Saturday, 25 November 2006

CLD feed part one : Keeping up to date

You may have already spotted our Cheap Listing Day Calendar over there in the side bar, keeping you up to date with the crazy number of CLDs eBay have offered on their various national sites recently. So that you can get the news more quickly, and without even needing to visit us here, we're now offering the CLD Calendar as an RSS feed.

What's an RSS feed?

An RSS (it stands for Really Simple Syndication) feed is a way that we, and thousands of other news sites and blogs, distribute our content. Rather than needing to visit the actual site, you can use a feed reader to check the headlines and see if we've published anything new. This is great if you normally read a lot of different sites in a day: rather than needing to click through dozens of bookmarks, you can see at a glance who has new content, and view a short summary so you can decide whether you need to visit the actual site.

What's a feed reader?

A feed reader is like a browser, but for feeds! Feed readers check your favourite blogs and news sites constantly, and alert you as soon as they've updated, so you never miss that all-important story or bit of juicy gossip. Some of the most popular are Google Reader, Bloglines and Newsgator.

Our main blog content is also available as a feed, for all the eBay news you'll ever need.

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Trading Assistant (Trading Post) regulations tighten

Many eBay sellers source stock by acting as a Trading Assistant. Trading Assistants are experienced eBay sellers who will sell your items on eBay for a fee so if you don't have the time or have items of high value an experienced seller can handle the eBay transactions on a commission basis.

A Trading Post is a highly experienced Trading Assistant who provides staffed drop-off locations with regular business hours. You can drop by the Trading Post without having to call ahead or arrange a meeting time.

There is increasing legislation in the US with Florida joining Louisiana, Tennessee and Maine as the latest to start regulating Trading Posts and how they operate. The Florida Board of Auctioneers in their quarterly new letter said that Trading Posts should be treated as auctioneers, requiring their owners to be licensed. To become licensed involves some 80 hours of classroom work and a years apprenticeship so many owners of Trading Posts are stunned at the implications.

The ruling came as a surprise to both eBay and Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation who both consider an auctioneers license is not required for eBay Trading Posts. Red tape is increasing though, including the requirement to check any items with serial numbers against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's stolen-property database. eBay show little concern at Trading Posts being required to carry out checks for stolen property but do fight moves such as requiring sellers to become licensed.

In the UK draconian legislation of this kind is some way off - there are only a couple of Trading Posts in the country, but doubtless as they expand and new companies enter the field similar measures will be considered.

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PAYG research for eBay sellers

Do you want to check out a new stock line, find the average sell-through rate or the best day to list for your category or find out how a competitor is doing? eSeller Street is a new pay-per-search service which can analyse ninety days of eBay results: much more useful than the unanalysed fourteen days you can get from eBay's completed listings. eSeller Street is designed for sellers who perform fewer than forty searches a month: above that, eBay's own Marketplace Research facilities will probably work out cheaper.

One sample search showed me a lot, even in a category I thought I knew backwards. I know that Sunday and Monday are my best days to sell, and that Wednesday is my quietest, but I was astonished to learn that 1-day listings have the best sell-through rate of any listing duration, delighted to see that the sell-through on SIF listings is only 6% lower than auctions (I thought it was just me!), and intrigued to learn that one related category has a 50% better sell-through rate than the 'natural' one for what I'm selling. eBay's own advice to avoid "other" categories is bourne out with real figures, but Gallery doesn't seem to make nearly as much difference as I thought it did: 46% sell with Gallery, 40% without. (I sell beads, if you didn't already know: why not check it out for your own categories?)

Sadly at the moment, it's restricted to US categories only, but site owner Michelle Waldorf has given me a sneak preview of the UK service she plans for early next year. I'm glad, because this useful tool shouldn't just be restricted to US sellers.

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eBay introduce email marketing templates

We let you know about the increase in email marketing allocations back on the 14th and eBay have now released more features - templates and scheduling.

As well as the existing customisable layout there are five new designs to choose from along with the ability to schedule boilerplate messages to your customers. These can include newly listed and ending soonest so if you always list on a set day you can now have emails automatically sent to selected marketing lists.

There are some really cool features now available, such as the ability to automatically send a welcome email as someone subscribes to your shop mailing list, and you can schedule emails for events such as holidays, or times that you list special offers.

