Saturday, 2 December 2006

Threshers unintentionally enter the viral marketing space

What better on a Sunday before Christmas than to stock up your wine cellar. Pop along to your local Threshers and save 40% on your wine and champagne purchases up to £500 in value.

An initial email to suppliers that could be sent to family and friends has found it's way onto the Internet and demand has exploded! From November 30th to December 10th, Christmas really has come early for those that enjoy a drink. The news spread like wild fire with coverage on the BBC and papers such as the Telegraph.

This is just the latest example of what's known as viral marketing - the passing on of information to friends, family and colleagues not because there's any immediate benefit to yourself, but because the material is so compelling. Other viral marketing campaigns of note include Vauxhall VXR and GMTV's Toonattik. The most famous viral marketing explosion is probably the Hoover free flights promotion which made it into posterity with its own entry in Wikiedia.

It's a lesson you'd think companies would have learnt - companies like eBay use viral marketing to attract new buyers and sellers, but for Threshers it could be a costly mistake. The company says it should still make a profit on the offer and it's a great way for them to collect data on new customers as you have to give your email address away.... although there are plenty of free email providers for those that don't want an inbox of unwanted offers in the future.

The promotion coupon was published on the Stormhoek website and you can download your own and use it in Threshers, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Haddows and The Local Chains by clicking on the image below.


Better beta from Skype

Skype last week released the latest version of their software in beta, with some fantastic fun new features, and some very useful ones too.

Probably the most fun addition is Crazy Talk. This allows an animated avatar to appear to speak your words on screen, and, if you're using a webcam, to mimic your physical movements too. Don't want to bother putting your face on just to make a phone call? Who needs to when you can have a ginger cat or a baby to speak for you.

You can also play games via Skype 3: backgammon and Chinese checkers are available now, with bingo, chess, some other kinds of checkers, hangman and battleships marked "coming soon". Other extras like a sketch pad and call recorder can also be added: I've yet to test out the lie detector, but I'll let you know how I get on with it!

Moving on to tools with more obvious usefulness, SMS now works properly: perhaps it was just me, but it never did with 2.5. Skype "Live Chat" has great potential as a tool for just about anyone from businesses to bands, though the ones that were live when I went to look were the usual suspects: get rich quick, sex and religion. Nice to see nothing changes.

Skype 3 turns phone numbers into clickable buttons

But the best feature, the genius feature of this Skype release, is the click to call browser plugin. This turns phone numbers displayed on websites into buttons that can be just clicked to call via SkypeOut. With more and more customers abandoning directory enquiries in favour of cheaper sources of information, making finding the number to calling seamless like this has to be the way to really monetise the product with SkypeOut.

I'm seriously impressed with the direction Skype have taken with this new release. Now if they'd only incorporate some interoperability with other IM clients, my life would be complete.


Friday, 1 December 2006

Bill Cobb makes way for Philipp Justus at eBay

Updates: Executive Shake Up at eBay US

We're hearing that there's been a shake up at eBay at the top management level. Philipp Justus Senior Vice President, eBay Europe will be transferring to eBay Corporate headquarters in San Jose, California to head up US Business reporting in to high profile eBay veteran Bill Cobb from January.

Rumours broke late on Friday when German blogs responded to an press release announcing the move. Although no official eBay US source has confirmed the rumours, it’s expected Bill Cobb will retain overall control of the North American business which also includes eBay Canada.

"Justus has done great work over the last seven years to build our business in Germany and more recently throughout Europe. I am therefore delighted that Philipp is moving to our Ebay headquarters in San José, and I am convinced that he will have a equally strong influence in his new role," said Meg Whitman, eBay's President.

Executive changes have blighted eBay’s reputation with Wall Street this year. In particular, Jeff Jordan’s departure in the summer spooked analysts. Apparently this is not the only change in senior corporate management and we expect more news from eBay in the next few days. So far a successor for Justus in Europe has yet to be appointed.

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Deadly antiques for sale on eBay

In a bizarre segue, has noted that although no one knows where Alexander Litvinenko's murderers got the Polonium 210 that killed him, other poisons may be bought on eBay:

Last year, Lee Cantrell, a toxicology professor at the University of California-San Diego, published a study in the Journal of Toxicology documenting 121 eBay auctions of poisons over a ten-month period from 2003 to 2004. Of Cantrell’s documented auctions, 24 involved strychnine, arsenic trioxide and other poisons considered by scientists to be "super toxic," meaning a dose of 5 milligrams or less would likely kill a human if ingested. The other 97 auctions in Cantrell’s study were for less toxic, though still potentially lethal, products such as mercury, antimony and thallium.

A search of items available today quickly turned up an antique strychnine bottle with "not much trace of residue" inside. Selling deadly poison under the guise of flogging collectables: one has to ask, are these sellers greedy or just incredibly stupid?


