Saturday, 27 January 2007

Virtual property banned from eBay

Gamers, beware: eBay is now delisting all auctions for 'virtual artifacts' from the site. This includes currency, items, and accounts/characters used in MMORPGs, as well as Neopoints used in Neopets.

This isn't a new policy by eBay: such items are very likely to fall foul of the rules on digitally delivered goods, particularly as ownership of such items is questionable at best. "For the overall health of the marketplace", said an eBay spokesman, it was felt best to ban such items altogether, though once more, this policy has not been highlighted by any announcement from the company.

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Friday, 26 January 2007

Town Hall : more feedback changes to come?

Last night's eBay Town Hall was not so much about the new, as communicating eBay's conviction that all their recent changes were great, and that members who are complaining are completely in the minority. Seller concerns about the unintented effects of the anti-counterfeiting policy, for example, were dismissed in half a sentence: "we know we're impacting some sellers but..." Butt is exactly where Bill Cobb needs to get his head out of if he's going to keep sellers onside with that one.

After sixteen minutes of riffing with Griff, we finally got onto some real questions. Predictably, changes to feedback were a feature, and it seems that the recently announced "Feedback 2.0" is not the end of the changes. Matt, "resident Town Hall trust and safety guy", commented that:

With feedback 2.0, if a buyer rates a seller low on accuracy of item description, say a 1 or a 2 on a scale from 1 to 5, we're actually going to pop up another question that asks why, and one of the possibilities is was it a counterfeit or was it a fake.

And that's a good idea: you might even start to sell me on Feedback 2.0 like that. Assuming, of course, that eBay have the support staff to investigate.

Over the last few days, several sellers have said, some in jest and some not, that they would like the ability to rate buyers as they themselves will be rated. This had mixed reactions from the Town Hall panel, with some pointing out that it would make eBay unique on the internet, as buyers are almost never rated by merchants: whether this in itself would raise eBay's appeal was also a matter for debate. But the thought of "a gold dollar bill sign next to a buyer that pays fast" appealed to some, and we were promised more than once that "everything is on the table": looks like this is not the end of feedback changes.

Policies against excessive shipping and handling also look set to change: "we are all over the shipping issue, but it's more complicated than we thought." No kidding: the policy was a sledgehammer when first implemented, so let's hope this promises something a little more subtle.

And finally, unlikely as it seems, a call to promote eBay Stores (Shops in the UK) more prominently, met with apparent approval from the Cobbster: "good idea, I'll take that back to the Stores team". Fingers, as ever, crossed.

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Move over Lumberton NJ, here comes the UK

It's official, the UK are the biggest eBayers in the world, with over £50 per head of population spent on the site annually. Last November, eBay launched a US wide search to find the most active eBay community and Lumberton, New Jersey was declared the winner. Now however the two biggest eBay communities - the US and Germany - are lagging behind the UK in market penetration.

It's easy to bring in good results when you have a large territory to cover, although is actually growing more slowly, 17% growth compared with 32% growth internationally. The small size of the UK market in comparison to the US, shows we're actually leading the way for the other eBay marketplaces to follow.

It's just a shame that eBay persist in treating the UK site as a test bed for


Auction extensions banned on eBay UK?

Actionbytes reported earlier this week that auction extensions were to be banned on This practise, whereby sellers list for the shortest time period possible, and then extend auctions with no bids, gains extra exposure at no extra cost. Several tools are available to sellers to do this automatically.

Though there has still been no official announcement for any of eBay's sites about this change in policy (I think I may have said that once or twice before...), sellers are now reporting that revision tools are no longer working. Those who rely on this method to gain extra exposure for their items need to think again, and fast.

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Thursday, 25 January 2007

IQ? Check out your TQ (Technology Quotient)

PayPal Surveyed 1000 adults and found them worryingly oblivious to the latest technology and gadgets. One in three UK adults are still grappling with the complexities of programming their video recorder whereas toddlers seem to be pre-programmed at birth to press a few buttons and play their teletubbies tape. When you move to DVD recorders close to four in five adults are baffled by the controls.

Mobile phones are another no go area with most adults settling for the ability to make phone calls, send text messages, use the camera and surprisingly the mobile is the modern alarm clock!