Here's an idea: How about always listing items on 99p no reserve on 10 day auctions on Thursdays and automating a "Newly listed email" for Friday morning highlighting the new listings. On Sunday mornings send an "Ending Soonest email" to prompt buyers to log in showing them the 99p auctions as they finish. If you don't want to list 99p auctions every week do them fortnightly and schedule the emails to be alternate weeks!

Email marketing is one of the least used features with only about 18% of shop owners ever sending one. With the ability to automate boilerplate templates there's no reason not to set them up and forget about them. The sellers that utilise them to the fullest extent though will be those that carry on changing the content rather than relying on the rather trite boilerplate messages eBay have prepared.

We highly recommend checking how many people have subscribed to your email marketing - they're waiting to hear from you!

eBay have an email marketing tutorial to help you get started and you can find email marketing by clicking Manage my shop in My eBay

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Got a lot

Friday, 24 November 2006

Safeguarding Members' IDs workshop review

Todays workshop on Safeguarding Members' IDs was dominated by discussion of shill bidding, with participants failing to be reassured by eBay's statement that they have invested in new shiller-detecting systems. Sadly, it failed to communicate any of the positive aspects of eBay's recent changes.

"Shill bidding going to ruin someone's Christmas" was one of the wilder statments made: just how, exactly? Shill bidding cannot push your bid any higher than you have bid. It does not leave you having paid out the entire bid amount with absolutely nothing to show for it. There were calls for SCOs to be discontinued, which would only cause the scammers to focus their attentions elsewhere. It's worth noting that spoof SCOs have been around for longer than real SCOs. Buyers who've been on eBay for a while may remember emails such as "I saw you were outbid, I have one just like it" or "I'm the seller and I have another": possibly that's where eBay got the idea of SCOs from!

Additionally there were concerns about not being able to add bidders to blocked bidder lists. With a limit of 1000 on the list this is not a practical solution, sellers should be using their buyer preferences more effectively. Blocking buyers without a credit card on file, or without a PayPal account cuts out most undesirable bids.

Concerns were raised that it will no longer be possible for the vigilantes to warn bidders on suspect auctions. However to do so is not only auction interference, but the correct action would be to report the auction itself.

The one lesson learned from the workshop is that eBay need to communicate the SCALE of the problem better. The workshop failed to communicate the extent of spoof SCO offers compared to the extent of shilling on the site, or even to throw a spotlight on the positive steps which have been taken by eBay this week.

Finally "How can I be certain that a seller’s Second Chance Offer is legitimate?" offers advice on how to check any second chance offers you receive are genuine.

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eBay cheap listing day strategy

eBay have redesigned the concept of the "cheap listing day" to prevent the site from being flooded with tat during the Christmas shopping season.

5p to list with Gallery is a saving for everyone, but is obviously a bigger saving the more expensive your item. A 15p listing fee gives no saving at all if you're listing something under £5.00 in value. It looks very much like eBay want to fill the site with higher ticket items; products with a price of £100.00 or more will benefit most from this next CLD.

It'll be interesting to see if sellers select ten day listing periods - almost the de facto standard for CLDs. That would have auctions ending on the third Friday before Christmas: right in the middle of office party season! A seven, five or even three day listing period for those really hot items would be a much better bet.

With eBay really pushing to make sure their shelves are fully stocked for Christmas shoppers, we're betting there'll be a least one more CLD before Christmas too: make sure you keep an eye on our Cheap Listing Day calendar!


Christmas 'Free Post' messaging to buyers appears on eBay

Following the disasterous start to the Christmas Free Post promotion which led to eBay extending the cheap listing period to include Wednesday promotional material has started to appear.

Emails are being sent to buyers (which incidentally also promote another cheap listing day on Tuesday 28th November). In addition the following graphic has appeared on the home page which leads to a search facility of listings with free carriage.

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Bored geek for sale - again

The "bored geek" who sold the chance for one lucky woman to go to Antigua is back, this time selling "a short break somewhere new and exciting over the Christmas or New Year Period". Sadly the Antigua gig didn't work out for him: "eBay took it offline last minute and I never found anyone to go with." We wish him better luck this time, and a very happy New Year ;-)


Brown-Simpson lawyer advises short auctions for 'confession' book

Thursday, 23 November 2006

It's easier to give

Feedback: we all love to get it (the positive kind, anyway). But leaving it can rapidly become a chore. How many A+++s do you want to cut and paste in one lifetime anyway? That's where Merlin Instant Feedback can help.