School for sale

Protesters against an Islington school's closure put it up for sale on eBay yesterday. Teacher Molly Doyle put a £2000 starting price on the school buildings, car park and playgrounds in a spoof auction, part of a campaign against the school's transformation into a city academy. Sadly the auction appears to have been pulled now.


Manchester: one big hot-spot

Skype buttons expand into new categories

Back in July eBay relaxed the rules on livechat programs on auction listings allowing Skype buttons to be included on listings in a small number of categories. eBay have today announced an expansion to the eligible categories to include:

  • Crafts
  • Everything Else
  • Health & Beauty
  • Home & Garden
  • Photography

The sub categories of:

  • Consumer Electronics > Televisions
  • Wholesale & Job Lots > Antiques & Art
  • Wholesale & Job Lots > Baby
  • Wholesale & Job Lots > Consumer Electronics
  • Wholesale & Job Lots > Pottery, Porcelain & Glass
  • Wholesale & Job Lots > Sports Memorabilia

The complete list including the original categories can be found on the 'Skype for buyers and sellers' page on eBay.

If you don't already have Skype on your computer, now's the time to get it, because someone somewhere wants to talk to you! It's worth noting that eBay have yet to update their links policy to incorporate Skype useage on their site.

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Google Checkout buys Paypal's traffic

"It turns out [the company] does not have anyone you can talk to in real life -- only via e-mail," complained an unhappy customer.

Hands up if you can name the company. eBay? Wrong. Paypal? Wrong again. It's Google.

Google Checkout was supposed to be the "Paypal killer" - so much so that eBay changed their own payments policy to forbid its use on the site. But far from being the answer to the prayers of those hoping to break the eBay monopoly, the service has been beset by problems, with customers being charged multiple times, and merchants not being paid at all.

But Google's attempt to buy traffic by offering US$10 off a $30 purchase, or $20 off a $50 purchase seems to be paying off, with increases in traffic from merchants to Checkout which seem to be directly related to the merchants' promotion of Google's $10 offer.

Of course, Paypal too ran a "$5 new account bonus" promotion when they were just a start-up. Would they have ever achieved such popularity without eBay merchants and their customers? It seems unlikely that a few dollars will buy much long-term loyalty; convenience and reliability are much more likely to bring the customers back, and keep them hooked. The acid test for Checkout will come when the promotion period and the shopping season are ended. November and December can be expected to show all sorts of crazy highs for anything associated with retail: the real proof will come in February.

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Feedback changes announced at the Town Hall on eBay radio

The last Town Hall of the year was held yesterday in the US. This is a chance for eBay members to ask general questions regarding eBay and for the first time was broadcast live as a radio phone in. Feedback as ever featured highly with two main developments being looked at

26 minutes in the question was asked now that buyers feedback is removed if they don't respond to an unpaid item dispute (UPI) when will the same happen with sellers. Although no specific time frame was given it's likely that during 2007 sellers that fail to respond to item not received disputes (INR) that their feedback will be removed similarly from buyers profiles. This is rather more complicated as the INR process moves across to the PayPal site if that was the method of payment.

53 minutes in "What's eBays plans as far as forgiving negative feedback older than a year?" was asked. An interesting question and even more interesting answer

This is something we're looking into. I wouldn't get into the time frame but as we're now 11 years old and grown as a site and changed as a site this is something we're studying. I think this is the right thing to do as a seller has proved their worth over an extended period of time that this is something that we should look to retire. This is a live discussion that we're inclined to try and figure out for sellers and for buyers.

Eleven years is a long time to carry around a red blot on your copybook, and it is possible in the future these blemishes may be removed in time. Personally I can't see what all the fuss is about - no one is perfect and to strive for 100% feedback is an impossible aim. You can't please all the people all of the time so why not just accept that if you trade enough on eBay sooner or later you'll get a neg?

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Paypal "limiting accounts of PS3 sellers"?

From Digg, a strange tale of Paypal and the PS3 :

I just got a call from PayPal, they said they are putting a account lock on everyone who sold a PS3 or Wii.

This is bizarre even by the standards of stories that people tell about Paypal. Given that the poster seems unsure whether they've had a phone call or an email, I'm inclined to put this one down to poor communication on one side or both.

Nevertheless, if people who've previously earned and spent a few dollars here and there suddenly have thousands going through their accounts after selling PS3s for crazy money, who can really blame Paypal for thinking something dodgy might be going on? These are regulations designed to protect users as well as Paypal, and if my account suddenly had a hundred-fold increase in turnover, I think I'd want it security-flagged.

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Free SkypeOut credits starting next week

Starting next week Skype will be running a "Winter Days campaign" in some EU countries. To claim your SkypeOut credits you simply sign in to your Skype account and click a button. You'll then be able to use the credit for SkypeOut calls to anyone with a landline telephone.

