. I only wish eBay let you reopen old accounts as within the last year, because of inactivity, I have had a 50+ positive feedback account closed... oh well

Excelent article! (2, Funny)

becauseiamgod (559722) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105297)

Excelent article! Will read again! A++++++++++++++++++++++

LOL "ebay cannot be sustained" (-1, Redundant)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105313)

Whoever wrote the article is basically blind in one eye and can't see out the other. The author is saying ebay, a box-jelly fish, should behave like Sears, which is an elephant.

Sears, Roebuck & Company is a retailer. They sell products to consumers. Because Sears is the seller, it is up to Sears to provide compelling terms for buyers to stand out from the rest of the mail order, door to door and local store hucksters.

Ebay is an auction. They allow one person to sell something to another. It isn't up to Ebay to provide protections. It's up to the buyer and seller to agree on them.

eBay is the world's yard sale, Sears is a store (2, Insightful)

gelfling (6534) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105325)

That's a Big Difference.

eBay is basically the crap you don't want or need anymore or the stuff you stole that you're trying to get rid of. So we all lower our own expectations accordinginly.

Kinda like which is the last refuge for old/used/returned/opened equipment sold as new or something quite like that and you wouldn't really know it's crap until you read the fine print.

Anyway, eBay would be a lot better without PayPal which is really just a polite way to steal from you. They take a system that basically works well; credit card sales, and they insinuate themselves into the middle of each transaction in order to suck a few more dollars out of you. Which truly sucks.

Ah well you people made eBay what it is today. Enjoy.

you would have to be insane to use PayPal (0, Troll)

linux_author (691402) | more than 10 years ago | (#9105333)

- my take on ebay? never gamble more than you're willing to lose... - my days are over w/ebay and paypal... the preset limit allowed by paypal for credit card purchases was fine while it lasted, but after you hit the limit, you must allow paypal to link to one of your bank accounts... - you'd have to be insane to allow any company to link into your bank account! - until true credit card protection is provided for ebay purchases, the ebay/paypal method is doomed, as THERE IS NO PROTECTION AGAINST FRAUD!
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