Instant Feedback can work in one of two ways, according to the way you like to leave feedback. It can automatically check your feedback and post positives for those who have left them for you, choosing from a selection of comments you input. It will also warn, via a heart-stopping screen pop-up, of negative and neutral feedback. If there are those for whom you don't want to leave any feedback - troublesome buyers, or those strange people who request no feedback - they can be added to a 'blacklist' and ignored.

Alternatively, manual feedback functions allow you to select from items paid for over a set period of time, either to leave them feedback or to email buyers asking them to leave it for you.

IF is unique in being a stand-alone feedback processor: all other similar products that I know of come as part of an auction management bundle, which are often costly, may not suit the way you run your particular business, and probably have a fairly steep learning curve. You can be up and leaving comments with IF in just a few minutes. And at just US$19.95 to download, it's money well spent.

Developer Jason Novak told me that there are more than a thousand eBayers currently using the software. Leaving feedback manually would take me on average twenty minutes a day, so in the two years I've been using it, that's ten whole days that Instant Feedback has given me back. Life really is too short to spend it pasting feedback.

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Missing 'Wish List' on eBay

I've been wondering why the brand new eBay express site looked like it had something missing....

Why are there two lines between 'Shopping Basket' and 'Your Account'? It was only when I looked on eBay that I found they've introduced a wish list facility.

It allows you to create up to ten lists of items you'd like and share the lists with family and friends, and of course you're encouraged to have lists for Christmas, birthday, holidays or any other occasion you can dream up. Then you just email your lists to the people you hope will buy you your gifts!

Sounds like a great idea, but why is it hiding on the UK site?



The prize for listing error of the week must go to the poor seller who started the bidding on his PS3 at 99c... only listed it as fixed price instead of auction. Oops.

click for bigger


eBay publicises Safeguarding Member IDs

eBay have started to publicise the coming changes to how User ID's are shown in auction bidding. Along with the announcement on the 21st they are also displaying a message when sellers log in

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from George III

PS See you at eBay Live in Boston!

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I wanna box vs National Sleep In Day

Very different to the UK the adverts feature real people rather than the UK's logo people. The adverts still based around the IT campaign now have a decidedly Christmassy feel to them... bar the last one which is based around National Sleep In Day on 24th November. Bearing in mind in the UK site maintenance is carried out on a Friday this seems like a great idea to me ;-)

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'Faster Refresh' and 'Watch this item' roll out starts

eBay have started to roll out the Faster Refresh along with the Watch this item link being changed into a button. Currently the button is only appearing on the .com site but it's expected to migrate fairly rapidly across all eBay sites.

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OJ Simpson's book available on eBay

OJ Simpson's book about the murder of his ex-wife is available to buy on eBay. Reports of the book's cancellation by its publisher claimed that eBay listings of rogue copies had been removed, but with bidding running into tens of thousands of dollars, it seems that one lucky winner might be able to read Mr Simpson's "confession" for themself.

OJ Simpson, If I Did It OJ Simpson, If I Did It

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Wednesday, 22 November 2006

BBC Watchdog delays answering PowerSeller concerns

Following on from the Watchdog program on 7th November this year the BBC are still being very coy regarding the content of the program. They have yet to come clean on how they purchased only a handful of goods from PowerSellers and yet 80% of them were counterfeit. I've bought a fair amount in my time and I certainly haven't had a problem. Having said that it's no great secret that eBay isn't as free from fake goods as it could be. There are buyers out there however more than happy to buy copies, so long as they know up front that's what they're getting.

Whilst it's against the law to sell counterfeits and morally wrong if you do not to state up front so the buyer knows what they're getting there is a bigger issue. As Dan Wilson pointed out they portrayed the issue to be a PowerSeller problem. The program was not a balanced and fair portrayal of trading on eBay in general, or with PowerSellers in particular.

I wrote to the BBC to complain, this is my first email and the BBC response:

Dear Sirs
Your watchdog programme tonight featured fake items for sale on eBay.