We'll keep a watch on which countries are eligible for the free calls and post on Tamebay so don't forget to check back daily.

As an alternative Skype have an offer already where if you purchase a £10 credit you can get free calls to all UK landlines starting 01 or 02. Simply visit the skype website to get an account and start calling for free

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eBay scam gang behind bars

One of the world's most successful identity theft gangs are now behind bars, reports The Times. Using cloned credit cards, they defrauded bank account holders across Europe and America, buying up expensive electrical items and then selling them on eBay. They also used the stolen cards to pay cash into their own Paypal accounts, which was later banked.

International police forces collaborated to catch the gang, but in a move worthy of the A-Team, much of their evidence was lost when a handcuffed gang member managed to jump up to the ceiling to flick a power switch, triggering layers of encryption on the gang's computer system, which still defies experts' best efforts to decode it.

The gang is thought to have been in operation for more than a decade, though the prosecution relates only to the period June 2003 to January 2005, during which they managed to pocket more than £750,000. The true extent of their illegal operations will probably never be known, said the prosecutor.


VoIP regulations "may put lives at risk"

New regulations controlling access to UK emergency numbers could put lives at risk, claimed the Internet Telephony Service Providers' Association. The regulator Ofcom's proposals to further regulate access to 999 are, they say, "likely to discourage the provision of emergency access by VoIP providers". The full report is is available as a PDF.

An Ofcom spokesman said that "consumers should be aware of what they can or can't do on a VoIP service". Skype cannot currently be used to contact the emergency services.

Via The Register.


Skype in your Second Life

Skype Journal reports that you can now add Skype links to Second Life. I daren't start playing this because I know it would very rapidly take over my First Life: after all, I'm the person who had to apologise for being late for work because they'd sat up all night playing Monkey Island.

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Top Tips for Shop Owners

Secrets to eBay offers Ten Ways to Promote Your eBay Store. Most of them are of the 'so obvious, why doesn't everyone do it' type: it's a useful checklist to make sure you're promoting your Shop at every opportunity.

And in obedience to #8, here is my Shop, and here is Mountie's. :-D


Thursday, 30 November 2006

Final CLD before Christmas for, prediction of CLD for

So have a "Catch the last minute Christmas shoppers by listing an item using the Buy It Now Only (Fixed Price) format for only 5 cents this weekend" cheap listing day. As per our post on the 24th November, we're still predicting that as has happened the last three years that eBay UK will have a cheap listing day promotion the following weekend. It is almost a tradition that they have one giving just enough time for buyers to pay and the goods to be posted in time for Christmas. Get your listings ready because it's bound to happen!

Last year the final pre-Christmas CLD was on the 10th December. We may be wrong by a day or so - but I wouldn't put money on it not happening.

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Tazbar joins eBay in the fight against counterfeit goods

Regarding counterfeit goods Lee Markham of Tazbar today told me "the actions that ebay are taking in this area are good..... there will be many people who are in possession of stock who will be looking to get rid ASAP. therefore we all have to be extra vigilant"

Tazbar are well aware of the problem of counterfeit goods and are looking at measures to keep their site clean. Lee points out "It is easy for me to sit here and point the finger elsewhere. But I must say that if they were not allowed to come into the country in bulk then there would be less chance of them finding their way into the marketplace".

It's certainly true that if Customs and Excise could prevent the goods from ever being landed in the UK then sellers wouldn't have counterfeit stock to sell. From his days selling on eBay prior to setting up Tazbar he reflects "I was importing goods from China, the checks and rules I had to go through were extensive, (and they were only tents!) This makes me wonder how so much counterfeit product is available in the UK." Tazbar are working with their lawyers to establish new systems to further control the amount of counterfeit items that reach the website.

Whilst the problem isn't created by the auction sites it's good to know that Tazbar are as committed as eBay to eradicating fakes and counterfeits to make trading online a safe experience for buyers

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In brief

An xray of a duck apparently showing an alien in its stomach has been sold on eBay for US$9600. To the Golden Palace Casino: who else?

Ever wondered what happens to all the scissors and knives confiscated at airports? They end up on eBay, of course.

The Ministry of Sound have enabled clubbers to buy tickets through their mobile phones with Paypal.

An American student has tried to auction 2% of his future earnings on eBay in return for his college fees being paid. Sadly eBay pulled his listing as being in violation of their charity guidelines.


Free secure images for Paypal checkouts

Do you use Paypal checkout on your website? Unless you've paid for secure hosting, your customers are probably getting that annoying pop-up browser warning on the secure pages, asking if they want to display the non-secure items too. It gets on my nerves badly enough when I'm just printing out packing slips.

