Saturday, 3 February 2007

The Last Post

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the last post


Friday, 2 February 2007

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Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The one about the new user agreement

Amongst all the other changes this week, eBay have also updated their user agreement. The biggest change is a big dose of plain English: it actually makes sense if you don't have a law degree. For the first time, the user agreement also contains a list of other relevent policies which eBay expect users to adhere to. This, at least, should save a few eBayers from slaps for things they didn't even know were against the rules.


Sale discounts for eBay shops - markdown manager

Markdown Manager is the perfect solution for setting up a sale in your eBay shop. Not available in the UK yet but launched for US shop (store) owners it allows you to literally slash prices on Buy It Now and Shop Inventory Format listings.

Buyers will be able to see the original item price displayed with a strike through next to the sale price. Sellers will be able to choose which items to discount by category, all SIF listings, all BIN listings or by choosing individual items.

eBay Markdown Manager

Sensibly eBay have set some limits - the minimum discount in a sale will be 5% (Maximum 75%) but this is going to be such a popular feature. Imagine you have stock in specially for Valentines day which is in two weeks time. You probably have listings launched already but on say the 7th February you could launch a sale to clear your inventory rather than have it hanging around waiting for next year. Similarly for other seasonal goods such as Christmas, summer goods, winter goods - start a sale towards the end of the season.

Of course any savvy seller is going to prime their buyers with email marketing, there is nothing so compelling as to tell a buyer that the sale will start in two days time at 9pm but you're giving them a heads up so that they can be logged on to snag the best bargains. Major high street stores do this all the time and now so can eBay sellers!

This is just such a compelling feature, I'm amazed that yet again get the best and most useful features first while other marketplaces get stuffed with experiments such as Feedback 2.0. Is this simply because eBay are petrified of upsetting US sellers or do they not think other countries are ready for the best selling tools?

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I spider tax man coming

Today is the last chance for many eBayers in the UK to submit their self assessment tax return if they haven't already done so. Not only that but by close of business today millions of people up and down the country will suddenly have lighter bank accounts as they settle any balancing payments from the 2005-2006 tax year and make the first payment for the 2006-2007 tax year. It's an expensive time of year but for those that have adequate financial planning an accepted fact of being self employed.

What of those happily selling on eBay that have "forgotten" about the tax man? Well I guess they'll be oblivious to the filling in and completing a tax return but will they get caught or are they home and dry laughing all the way to the bank?

A little known computer program called Xenon has been loose on the web for the last two years. Xenon is a spider which crawls website a little like Googlebot which trawls websites cataloguing everything in it's path. While Google crawls the entire web Xenon is more specific restricting itself to Internet auction sites such as eBay. Slowly but surely it visits each individual auction and saves them along with links to all other auctions from the seller. Then it's Identity Information Extraction Module correlates any information such as names, postcodes, cities, streets against national databases to identify mailing addresses and users real identities which can be matched with tax records.

Xenon originated in The Netherlands and now operates in four other countries as well - Austria, Denmark, Canada and of course in The United Kingdom. Next time you're wondering if your competitors on eBay are undercutting you because they're not paying tax relax with the thought that big brother really is watching. Time is running out for those cheating the system.


ChannelAdvisor - Yes to PayPal, No to Google Checkout

ChannelAdvisor have been pondering when (not if) eBay should allow Google Checkout for payments. I don't hold with their argument that eBay dismiss it as an "unproven system" but view checkout as an e-wallet rather than an e-money payment system. They have fundamentally different ways of operating and e-wallets just don't offer the same levels of buyer protection that e-money providers such as PayPal and Nochex do.

Setting that aside as ChannelAdvisor appear to be championing Google Checkout I was looking forward to giving it a spin whilst signing up for the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst event to be held in London in April of this year. Strangely there were only two payment options offered - PayPal or Mastercard / Visa. No sign of Google Checkout.

I guess it goes to show that for the market at large it really is PayPal Preferred!

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Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Buy your wedding on eBay (Including your bride)

Many thousands of people shop for special events on eBay, none more so than couples getting married. What's not so usual is buying your bride on eBay, which is pretty much what happened with David Jones and Cheryl Pipes.

David was bidding on some ornamental birds and ended up with more than he bargained for when he fell for the seller. I know eBay often say "You can buy just about anything on eBay", but to bid on a china owl and eagle with a bride thrown in for free is taking it just a tad too far!

Cheryl, 45, said: "I never thought I would find someone I've spent the past 45 years looking for on eBay.


Auctions that go on forever? No thanks!