Whilst fakes are touted for sale (just as they are in many venues including high street markets etc), I am very dismayed to see that you specifically reported eBay PowerSellers as the culprits. As a full time eBay PowerSeller who sells legitimate goods on the site portraying PowerSellers as criminals is despicable. Yes there are a few bad apples in the barrel, but seeing as about 70,000 people in the UK make their full time living on eBay your reporting doesn't give a balanced view.

Professional sellers that are registered as small businesses, VAT registered, follow the Distance Selling Regulations and provide excellent customer service both pre and post sales do no deserve to be categorised with the few sellers who do hawk fake or counterfeit items.

I trust in future your program will seek to redress the balance.

Chris Dawson

Thank you for your email.

We are sorry if you felt Watchdog’s eBay investigation tarred all PowerSellers with the same brush, but in fact the programme made clear that most PowerSellers are honest. The ones selling counterfeits are clearly not the norm, but as there are plenty of them it was perfectly legitimate for the programme to question whether eBay is doing enough to stop them.

We can see no reason why traders selling authentic goods would suffer as a result of Watchdog exposing the rogues and in fact the narrative said that eBay was a good place to find a bargain, especially in the run-up to Christmas. However, when it appears to be so easy for unscrupulous traders to cheat the system it's important to look at whether the current safeguards are sufficient - and Watchdog’s evidence suggests they are not.

The programme made it very clear that feedback should be carefully examined for any negative comments about authenticity and demonstrated how to do that, so we are confident that legitimate traders with consistently positive feedback have nothing to fear from the story.

Thank you, once more, for taking the time to contact the BBC.
BBC Information

Sadly this is just a boilerplate response sent out to tens if not hundreds of people that took the time to write voicing their concerns. Of course this doesn't answer the questions as to why they portrayed 80% of purchases at random from PowerSellers to be fakes. Yes we know fakes are an issue on eBay - but the BBC has a duty to report in a balanced matter, after all we trust them don't we? Time to write again for clarification

Thank you for your response, however I feel it has not addressed some points:-

1) Were you aware that some 70000 sellers on eBay make their living on eBay and are professional sellers that are registered as small businesses, VAT registered, follow the Distance Selling Regulations and provide excellent customer service both pre and post sales. Why did you not emphasise in your Watchdog program that it is a very small percentage that are fraudulent?

2) It seems less than likely that four out of five items for sale on eBay are counterfeit - did your researchers specifically target products that looked questionable? How were the products purchased selected? Suggesting that 80% of items sold by PowerSellers on eBay are counterfeit is giving a very unbalanced impression which is what your program implied. Why was this allowed to be aired?

3) You correctly advised buyers to check feedback and specifically for negative feedback before purchasing, however you gave no indication as to the feedback of the sellers who supplied the goods that you purchased. Did you select sellers with feedback showing they had previously sold fakes and why did you not give the feedback information and whether previous buyers had indicated counterfeit items being sold or not? Your program suggested you were not expecting fakes but you fail to say if the advice you give to keep safe was followed when making your purchases. This in my opinion gives a very unbalanced program and I would like your thoughts on the matter.

4) Finally why did you not invite a PowerSeller to appear on your program to give their views?

I look forward to hearing from you
Chris Dawson

Not too hard a set of questions to answer you'd think, after all someone at Watchdog must know how they selected the products to purchase - they bought them and made the program. It appears though that the BBC is having a difficulty in finding answers, another week has passed and this is the latest from them which arrived today

Dear Mr Dawson

This is an update to let you know that we are dealing with your recent complaint but are waiting to clarify some points with other colleagues in the BBC before we reply more fully to you.

We will of course respond as soon as possible but trust you will understand that the time taken can also depend on the nature and number of the other complaints we are currently investigating. The BBC also issues public responses to issues which prompt large numbers of significant complaints and these can be read on our website at

We would like to reassure you that your complaint has already been logged and circulated in our daily report to BBC managers. We would therefore be grateful if you would not reply to this email and, in the meantime, would like to thank you for contacting the BBC with details of your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Wheeler
BBC Information

I'll post an update as soon as they have managed to " clarify some points with other colleagues" but in the mean time if you missed the program you can watch it here. Decide for yourself if it's fair and balanced reporting or if Watchdog are guilty of sensationalising the story. Also why is it so hard for them to answer four simple questions?

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Crimes of the week

An Army sergeant from Tidworth who was reduced to the ranks after selling an officer's Iraq War medal on eBay, has won his appeal against the punishment, despite a top judge voicing fears the issuing of medals for bravery had been "devalued" by the debacle.