Now E-Junkie have come to our rescue with SSL Pic. Free, secure image hosting for your Paypal payment pages means no more browser warnings. No more browser warnings means fewer worried customers, and faster printed packing slips :-)

Via Paypal Developer Network.


Overstock have same counterfeit problems as eBay

In an open letter on the Overstock forums, CEO Patrick M. Byrne chastised sellers for their attitude to Overstock staff. Angry sellers turned on them over new measures bought in to prevent auctions with a buy it now price a couple of pennies higher than the starting price.

"Starting price $29.95, Make it Mine @ $30.00." Folks, that is not an auction, that is a classified ad. Our real auctions have disappeared under an ocean of such classified ads, which destroys closing rates for everyone.

In a sideways dig at eBay, he mentioned a "competitor’s environment where such behavior is tolerated", whilst naming and shaming the biggest offenders.

More interesting than noting Overstock are mirroring eBays move to give auctions a higher profile, is a paragraph hidden away in the middle of his diatribe.

We decided that our auctions of designer items were little better than the competition's. I know that the ethic of auction sites is to hide behind the claim that they are a neutral venue, and in a legal sense that is what we are as well, but from an ethical perspective, I am simply unwilling to allow Overstock customers, even those visiting our auctions board, to be sold anything fake. If this means that all the auctions business dries up, then that is what it is going to mean. No one gets to sell fake merchandise on Overstock. It's that simple.

It's good to see that counterfeit items removed from sale on eBay are not going to simply end up on alternative sites. All auction sites should take note of his ethic "If we do not know if it is real, then it should not go up".

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Steps to reduce counterfeit items on eBay start to take effect

eBay have made no official announcement regarding the steps they are taking to remove counterfeit goods from their site. They do however appear to be making moves to implement the unannounced program.

On the Community Question and Answer Board there are signs that suspect auctions are being removed. 'Trade mark misuse' was the reason given for the auction being ended.

Earlier today Tamebay browsed 1064 Louis Vuitton auctions to discover that almost all were listed by UK sellers. With some from Europe and a couple from the US there were only two from the far east, one with a picture of the receipt displayed on the listing and another with a promise to go to an official Louis Vuitton outlet to confirm authenticity prior to payment. The only other items were dust bags and a Louis Vuitton catalogue.

Browsing 1213 Christian Dior items in the clothes, shoes & accessories category reveals a similar story, just one bag from the far east from a seller of Christian Dior cosmetics.

Where have all the Chinese sellers gone from It looks like the policy is being implemented! eBay probably have a number of reasons for not officially announcing it such as not informing sellers how to get around the safeguards and of course with court cases in Europe and the US not wanting to prejudice their defence.

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Get it Fast in time for Christmas

Time to start adding Special Delivery or ParcelForce options to all your eBay listings. From tomorrow eBay will start promoting 'Get it Fast' to buyers in the run up to Christmas.

Get it fast gives buyers the option of a guaranteed delivery time on their purchases to ensure the gifts they buy arrive in good time for Christmas. Many will be willing to pay slightly more for the peace of mind knowing the presents they buy will be there for the big day.

eBay have a 'Seasonal Seller Guide' with tips on selling in the run up to the holiday period

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Skype: "out!"

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Moving right along...

It's hard to believe right now when I seem to spend every waking moment packing parcels, but there will be life after Christmas. Marshia Collier, author of eBay for Dummies, considers what the New Year might have in store for eBay sellers. It's US-centric, but postal increases are guaranteed in just about any country.

Realize that it’s not because eBay's a big bad company that wants to pilfer from our pockets, but they're constantly attempting to improve the site to make it the ultimate marketplace for online shoppers, and they need to cover their costs.

I'd take issue with this, though. eBay are a business, full stop. They're trying to make the most money they can, full stop. It's not about "covering the costs of improvements" any more than it's about "building community": it's about making a profit. Which is what sellers should be focussing on too.


WWW: what women want

Women will drive online shopping this Christmas outspending men for the first time, according to internet research firm Nielsen Net Ratings. Outspending men by just £7 but, in my experience, getting a lot more for her money, the average woman has probably just shopped a bit smarter, like doing her shopping on eBay :-D With UK internet usage up 10% to an average 11 hours a week, and some of the high street's best known names making schoolboy errors with their websites, this feels like a great time to be an eBay seller.


eBay Express Exclusives in the Evening Standard

Today's Evening Standard is promoting exclusive designer goods available on eBay Express. Five talented designers come together under the express*exclusives user ID and you can read more about them on the express*exclusives about me page.

Currently listed are a Charlotte Tangye footprint shoe rack, some Jethro Macey quirky flying duck hooks, Sylvie Fuller latte mugs, Leanne Rostron urban bone china salad plates and my personal favourites, Gary Birks' bone china cat and dog bowls.