WebProNews has an interesting piece proposing a solution to the problem of scamming bidders on high ticket auctions:

Now here's another reason for eBay to start thinking seriously about automatically extending auctions when late bids hit. Scammers hitting electronics auctions with inflated bids followed by requests to ship items out of the country, spoofed PayPal payment notifications, and other naughtiness ought to be enough for eBay to do something about the situation. ... If eBay enabled the ability to automatically extend an auction by a few minutes when a late bid hit at the last second, buyers and sellers could both benefit. Sellers could ban obvious fake bids, while buyers in legitimate sales would have the chance to increase their bids above the sniped amount, making more money for the seller.

I've been around eBay for a few years now, and this auto-extension option has been suggested a lot. But I've never seen it proposed as a solution to the problem of the Nigerian father who wants your mobile for his son's birthday - so kudos to Mr Utter for imagination here. But I'm afraid he's completely wrong.

There is already a solution to the problem of scamming bidders: buyer management. *Every* eBay seller should be using some of these: whether it's just blocking buyers from countries to which you don't ship, or whether you want to go the whole hog and block buyers without a credit card on file and/or without a Paypal account. Most legitimate buyers would pass this test; most scammers won't.

Auction extensions are a bad idea for a whole host of reasons. eBay buyers ALREADY expect sellers to be at their computers 24/7 (*waves to the lady who mailed me at 4am and again at 7am to complain she hadn't had a response*): extending auctions would just make things worse. It would also vastly increase the problems of bidding wars: most of us have had experience, either as buyer or seller, of two or more bidders who between them drive the auction price way above what any sane person would expect. Currently, eBay's hard ending does put a curb on that; with extensions in place, nothing would. We would just exchange one set of non-paying bidders for another.

[PS - Hey, WebProNews, how about some form of comments/trackback on your articles? No dialogue is just *so* Web 1.0 :-p ]

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How not to write a "how not to" article

The Torygraph jumps on the eBay-bashing bandwagon this morning, with a scare-mongering smear dressed up as advice on staying safe on eBay. Much of the article is unsubstantiated slurs: "shill bidding is widespread" and "counterfeit goods are rife". Perhaps more importantly, some of the so-called advice they give is downright nonsensical: "If someone has no feedback, then be suspicious." Really? How many thousand feedback did you start with, Mr Lazy Hack?

The section on bogus email, while generally sensible, misses the most important and easiest test of whether an email is a spoof or not: sign into your eBay/Paypal account; if they have something they need to tell you, it will be there. Similarly with bogus web pages, the easiest way to detect them isn't actually to download the toolbar, it's to avoid clicking on potentially dodgy links in emails, and only ever to type the URL into your browser yourself.

It's a shame, because in amongst the dross is some good advice - for example, my own favourite saying, "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is". User eduction is undoubtedly the way to combat fraud, counterfeiting and phishing on the internet in general, but articles like this just scare away the very people they're trying to advise.

So next time you need an article on eBay, Mr Lewis, why not ask someone who knows what they're talking about? We look forward to hearing from you ;-)


Famous Belgians

It seems like someone is quite pleased: for the first time in the history of fees on eBay Belgium, we're announcing a reduction:
  • Items with start prices less than €1,99 have the insertion fee halved to 5c.
  • Listing designer is now free with Turbo Lister.
  • On the not so good side, home page featured increases from €24,95 to €39,95, and category featured increases too.
As with the rest of Europe, these changes are as of 1st March.

Very different from the UK and Ireland and Spanish changes announced yesterday, these changes seem designed to get new sellers onto the Belgian site: cheaper starts on the lowest price items will appeal to those who have never sold, and no doubt attract buyers too, but professional sellers in Belgium will be thinking again today about their use of listing upgrades.

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Monday, 29 January 2007

Ad world

Well, where did that come from? I've just seen a new eBay advert! With a "don't sit on it, sell it" tag line, this is prima facie aimed at new sellers: unsurprising in this traditionally slow time for retail, it follows on nicely from the eBay post-Xmas 're-gifting' campaign.

Though this episode is as unexciting as the rest of the primary people adverts have been, it's good to see eBay keeping up the publicity now the spendy season is over.


Some Mothers do 'ave Em

Dan Wilson is the former Community Manager for and is now a freelance consultant and writer. He blogs at

It's been three months this week since I left the warming arms of the eBay bosom to a world of freelancing and freedom. Three months after leaving eBay is an important time for any former eBay employee: you have three months to flog your stock options after leaving and my time is up on Friday.

But one eBay buyer has decided to commemorate this milestone with an eBay first for me: a negative feedback. Now I really feel like I'm truly mortal, and just another humble seller amongst the Community millions.