A "greedy" insurance company worker who stole promotional vouchers from her employers for sale on the eBay internet site has escaped being sent to prison.

The software industry has claimed a victory against piracy after two men who sold pirate versions of Symantec products using eBay were forced to pay $100,000 (£52,000) in damages.

Leanne Mitchell, 22, logged on to her computer to find her eBay account details had been changed. She was stunned to find someone had used her account to make bids and had racked up £37,000 on electrical goods to be sent to Nigeria. Not great reporting on this one: the headline reads "EBAY CROOKS STUNG ME IN £37,000 SCAM", when of course Ms. Mitchell hasn't lost any money herself, nor was she ever likely to have to pay out for what the crooks had ordered. If you suspect that your eBay account has been hacked or stolen, this is what you need to do. And if someone asks you to send electrical goods to Nigeria, this is the appropriate response.

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Richard from eBay points out that it "helps to put in context how long ago it was if we reflect that the Tories were in power and Diana was alive." That's when gf-attic, the first ever UK PowerSeller signed up to eBay. As far as we can tell the sixteenth member of, he is undisputedly the longest serving PowerSeller, a badge he still wears today.

"I liken him to 'patient zero'," Dan Wilson (until recently long-serving Community Manager at eBay) told me. "Maybe not the first to be infected, but definitely the most important in terms of building the epidemic." Typically when a report on PowerSellers is run at eBay HQ, a simple check that it was successful is if gf-attic shows up at the top of the list - he's always there because he was first.

Other eBayers from that era still trading on eBay include suezeeq2, moondust, stephenfrye, tefster, roballsopp, baah55 but the first ever member of the UK site is thought to be cheshirecat

eBay are recognising the occasion by sending some special gifts and momentos to these pioneers. They not only had the vision to sign up to the then new website, but have proved their ability to adapt through the countless changes eBay have made in the interim.

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eBay to sell Chinese unit?

Internet auctioneer eBay Inc may sell its Chinese eBay Eachnet unit to Tom Group in exchange for shares of the media group. These rumours have been going on for nearly two months now, but slowly, some concrete information about the deal seems to be emerging. We watch with interest.


Celebrity pets auctioned for Battersea

Miniature models of celebrity pets - including the Queen's corgis and Paris Hilton's chihuahua - are going under the hammer in a charity auction. I can only find one auction, for Geri Halliwell's Shih Tzu, at the moment, but do check back later for this very worthy cause.



Professional boob Katie "Jordan" Price is planning to have her G-cup breast implants removed, and to put them up for sale on our favourite auction site. "I'll put them on eBay and I'll want a minimum of £1 million. I'll give some of that to charity."


Tuesday, 21 November 2006

CLD 5p with free gallery extended to Wed 22nd Nov

As predicted earlier today eBay has announced an extension to the Cheap Listing Day period to include Wednesday 22nd November.

For those sellers that went ahead and listed on Monday and Tuesday (whether unknowing they would be charged full fees or knowing they'd be refunded) it's a great bonus! Another day to take full advantage. For those that have held off they'll now be able to launch the thousands of auctions sellers have had on standby.

All in all the extension could be a blessing in disguise for some, with the longer window to upload auctions - never look a gift horse in the mouth (but this one probably won't bite)

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Safeguarding Members' IDs workshop 24/11/06 2-3pm

Following on from the announcement of the Safeguarding Member IDs Project due for adoption on next week, eBay are running a workshop on Friday this week at 2pm.

Whilst many eBayers are aghast at the possibility of increased shilling activity, it's a fact that a buyers bids can only be shilled to a level they'd be willing to pay, whereas spoof second chance offers rob a buyer (and in some cases multiple buyers per auction) of their maximum bid without them even receiving any goods! It has to be a welcome move to protect unsuspecting buyers from sending their money to scammers so bids over £100.00 on auctions will have User IDs masked.

On the subject of shilling, eBay believe they are improving detection and sanction offending members.

In the last several years, we've invested heavily in shill detection systems that enable us to proactively detect and investigate possible shill bidding scenarios with a higher rate of accuracy than ever before. Our systems collect more information on selling and bidding activity than our Community has access to, so we can detect patterns and identify members much more accurately.