Neil Edwards, of online payments service PayPal, which commissioned the survey of 1,000 adults, said: "It's a worrying sign for Britain that so many of us are baffled and, therefore, turned off by technology.

Following the survey PayPal have set up a new website where you can test your "TQ". A baffling array of multiple choice answers will answer the question "What is your TQ?".

When you complete the test you'll automatically be entered into a draw for a Video iPod. The big question if you win, is will you be able to figure out how to use it?

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Things that make you go "eww"

Actress Lindsay Lohan was so worried that her removed appendix would be sold on eBay that she's kept it in her freezer. Now apparently Kimberly Stewart, daughter of singer Rod and a close friend of Lohan's, is trying to persuade her to auction it for charity herself.

Obviously Ms. Stewart isn't familiar with eBay's ban on the sale of human body parts, nor with any kind of good taste.


eBay promise more off site links in search results

We reported links appearing in search results promoting sales on eBay's rival Amazon back at the begining of December. Now eBay are promising more off site links in the form of Google text adverts on search results driving yet more buyers off the eBay site.

Testing will commence on and for Google ads, supposedly in searches where few results appear on eBay. It does make sense that if a buyer can't find what they're looking for on eBay that they're directed to another site where they can purchase, but concerns have been voiced where a buyer can legitimately claim to have made a purchase clicking on a link on eBay but are directed to an off eBay site. advert on eBay

eBay have in the past educated buyers that the only safe way to purchase is to keep their transaction "on eBay" and now in a sea change they are to encourage buyers to leave eBay and purchase on alternative sites, and in many cases from eBay's competitors. Even worse having seen some of the results from adverts buyers are directed to minor websites with no large company backing and no recourse for assistance if a transaction goes bad.

eBay should consider very carefully how the legitimacy of a safe marketplace could be undermined by buyers being directed elsewhere. There are enough stories where buyers complain they purchased on eBay but it was a spoof site, or they took the transaction off eBay, now eBay are going to encourage them to do so.

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Designer shoes for $9.99 No Reserve on eBay

The The collections at WSA Show in Las Vegas is giving a once in a life time opportunity to bag a bargain set of designer shoes - they're going to auction 200 pairs to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, all have been donated by the show's exhibitors.

The WSA is a show held twice a year in Las Vegas for footwear, handbags and accessories - a veritable shoppers paradise! Items to be auctions are from designers such as Angeleigh Anastasio, Anne Klein New York, Bettye Muller, Constanca Basto, Detny by Shane & Shawn, Georgina Goodman, Harrys of London, Michael Kors, Missoni, Ralph Lauren, and Stuart Weitzman, to name a few. The auction will also feature men's shoes from A. Testoni, JShoes, and Ralph Lauren, as well as handbags from Longchamp and Viva Bags of California.

The normal retail values are between $85 - $700 so you really might snag a true bargain as well as benefitting a worthy charity. You can see all the items at the wsacollections user id.


Wednesday, 24 January 2007

eBay fourth quarter conference call upbeat and positive

Meg had the enviable position of talking to investors shortly after releasing better than expected financial results. Apart from allowing that overall margin is down slightly and that Skype has room to grow and deliver more for eBay's bottom line the fourth quarter was cracker.

The worries that Google Checkout might impact the PayPal business were unfounded. In fact it's possible that the hype about Checkout went some way to increasing PayPals business as reality of PayPal's superior flexibility for both consumers and merchants bore fruit.

Finally something to look forward to - with the move of Philipp Justus from Germany and arrival to eBay of Michael Linton from bestbuy, Meg promises some innovative ideas will be coming to revitalise the auction format on eBay. It's true - we do love the fun side of business!

All in all as predicted much more upbeat than the third quarter's conference call, a strong performance with good results is always sweeter to swallow.

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eBay fourth quarter financial results better than predicted

eBay released their results with $0.31 per share earnings, well up on the $0.28 predicted by the analysts. Trading on NASDAQ closed up at $30 per share but immediately jumped after hours and are currently at $33.40

Revenue is up 29 percent at $1.72 billion with PayPal contributing $416.8 million or about 25% of income.

eBay reveal that they are looking to peripheral business for future revenue growth. PayPal is performing well with little effect from Google Checkout, Skype contributed $66 million and the StubHub purchase is designed to attract new users to the eBay group.