Another designer exclusive to eBay Express is Lou Lou and Law. Ann Louise Roswald and Natasha Law have collaborated in a cool, relaxed line of clothing featuring iconic Law nudes and Roswald's eye for line, pattern and shape.

Great to see some superb items to draw the buyers into eBay Express UK.

Our thanks to Dan Wilson for scanning the above, click to embiggen

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Find your Best Match on eBay UK

eBay have brought a new method of sorting search results to the site:

Best Match allows you to sort the listings that you see based on their 'relevance'. The 'relevance' of a particular listing is based on past buyer behaviour, as well as the information in the listing title and description.

This means that what buyers do on the site affects the order in which listings are displayed in the future. If buyers who perform certain searches end up viewing, watching, bidding on or buying particular types of listings more often, then this will be factored into our relevance calculations in future.

With 75% of users of the site searching rather than browsing by category, figuring out how this one might work could be crucial for sellers.


eBay Express wish lists come to the UK

Last week we pointed out the missing 'wish list' on the eBay Express UK site. Someone at eBay must be listening to us because today it's appeared!

Go make your wishlists and email them to family and friends (and your boss!) and make sure they know what you want this Christmas. But don't stop there, create lists for your birthday, Valentines, wedding, anniversaries.... let your wish lists run wild and put an end to that present you didn't want but have to keep in case the sender comes to stay and wonders where it is!

If anyone is feeling generous you can see my own wish list on eBay Express UK.


Skype and landline in one handset

Dave from just gave me a heads up on a really exciting bit of kit! The first ever cordless Skype phone that does not require a PC and that can also accept landline calls.

The RTX SKYPE Dualphone 3088 allows you to connect the Dualphone base station to your broadband connection, and then you can talk free of charge with your Skype friends or call other landline numbers worldwide via Skypeout or as usual via your regular landline operator. Now you can have a truly cordless DECT telephone handset and make either landline orSkype calls without turning your computer on - I'm tempted to get a Dualphone for myself.

If you want to be first to own a Dualphone, have a special 7.5% discount for Tamebay, simply enter AYSCX982 into the coupon code when purchasing. This offer is valid until 10th December 2006.

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eBay top of the stocks

Financial bloggers Seeking Alpha have chosen eBay as number three in their all-time top ten tech stocks. They write:

eBay's stock chart is arguably the most impressive one for the reason that unlike other Web companies of the 1994-2000 era, its genius business model was clear and investors ate it up. Unlike many companies that experienced a stock market meltdown in 2000-03, eBay's income statement thrived, and it leveraged its balance sheet to acquire Paypal for $1.5B in one of the best Web acquisitions of all time which today contributes a growing share of its top and bottom line.

eBay is trading within a reasonable range of its all time high and considering the growth of e-commerce, its recent deal with Yahoo! and [admittedly expensive] acquisition of Skype, the company’s upside is considerable.

eBay also featured on the Top Ten Best Acquisitions list for their purchase of Paypal, and the Ten Worst Acquisitions list for Skype.

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Is it time Tony Blair got skyped up?

It often seems that anything George dubya Bush does Tony Blair does next. Well on a recent visit to Estonia their prime minister, Andrus Ansip, decided to give President Bush a Skype phone. Jaanus reports on the skype blog that it was a top of the range Phillips VOIP841 cordless DECT handset which can be plugged straight into your router. George doesn't even need to turn his computer on to make calls. If Tony gets skyped up too the government can save a few quid on our taxes!

Personally I use a Motorola ME4052 with a USB skype dongle. The advantage of this is that I can accept both land line and skype calls on the same DECT handset. It does mean I can only skype when my computer is turned on - but hey, it's hardly ever turned off ;-)


eBay in the news

Crime of the week: The defendants established business lines of credit with more than thirty businesses based on false and fraudulent financial information, and then used the fraudulently obtained lines of credit to obtain assorted high-end merchandise, which they subsequently sold on eBay. During the course of the scheme, the defendants defrauded more than 30 businesses of more than US$1.8 million.

Meanwhile, troops returned from Iraq will not be able to spend their Christmas bonus on eBay: Top brass were worried it was too much of a distraction, so brought in the ban across the MoD’s internet network. It applies to all 180,000 men and women in uniform AND 100,000 civilian staff. ... A spokesman said: "As with many other employers, the MoD does not allow its networks to be used for private transactions on commercial auction sites."

Happy Christmas from the Royal Mail: Devon postal workers are to stage a one-day strike next Monday.

eBay-alikes we like

An eBay-style website to auction meals at top restaurants will extend its reach into Edinburgh next month., which launched in Glasgow in March, now has more than 80 restaurants on board, taking in excess of 700 bookings a week. Registered users can use the site to bid for meals at top restaurants in auctions or haggle directly with the restaurants over meal prices.