The workshop looks set to be lively with those who are plagued with fake second class offers to their buyers celebrating, whilst those concerned with shilling will be vociferously voicing their concerns.

For those who trade on if the project proves a success they can expect the program to roll out early in 2007.

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eBay changing feedback system?

Earlier this year, eBay surveyed some users on possible changes to the feedback system. These would replace the current simple postive, neutral or negative choices with an Amazon-style five-point scale, rating accuracy of description, fairness of shipping charges, seller communication and so on seperately.

Unannounced, it appears that these changes are now being tested on the .com site.

To give buyers the opportunity to provide more details about their experiences, we're testing a feature in Feedback. We encourage you to leave detailed seller ratings, but during this trial period these ratings will not have any impact on sellers' Feedback scores and will not be shared with other users. Learn more.

Rate the seller on the details of the transaction.
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?

Note: Each detailed rating is optional. Rate the seller only on the criteria that apply to the transaction.

More news as we get it.



Safeguarding Members' IDs to roll in UK TV Adverts in the Cinema

eBay are really pushing the boat out with their new series of TV adverts. They're made it onto the big screen and have been seen in the cinema at box office hits such as the new Bond movie Casino Royale.

With TV, cinema and also newspapers such as the Observer featuring them those little logo people are working hard to bring buyers in for Christmas.

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CLD 20c Listing day on 21st Nov

Controversy still rages regarding the 5p two day listing period on With a fix delayed until Tuesday morning, sellers are still reporting they're unable to list at the promotional price. Meanwhile a 20c listing day is announced on for Tuesday 21st. Many UK sellers list on so this may come as a ray of sunshine as the debacle continues.

Meanwhile in Canada, Monday's 10c listing day is being repeated on Wednesday as many users did not get the heads-up email.

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Monday, 20 November 2006

"Cleavage doesn't have any discernible effect on bidding"

Catholic group calls for boycott of eBay

The International Crusade for Holy Relics, a Catholic organisation, is calling for a boycott of eBay until the site bans the sale of saints' relics. "Because the relics sold on eBay reminded me of a giant, Middle-Ages marketplace. . . . A relic is a sacramental — not a holy rabbit’s foot or good luck charm." said Catholic author Ann Ball.

A search on eBay today turned up several pieces of the True Cross, numerous Crowns of Thorns (including one complete one labelled "authentic"!) and some reliquaries containing relics.

There is no doubt that those reliquaries which contain human relics do contravene eBay's policy on the sale of human body parts. But I can't help thinking that, when the Church itself teaches the veneration of these objects, who can blame anyone for wanting to own a piece of the holy and powerful for themself. It has, after all, been going on for centuries.

eBay free postage CLD runs amok

If you've ever made a mistake and had a customer giving you grief, spare a thought for eBay 'Pinks' today who have had to face sellers on the community boards. Almost halfway through a two day cheap listing period, and sellers are still being charged full listing fees instead of the 5p listing fee including a gallery picture. "Free postage" will be the message to buyers this Christmas, but sellers who have opted to offer it have found their eBay invoice hasn't got the promised savings.

The new version of the Sell Your Item form has allowed some sellers to list automatically receiving the promotion pricing, but for those using the old version or listing tools such as TurboLister have been charged the normal price. Whilst eBay have been working hard all day to produce a fix they announced at lunch time that all affected sellers would be issued refunds.

The refund process will begin once the promotion period is over but could take up to two weeks to process. This could roll past the billing date for those who aren't billed on the 15th, which is bound to cause a little unrest with sellers overpaying in the run up to Christmas, but there might be a silver lining - those overpaying could land a windfall from the Seller Rewards program with their artificially inflated invoices.

This promotion is so key to eBay that they have even mooted the possibility of extending the promotion a day to allow listing for 5p on Wednesday of this week as well. An indication that eBay really are committed to making Christmas on eBay a good one!

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PS3 listings pulled from eBay UK

The British arm of auction site eBay has removed all listings of imported Playstation 3 consoles until the official release date in the UK next February. Allegedly. A current search reveals a few US and HK sellers with very short listing times trying to take advantage of the British ban, along with a big red notice from eBay warning buyers to "BUY SAFELY" and wait until the official release period.