The conference call between eBay and investors discussing fourth quarter earnings looks to be interesting, but largely we expect a buoyant forecast for 2007 to be welcomed. Most importantly competition from both other auction sites and payment processors appear to be having little impact on eBay's business.

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The best of the rest ahead of eBay 4th Quarter results

Today is the day analysts are waiting with bated breath for the close of markets and for eBay to release it's fourth quarter results. What we weren't expecting is analysis of the competition along with their current performance but perversely they've obliged - or at least Wagglepop have!

Current Alexa Traffic Rank after just eight months in operation is currently at 47,303,which puts us on par with or ahead of most other independent alternative online auction sites at this time and ahead of all internal projections. We average roughly 2,000 unique sales per week, and currently have 140,000+ listings available in a variety of formats for bid or purchase.

So 2,000 unique sales a week, or about 8,000 a month, just how many sellers (in eBay terms) does that equate to? Taking a medium volume seller with perhaps 500 transactions a month that means Wagglepop currently support just sixteen full time sellers. Contrasted to eBay though they would have to list 8,000 listings each, and I don't know too many sellers who would happily run that many concurrent listings for a 1.43% sell through, it is astoundingly poor! In reality 500 transactions a month would need to be a reasonable value to sustain a seller, so it's likely Wagglepop can support less than sixteen sellers.

They go on to compare Alexa traffic rankings with other auction sites, comparing those in the UK (with the exception of eBay and Amazon who are a quantum leap ahead) and there's no great encouragement. Tazbar and QXL don't have significantly more traffic, and eBid is about double, certainly not far enough ahead to suggest they have much greater sell through rate. Only eBid has three times the listings of Wagglepop with Tazbar about level and QXL trailing with a quarter the number.

alexa traffic ranking

The best that can be said for any of these sites is that if you have unlimited stock it won't do you any harm by listing it and forgetting it - especially on those sites with no listing fees. None of them appear to attract the traffic to sustain a full time seller at this stage. They just don't have the buyers required to give the sell though rates regardless how impressive the number of listings these fledgling sites manage to attract may be.

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Situation normal...

We expect eBay to grind to a halt ten days after a cheap listing day, and even on the CLD itself, but today they've excelled themselves, breaking the site the day *before* the CLD. Many sellers are reporting complete inability to access any part of the site, though the problem isn't universal.

I have plenty of wine if anyone else has nothing to do ]:)


My Messages verification code simplified

eBay have at last moved the verification code for my messages to the same page as the message reply. Nothing is more frustrating than clicking send and coming back to your browser half an hour later to find the message is still sitting there awaiting verification. Now you'll be able to type your reply, enter the code, and when you click send (assuming you decipher the picture code correctly) your message will be sent immediately!

I could never understand why eBay needed a second page for this function! Well done for simplifying the message flow!

eBay my messages


Berkshire radio DJ's are toast

Foxy and Tom (John Fox and Tom Rhys), two breakfast show DJ's on commercial radio station 2-TEN FM are auctioning classic "miracle" toast on eBay. The auction in aid of the 2-TEN FM Kids raises money to help improve the lives of young people within the 2-TEN FM broadcast area. (Berkshire and North Hampshire). In the last two years over £75,000 has been raised and distributed to community projects ranging from the Octopus Toy Lending Library to the Thames Valley Vikings Wheelchair Basketball Club.

Not only can you bid for the toast but you can also vote on the 2-TEN FM website on which is the better likeness - Tom's toast or Foxy's toast! It's great to see eBay being used for fun, as well as raising awareness of charities in local communities.

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Skype didn't cost eBay 4.1 billion dollars in court

A company called StreamCast alleged that Skype's founders who also developed the Kazaa online file-swapping software took the phone technology with them after they sold Kazaa to another company and went on to wrongfully profit from its use. They claim Skype broke an agreement to give StreamCast an option on Skype's voice over IP technology.

Streamcast were asking for more than $4.1 billion and an injunction blocking eBay from selling Skype services. Seeing as eBay already paid $2.6 billion for Skype this would have been pretty detrimental to the bottom line. The news comes just hours before the fourth quarter results are due to be announced later today.