Slivers of Time is an online marketplace matching up temporary workers with employers, allowing customers to sell not spare items, but spare *time*. Need people to cover your lunchtime rush *today*? Need very flexible working to fit around your other commitments? We think this is a brilliant idea.

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Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Steps to reduce counterfeit items on eBay

We're hearing from several sources that eBay are about to take steps to reduce counterfeit items on eBay. Steps will be introduced in the next week or so to prevent sales of items which attract fakes and scams which could include everything from designer clothes and accessories to the much sought after Playstation 3.

Steps are likely to include limitations on one and three day auctions, restrictions on cross border (cross continental) trade, reviews of accounts for sellers that trade in these goods and insistence on PayPal verification for those listing items of this nature.

We know that eBay have a number of legal cases in the pipeline (Louis Vuitton & Christian Dior in Europe and Tiffany in the US) and so are unlikely to comment on programs like Watchdog for fear of prejudicing their defence. However steps to reduce incidences of fakes being sold on their site can only be welcomed by legitimate sellers and buyers alike. It's worth jumping through a few hoops if buyers know they can trust you!


Virtually a millionaire

Ailin Graef has been playing an online game called Second Life for the past two years and become a real life millionaire. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. There's a digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Ailin Graef or as she is known in Second Life "Anshe Chung" has been playing since 2004 and built up a vast property portfolio.

Players of Second Life can buy areas of game land, for either in-game or real money. Anshe Chung earned an initial stake by selling custom avatar animations when these were a new feature of Second Life, and using this money she successfully became involved in the emerging market for land. Anshe Chung now owns several full servers worth of land, which she develops and sells on to other users at a profit and has amassed a fortune to the tune of 300 million Linden dollars the currency of Second Life.

What's the point you may ask? I'm beavering away listing and selling on eBay... what's the interest in a game? Well the answer is Linden dollars can be exchanged back into real money and at about L$275 equal to US$1 Anshe Chung in Second Life makes Ailin Graef a millionaire in Real Life!


Shell bidding

Two in five Brits on broadband

The Guardian technology blog points out that three-quarters of those who are online in the UK are now on broadband. This is great news: obviously, the faster the internet, the more usable and flexible it is, and the more frustrating it isn't. And as designers, we can finally begin to abandon that old, annoying question: "how's it going to load on dial-up?"

But as the Guardian rightly say, without absolute figures for internet usage, the statistic has limited application. According to the EU's statistics office, 57% of Brits use the internet at least once a week, with 63% of all households having internet access available. (Figures relate to the first quarter of 2006.)

While not the most-connected nation in Europe (that prize goes to Iceland, with a massive 84% of their tiny population online), 42.75% of Brits now on broadband is fantastic news for the UK's ecommerce industry.


Monday, 27 November 2006

Buyers eye - pollypuffle

buyer's eyePollypuffle (Carol, to those that know her) recently said about her customers "everything else and I mean EVERYTHING else is secondary - You don't got buyers, you don't got sales, rocket science it ain't!" and having recently purchased from her I know it's not just words. If you buy from Polly she really does put the "king" into "The customer is king"

sells furniture, and not just any furniture either, this is high street designer furniture at prices that have to be seen to be believed.

What I really love about buying from Polly is that nothing is too much to ask. There are no silly terms, starting from when you pay - Polly prefers credit/debit card by phone, but if YOU prefer bank transfer, PayPal or cheque/postal order that's accepted too. No surcharges or pressure to pay by a method that isn't your first choice. Unlike many sellers Polly doesn't have reams of terms and conditions to wade though. She tells you what's on offer, if you like it you buy, you pay and she delivers.

Talking of delivery if there's one thing I want once I've paid on eBay it's to have my goods, and in this Polly excels. Almost as soon as I'd paid she emailed me to see if I could accept delivery four days later. Four days might seem a long time - but bearing in mind I purchased in the evening and we're talking about a hefty piece of furniture, it was a fantastically quick three days in reality. Not only that, but it wasn't a "We will delivery on xyz day" but a "We could deliver if it's convenient". Most importantly, like the last time Polly
delivered to me, the goods arrived on the day they were promised (albeit yet again I answered the door in my dressing gown... I'm sure she does it on purpose!)

Like everyone what I love most about buying is when the goods arrive, and with Polly you can rest assured you'll be delighted! Your purchase will arrive in great condition - firstly her goods are brand new, secondly they're packaged securely and thirdly I don't know where she gets her delivery drivers from, but they're the friendliest I've met and carry on her ethos of customer service.

If there's one thing that's consistent about Polly it's the quality of her goods. None of the flat pack "only requires a screwdriver, allen key and the patience of a saint" stuff. Her furniture is - I was going to say assembled, but that's an understatement - handcrafted, beautifully finished and solid.