Easier sniping comes to eBay with "Faster Refresh"

Coming next week to auctions on eBay will be the ability to refresh just the top part of the auction page so that you can watch the bids in those vital last few minutes of an auction when it counts most. This will save the whole page reloading and be a great new utility for all you manual snipers out there! Somehow using sniping software (and incidentally giving your eBay user name and password to a third party!) just isn't the same.

At the same time the watch this item link will be added as a button in the centre of the page for greater visibility.

A great couple of new features, along with more promotion of mobile eBaying which is rolling out across Europe

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The fight for Christmas shoppers

More people than ever are expected to shop online this holiday season, ... eBay, the online auctioneer, and Amazon, which sells everything from textbooks to pet supplies, remained the nation's two most-visited retail Web sites during last year's holiday season, but and came in third and fifth, respectively, ... [New, less tech-savvy online shoppers] care more about low prices and are likelier to recognize and trust the names of stores they know well, such as Gap or Wal-Mart, over online merchants like Amazon or eBay.

"What we've seen is that the demographics of shopping online have begun to more closely mirror America in general," says Raul Vazquez, chief marketing officer at

Getting an online-only brand in front of these cautious shoppers, and getting them to trust that brand, must represent one of eBay's biggest challenges for the next few years. The purchase of, a price comparison site which shows eBay merchants alongside other internet retailers, has to be a step towards this. To move forward in this new climate, they must turn themselves from "internet market place" to simply "the world's shopping mall".

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Safeguarding Members' IDs in Oz

The Safeguarding Member IDs project is a new approach to auction-style listings that offers more privacy for our members through changing how bidding information is displayed. Following intensive development and review, as well as Community input, we believe the Safeguarding Member IDs project provides the Community with enough information about the bidders involved in an auction-style listing for them to feel confident in placing a bid – without revealing actual User IDs. We're implementing this new system on listings with a high bid of $200 or greater, which is where we believe it can have the greatest positive impact. The bid information for listings where the bid is lower than $200 will display as it does today.

On the bid history page for each listing we'll replace member User IDs with aliases (such as Bidder 1, Bidder 2 and Bidder 3) in the order of their bids placed.
For each bidder involved in a listing, we'll display the number of bids in unique categories that they've placed, a range that their feedback score falls within (i.e. 10-49, for instance), their percentage of positive feedback, their length of time as an eBay member, and the number of bids they've placed on the item.
At the end of a listing, the winning bidder's User ID will be displayed on the item page. Please note: Sellers will still be able to access bidder information on their listings through the Bid History page and the My eBay selling table.

Originally available only on the US Motors site, the feature has now rolled in Australia too.

Traditionally, bidder transparency has been the single safeguard in place to stop sellers artificially inflating their prices by bidding on their own auctions. However, eBay now have so many back-office solutions in place to track linked account activity. These make it much easier to stop shill bidders, so that displaying the names of bidders is no longer justifiable on those grounds when fraud prevention requires that they are kept hidden.

eBay must take the line that reducing fraud peripheral to the site is the highest priority; and if a choice has to be made, it's more important to save someone from being robbed of hundreds of pounds than to stop a shill bidder pushing a final price up by a fiver. This move will certainly make fraudsters lives more difficult, and I applaud it.

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Why you should concentrate your sales on eBay - facts and figures

According to the top ten most popular sites in the UK are made up of search (eg Google, Yahoo, MSN) and community sites (MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia). Only one ecommerce site appears in the top ten and this, unsurprisingly, is, sitting comfortably in position three. The top ten is pretty stable and the next highest ecommerce site is, just missing out at eleventh most popular.

With facts such as one in three UK Internet users visiting at least once a month it's not surprising it's the most popular auction site for sellers and justifiably so as the competition just don't have the traffic. Whilst eBay performs consistently the alternative selling venues have varying fortunes.

Ebid saw an upturn in its traffic views in October which is likely attributable to the changes in Shop Inventory Format fees on the eBay site prompting sellers to try an alternative. Now in mid November this upturn has nosedived and looks more like a temporary blip then a permanent change of fortunes.

QXL jogs along with no great changes but with about forty visits per million browsers.

Tazbar, the new kid on the block, looks more hopeful but bear in mind it's early days. Having ambled along averaging ten views per million browsers it's skyrocketed to forty in the last month. (TV Advertising effect?) The real question is are all the views from sellers or do they have some buyers yet? Completed listing searches don't fill you with confidence.