All claims against Skype and eBay have been dismissed.

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Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Unable to verify as a trusted site

Just days after PayPal announce security devices to generate one time passwords to protect users accounts they have yet another security flaw. The SSL certificate used to verify that the PayPal site is secure is again warning users that PayPal is not a trusted site.

PayPal Certificate Authority Warning

This is by no means the first time PayPal have had problems with certificates, in the past they have had issues with non-secure images on SSL pages caused by third party banner adverts. It really is time a company handling financial transactions for over 100 million users got their act together on security. All the time users logging into the genuine PayPal site get warnings they have no option but to ignore if they need to perform transactions it's no wonder they also fall for phishing sites.

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Parlez vous rubbish?

random letters on's announcement board
If you've ever thought that eBay talked nonsense, here's some definitive proof from the French announcements board. With yesterday's Feedback 2.0 announcement posted at 5.35pm, pulled immediately and posted again at 5.46pm, someone at eBay really ought to figure out how their announcements' feed works.

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Monday, 22 January 2007

Hot desk

ergonomic desk; can be used by supine operators I *know* that the point of this desk is to allow differently-abled operators to use a computer. But I defy anyone not to think it would be cool to not need to get out of bed to check their auctions.

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Moving right along: Feedback 3.0?

Instead of encouraging whinging and overcomplicating the one thing that actually worked on eBay, how about doing something a bit more fun with feedback? Letting your buyers record a message and post a picture of them wearing the new shirt/jewellery/car they bought off you would actually encourage some positivity around the place. And goodness knows, we could do with that at the moment.

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Feedback wasn't broke, so they fixed it anyway!

eBay have confirmed Feedback 2.0 is to go live in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Belgium, France, India, Italy, and Poland. It's worth noting Bill Cobb in his eCommerce Keynote 2007 speech extolled the benefits to sellers, whilst reassuring them it would be introduced, monitored, tweaked and only when running smoothly and any ill effects ironed out introduced on the North American site. Wouldn't want to upset the 250 pals invited to clap when he prompted them to now, would he?

eBay state that in trials, over 80% of buyers left detailed feedback, and try to allay fears that (as happens on Amazon) only buyers who had problems with a transaction will take the time to click the stars. Well they would, wouldn't they - it was a trial and something new. We suspect that in practice prolific and happy buyers (like sellers) won't have the time or inclination to bother, but they'll certainly make time to punish sellers they're upset with by ranking them poorly - it's human nature to complain. Regardless when given a choice to rank out of five most people will give a score of four, very few will give five out of five as the norm.

eBay seem to have listened to sellers who intimated they would automatically leave a negative feedback for buyers that gave them low rankings. Sellers will not be able to see the scores left by individual buyers, just overall rankings in four areas - accuracy of item description, communication, delivery time, and postage and packaging charges. This has pros and cons: sure, it protects buyers from retaliatory feedback which is desirable, but it doesn't give sellers the ability to add buyers that hammer their feedback score unfairly to their blocked bidders list to prevent them making further purchases.

It's great that buyers have to select an overall positive, neutral or negative ranking first. At least in the short term, buyers that would normally leave a positive won't think "I've given two threes and two fours so I'll leave a neutral", although that might come in the future as they get more used to ranking.

1p e-Book sellers who then go on to sell high value items will be highlighted - feedback from the last ninety days will include the item title and price. This is a great change as it allows buyers to see in an instant if sellers suddenly list higher value or different items to usual. Any visible warnings of unusual behaviour are great as early indicators of possible problems for buyers. Similarly the new tabs showing feedback left as a seller and as a buyer separately are great. The feedback left as a seller will be default, showing up those that buy feedback as that'll be on another tab!

eBay state that "Detailed Seller Ratings benefit buyers by allowing them to rate sellers on a particular transaction more accurately. They also provide buyers with additional information about a seller prior to making purchasing decisions." They go on to say that the ratings benefit sellers by giving them the chance to differentiate themselves against their competitors. In reality the four areas buyers have told eBay are most important to them include those that sellers have least control over.