So what's the thing that Polly does best? Is it her products (which are fantastic)? Is it her couriers (which are truly superb)? The answer is no.... it's the fact that she treats you as if YOU were her one and only customer!


Wrapping with Esmerelda

Right on cue for the serious spendy season, the third eBay UK advert is now available for viewing. I like the message here that some of her Christmas shopping has already been done on eBay, but that there's still plenty of time to order more goods from the site. With eBay traffic up this weekend, lets hope the trend is going to continue.


Shit spelling sends charity auctions to the dogs

Sadly the celebrity Fleece Dogs auctioned on behalf of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home haven't reached great prices, mainly because no one could find them. Despite coverage on the BBC, the Sun newspaper and a mention on the Johnathan Ross show the auctions have fallen foul of eBays offensive items policy and don't even show up in View Sellers Other Items.

Only Geri Halliwell's Shih Tzu showed up in searches as the other auctions for the Blue Peter Dog, Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, Jenny Frost’s Dachshund, Zara Philips’s Boxer, and the Queen’s Corgis were hidden due to an unfortunate spelling mistake - "Shit-Tzu"

eBay have an (unpublished) list of banned words and sadly these auctions for a great cause were hidden from public view. A salutory lesson for sellers to make sure offending words don't appear in their auctions even by accident.

I wish I'd spotted this error in time for the seller to edit their auctions, but not to worry - for all you dog lovers out there you can donate direct to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home by clicking on the image below


Phishers on the phone

Phishers are moving from email to the phone to try to steal banking and other personal information. A new batch of emails purporting to come from Paypal give out a telephone number for members to call to verify their data. Other scammers have even missed out the email altogether: victims receive a telephone call out of the blue from someone who knows their credit card number, and wants them to confirm the security code on the back: clearly a way to get around this new security feature in the system.

"Hackers are moving away from the Web and using something victims are more comfortable with: making a call," said Paul Henry, vice president of technology evangelism at Secure Computing. [I *want* his job title!] "Consumers are programmed to enter in information on the phone. It's a natural evolution of phishing."

Callees and email recipients should beware: the phishers are getting more sophisticated. Many phishing emails now contain the recipient's real name rather than being addressed to "Dear valued customer" or similar. And, ironically, in an attempt to appear genuine, some phishing emails now contain warnings against giving your personal information to unverified parties: that, at least, is something the scammers have got right.

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Sunday, 26 November 2006 adverts in the Sunday Telegraph

They're on the TV, they're at the Cinema, they're in the Observer, and today they've made it to the Sunday Telegraph! Where will those little ebay logo people turn up next? Who knows! What we do know is that they're working hard to bring you buyers, onto eBay, for Christmas!

The bottom quarter of the front page, Home and Leisure section Sunday Telegraph

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Free wine offer from ParcelForce

Couriers! Which one to choose? which is most reliable? Which is cheapest? Lots of questions and just about everyone will have a different opinion on which courier is best to use.

Why not have a glass of wine while mulling it over with our offer in conjunction with ParcelForce? Simply open an account, spend £100.00 and they'll deliver a case of 12 bottles of wine to your doorstep*. Of course a few bottles of wine isn't a great reason for choosing your courier so read on to see what could make ParcelForce a good choice for you. If you send at least 5 UK items or 1 international item per week then you could become an account customer.


The cost per parcel is always negotiable on a courier delivery contract and it's no different with ParcelForce. Don't accept the first price they offer - get a price and then negotiate using tactics like "If you could lower the price below £7.40 I could put all my Special Delivery parcels with you as well". The larger the quantity you can ship with them the better the price you'll get.


Don't forget if you can ship one parcel a week Internationally it's worth opening an International account as well as one for domestic deliveries.

Fuel Surcharge

Most couriers charge a fuel surcharge and ParcelForce is no exception, don't forget to factor this in when negotiating a price.

Redelivery Cost

This is a charge which may be hidden in your courier contract. Many couriers will attempt delivery twice before charging it. Sadly with home users if they leave a card the recipient may not get it until they're home from work. The next day they telephone to arrange redelivery but by that time the parcel is out on the van for the second delivery attempt. When the parcel is eventually delivered the sender (you!) will be charged a redelivery charge. The great thing about ParcelForce is that they do NOT have redelivery charges.

Return Charges

Many couriers will charge you to return an undelivered parcel, some charge more for returns than the initial delivery cost! ParcelForce do NOT charge for returns.

Over water and Highlands and Islands surcharges

Couriers may charge extra for crossing water to destinations such as the Isle of Wight, ParcelForce do not surcharge for this. Many couriers including ParcelForce charge extra for certain areas of the country, the good news is that with ParcelForce you can negotiate a flat rate regardless of the destination in the UK.