All these sites pale into insignificance when eBay is thrown into the mix though. Alexa shows steady traffic, averaging some seven thousand views per million browsers confirming its status as the granddaddy of the auction sites. If you want to know where you're most likely to get sales put your money into eBay fees because the other sites added together don't even register as a blip on the horizon. If you do want an alternative your only hope as a serious seller right now is that your products fit Amazon's portfolio.

We often wonder what it would take for a serious contender to eBay, and the answer is traffic, and lots of it. Tempting promises of free listing fees simply serve to fill the site with items that eBay largely escapes except on cheap listing days. Sure it bumps up the number of listings on the site but then when a hard won buyer eventually arrives any quality goods are swamped by the dross. It doesn't matter how great a site looks, what counts is if a site can attract the buyers but currently only eBay is worth a serious seller concentrating on.

Is the marketplace big enough for a serious contender? Almost certainly yes and a monopoly is never healthy. Is there one out there? For the professional online sellers looking at return on time and investment the answer is not yet but maybe soon - only time will tell.

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Sunday, 19 November 2006

Why eBay was right to buy Skype

The San Francisco Chronicle interviews Meg Whitman, eBay's President. The changes to eBay's shop listings last year were responsible for the fall in their share price, she buys and sells on eBay herself, more female CEOs are a generation away. All cute, nothing very surprising.

Except down the bottom, amongst the implied criticism of eBay's controversial $2.6bn purchase of the online telephone system Skype last year, there's a rather telling paragraph:

We think in some ways that communication can be to the marketplace what payments was the marketplace. What PayPal did was it accelerated the velocity of trade in the marketplace. ... There's protection to you by closing that transaction online. But if it actually increases the velocity of trade on eBay or off, then our users are better off and we will ultimately be better off.

This, in direct response to the question, if you let buyers and sellers talk directly, won't they cut eBay out of the deal, signals a massive about-turn in policy by eBay, which in recent years has tried to restrict direct, off-site communication between buyers and sellers, encouraging trading partners to keep more and more correspondence on-site.

But it's more significant than that. Paypal are currently in the processing of rolling out their Paypal Virtual Terminal; just like a physical credit card machine in a shop, this will allow merchants to take credit cards over the phone. Suddenly, putting Skype buttons on your eBay listings looks like it might make sense.

Far from being the crazy waste of money it's been portrayed as, eBay's purchase of Skype turns out to be a truly forward-looking move by the company. A third of UK adults now have a Paypal account; it's a fairly safe bet that most of those accounts are largely used for eBay. But with eBay television ads bringing the site to the attention of an ever-widening audience, what are we to do with those people who just don't want to put their credit card number "onto the internet"? Easy: we give them the option to seamlessly hand it over to eBay merchants with Skype. Just as Paypal brought internet card processing to sellers who wouldn't otherwise be able to accept it, Skype will bring internet card purchasing to buyers who wouldn't otherwise find it acceptable.

Smart move, that.

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Are you turning too many buyers away?

As Christmas nears and the silly season for sales approaches it's time to review your Buyer Requirements on eBay. We've all had the customer we'd rather not, and eBay have given us the tools to prevent them from buying.

Some obvious options are to block buyers who are registered in countries that you don't ship to (though even they may temporarily be in another country and wish to buy locally), and buyers with a net negative feedback score or multiple recent unpaid item strikes may be undesirable customers.

Many eBay sellers have chosen to set a maximum number of items a buyer can purchase to prevent someone emptying their entire inventory. In the run up to Christmas it's worth considering relaxing this restriction a little as people may be buying larger quantities than usual.

Definately with eBay running TV advertising and new buyers coming to the site preventing new eBayers from buying before they register a credit card or open a PayPal account could be losing business to competitors who have less stringent requirements.

A review of buyer requirements could be worth a look, and if you've never set any before now is probably a great time to consider doing so! One thing many eBayers forget or are unaware of is that you can track how many buyers are blocked by the requirements you set. This is a handy tool as it gives a guide if you are blocking too many people and which restriction is preventing them from buying. Don't forget if you have certain customers you don't wish to block even though they fall foul of your normal restrictions you can exempt them from the blocks either direct from the buyer requirements activity log or on the Buyer/Bidder management page.

A quick change of your settings now could make a difference to your Christmas sales!

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