Delivery time in particular depends which day of the week a buyer purchases. Everyone has the buyer asking on a Monday morning where is the item they paid for at 5.30pm on the previous Friday - They're unlikely to receive the item until the Tuesday but in the buyers eyes they've already waited four days and Tuesday will be the fifth. Alternatively the buyer that pays at 11am on Tuesday could quite well receive their goods at 9am on Wednesday with delivery in less than 24 hours. In both cases the service from the seller was identical, but a very different experience from the buyer's viewpoint.

Communication is another debateable rating - is this ranking based on answers to Ask Seller a Question, or on information such as the end of item email, PayPal paid emails and despatch notifications? How will a seller even know if their buyers are rating them poorly because they send so many emails buyers class it as spam? Even accuracy of item description is subjective - judging many questions sent to sellers buyers pay such scant attention to them they'll barely remember what they read most of the time ;-)

The UK announcement is missing the promise from Cobbs' Feedback 2.0 announcement that feedback over two years old would be retired "Since it is less relevant than more recent feedback". The feedback scores would be unaffected but the feedback percentage rating would be based on recent feedback only with old negative (and positive!) comments being archived.

Cobb in his speech went to great pains to emphasise Feedback 2.0 would not be introduced in the US until thoroughly tested and all problems resolved in the test countries: "We will monitor its impact, we'll make adjustments if we need to, we'll continue to read it, and then, assuming it goes as well as we plan, we'll begin to roll out in the US." He appears to have forgotten by this stage that he opened his speech with a show of inclusiveness welcoming eBayers from around the globe. Cobb leaves the question hanging as to why he needs to assure US sellers that countries such as the UK will be used as guinea pigs, ensuring US sellers feedback won't be adversely affected if eBay got it wrong! Ah yes, he's president of eBay North America and doesn't know what goes on overseas much less care.

Finally eBay are changing the page title from "Member Profile" to "Feedback Profile". We've seen hints that some of the "My World" features from the US are to roll in the UK in the near future. It will be interesting to see if these are introduced at the same time as Feedback 2.0, certainly they're long overdue.

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If you've ever felt tempted by an ebook on eBay, then (1) there are better way of earning feedback, and (2) now posts this nonsense so you don't have to pay for it.

(For the sake of fairness, I will say that there are a few people selling very worthwhile original material in ebooks via eBay, but they are few and far between.)

Via the always-wonderful Seth Godin.

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£100 VW Golf from eBay motors drives 5000 miles in desert

Rupert Gillingham and Sam Fenton purchased a sixteen year old car from eBay motors and drove from Plymouth to Banjul in Gambia. They were part of 200 cars entered into the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge 2007

Along the way they were robbed, had to bribe police checkpoints with sweets, hit by a bus on a ferry crossing and had to dig the car out of the sand in force 10 gales. However the trip did raise about £7000 for the Round Table Children's Wish and Yorkshire Cancer Research charities - not bad for a hundred quid motor from eBay!

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Sunday, 21 January 2007

Why ticket sales on eBay should not be restricted

With the news of eBay buying StubHub and Chris Tsakalakis moving across from eBay to assist in managing StubHub along with eBay's ticket business there's a lot of interest in "scalping" or as we call it in the UK Ticket Touts. I found an article today on the subject which is well worth a read, and the main argument is reproduced below.

The argument for unfettered scalping: You have something that I want (tickets), and I have something that you want (money). So we trade. Voluntary free exchange is evidence that the trade makes both parties better off, and the agent gets a commission for bringing them together. Everyone is better off than they would have been had the trade not occurred. The scalper has made a commission for providing a service, and no one is worse off. Stopping scalping clearly makes people less well off, and the state has no business getting involved.

I fail to see just what is wrong with selling tickets at a premium price to those that are willing to pay. What's the difference between buying and selling a ticket in comparison to any other commodity? Should I be forced to sell my printers at a set price or be banned from trading in them in the first place? Should sellers be banned from selling the PS3 or Wii above the RRP if buyers are willing to buy them?

Just what makes tickets any different that sparks such controversial arguments both in favour and against resale at inflated values? One thing is for sure, there's a market for unavailable tickets and for eBay and it's sellers to miss out on this market would be ludicrous