This is something we hope we never have to use, but inevitably whichever courier you choose they'll lose a parcel or one will be damaged. Make sure that their insurance covers the goods that you wish to send, e.g. for glass many decline insurance coverage.

Redirects / Saturday Deliveries / Post Office collections

Selling is all about making it easy for the customer, and ParcelForce excels at this. If a recipient would like delivery to an alternate address (a neighbour or work), or on a Saturday they can arrange this and ParcelForce will bill them a small surcharge. You the sender don't have to pay the charge.

can delivery to a local post office and your customer can collect from there. ParcelForce are set up to make it as easy as possible to get your goods to your customers. If they're home users that are out at work all day collecting from a post office or redirects/Saturday deliveries are great options.


ParcelForce are currently the only courier in the country not to charge VAT. This is a great advantage to sellers who aren't VAT registered. Even for those that are VAT registered it still saves paying out VAT simply to reclaim it on your VAT return.

eBay and ParcelForce

Finally ParcelForce are the only courier which appear in the eBay shipping options. If you want to use a courier to qualify and appear in eBay Get it Fast searches ParcelForce is the choice to make.

Free Wine Offer!

So if you're looking for a courier or want to try an alternative why not give ParcelForce a try? Visit ParcelForce on their website or call them on 0800 413 501. When you speak to them or register on their website quote reference number 463931 to qualify for 12 bottles of wine* as soon as you've spent £100 on deliveries.
(*Terms apply. Closing date to open account 31st March 2007, account spend must reach £100 by 30th June 2007)

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Don't tell eBay but...

For those who are worried that the Safeguarding Members' IDs program will lead to an increase in shill bidding, there's an easy way to still see who the bidders are. Goofbay's regular bidder checker doesn't mess around with Bidder 1 and Bidder 2, but tells you who's really bidding.

Of course, last time Goofbay made it possible to see private bidders and view private feedback, eBay made them take it down. We don't expect this one to last, so use it while you still can.

And you ain't seen us, roight?


PS3 rip-offs for sale

Somehow, it seemed inevitable: a photograph of a PS3 has sold for US$840. While in absolutely no way condoning the seller's actions here, he has said twice in the listing "Please Note this Auction is for a picture of the PS3 system only." Don't people read *at all* before they bid?

Sometimes it's a little more obvious that something's wrong. Like seller #2 has stolen seller #1's pictures, so seller #1 fills the pictures with adverts for his own, off-eBay sales.

Screen shots in case eBay pull the listings; click to embiggen:

picture of a PS3 picture of an advert


Stolen Lewis Carroll letter found through eBay

A sharp-eyed shopper spotted a letter written by Lewis Carroll for sale on eBay, and called a friend, a librarian at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Sure enough, a letter written by Carroll to "My Dear Winnie" (the daughter of writer George MacDonald) was missing: they hadn't even noticed. Thanks to eBay, police were able to track the purchaser, who gave the letter back to the library. Police are now trying to track the path of the stolen letter:

"Tracing it back all the hands it has gone through since it left Yale - that's going to be the difficult part," said Lt. Mike Patten, a spokesman for the Yale University Police Department.


CLD feed part two : Spreading the good news

Yesterday we released our Cheap Listing Day Calendar as an rss feed so that you can stay bang up to date with eBay's special offers. Today, we're going one step further, and offering you the opportunity to add the CLD Calendar to your own site, absolutely free, and dead simple to do.

If your webhosting allows you to include files, then all you need to do is to use PHP, Perl, SSI or ASP etc. to get the file If you want to use CSS to control the appearance of the CLD Calendar, that's fine! The entire list is a ul with the class "cld-ul", each item is a "cld-li", and the links are "cld-link".

If your webhosting doesn't allow included files, then you should upgrade your webhosting you can use an iframe to include the same file (though do note that the main document stylesheet will not be applied to a document in an iframe. Sorry.)

One word of caution: sadly, none of these methods may be used on eBay itself: files included from off-site are just not allowed.

The Small Print

We are offering this service free of charge. No guarantees of accuracy or uptime are offered or implied. Our code remains copyright to us, and you may not modify it in any way without our explicit written permission. Play nice, people :-)

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PayPal push to get more accounts verified

It's always been a bone of contention for sellers that PayPal is the defacto standard when paying for eBay purchases, and yet so many transactions fail to qualify for seller protection. One of the reasons for this is large numbers of of accounts are not verified.

PayPal are currently encouraging more users to get verified with messaging in email news letters and incentivising them with entires into the "Win £25,000 on PayPal for Christmas" promotion.

Getting PayPal verified removes limits on the amount you can send and receive and for sellers can qualify them for seller protection with coverage up to £3,250.

It's noticable that more buyers are getting verified, and any moves to increase this number is good news for sellers.

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