It's time to swallow that advice I've dispensed for years on the boards and at eBay University. Stay calm. Dispense a factual, calm response, try not to worry.

And OBVIOUSLY it's unjustified. The justified negative feedback is a rare, rare thing. I sold a book and despatched it swiftly. I was let down by an impatient buyer, the Royal Mail and not spending every waking moment hunched over My Messages responding to buyer queries.

Still, I'm in good company: most sellers have a few here and there and most buyers are intelligent enough to work out what's happening. After all, sometimes however hard you try to please a buyer you can't succeed. It's also a salutary reminder of how Feedback 2.0 might play out when it comes.

You simply cannot legislate for the hasty neg-leaver. No matter how you break down the scores, some buyers will never be satisfied and will always want to make their complaints heard. In this case, I would have been marked down on communications and postage time. One is under my control and one's not. It's up to buyers to decide what's reasonable or not and there will always be people who will think delivery is too slow, however swift it is, right up until they invent the instantaneous teleport.

The only comfort we have is most people really are intelligent, forgiving and praising and we'll have to hope that they learn how to use Feedback 2.0 sensibly too.

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eBay scrap reserve prices in Spain

As fee announcements roll out across Europe similar to those announced for the UK this morning Spain goes one step further. They are to scrap all reserve prices and remove the feature from the Spanish website. According to the Spanish price change announcement reserve prices created frustration for buyers not knowing how high they would have to bid in order to win the auction.

What is the reserve price and why have you eliminated it?

It was an option that allowed the seller to fix a minimum selling price which remained hidden to the buyer. It was used very little by sellers, and created frustration amongst buyers when they didn't know at what price they could buy the item. Due to this, we have decided to discontinue it.

As stated earlier today we predict reserve prices will be eventually withdrawn from the UK site as well.

In accordance with the commitment to reinvest in eBay core to make eBay fun and unique again, eBay Spain are to encourage auctions. Fixed Price listing fees will be slightly higher than auction format.

Also Best Offers in Spain are now available in all categories.

A final humerous note, in error eBay have given a browser title of "eBay España: 10p Listing Day" to the announcement. Well in the UK for media sellers every day's a 10p listing day from now on ;-)

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eBay VAT status changes in the EU

eBay are to change their VAT status in Europe with the establishment of a new company located in Luxembourg, called eBay Europe, S.à r.l. From March 1st all European eBayers will have their contracts moved from eBay International AG in Bern, Switzerland to eBay Europe, S.à r.l.

This change won't affect most eBayers - the total fees charged will remain the same (Although eBay have just REDUCED fees, again effective March 1st).

The main difference will be to VAT registered business sellers who have applied to pay eBay fees net of VAT. In this case previously sellers were charged fees net of VAT, effectively in the UK with 17.5% VAT a 14.89% discount. This will change to 15% VAT (the rate effective in Luxembourg) effectively a 13.04% discount. The net change for the UK is a loss of 1.85%

Other European countries will be affected somewhat differently - for instance France with 19.6% TVA will have a greater change with a net loss of 3.35%.

It is important to remember that gross eBay fees as per the published tariff will not change, the only sellers affected will be business sellers who have registered their VAT number with eBay for VAT exemption. Although increases in costs are never welcome we would expect most sellers will probably cease to notice the change after a month or so.

Finally if you have been claiming VAT back yourself from the tax authorities from 1 March 2007 this will no longer be possible. The only way to pay eBay selling fees net of VAT will be by registering your VAT number with eBay.


eBay fees : DOWN!!!

If you're a UK eBay seller, you may want to sit down before you read this.

eBay fees just went down.

Yes, that's right. Down.

After fee increases on .com earlier this month, UK sellers were expecting similar rises here, but it seems that eBay have largely spared us, opting instead for some interesting changes that will surely boost the UK marketplace. Here are the details, effective from March 1st:

  • Most UK sellers will see no changes in their eBay fees at all. This in itself is wonderful news for most of us who were expecting to see eBay take another nibble at our hard-pressed profit margin.

  • Technology sellers see FVFs reduced on items over £30.

  • Media (books, music, DVDs, film & TV, video games) sellers see a whole new fee structure, with insertion fees reduced to 10p regardless of start price (5p if you start at 99p or lower), in return for FVFs rising to 9%. This vastly reduces the risk involved in listing these highly competitive products, and might even see eBay Express start to become a force against Amazon, Play and the like.

    No doubt this change will bring out the whingers, just like any other major change, but eBay's own figures show that the majority of sellers will save money under this new pricing plan.

  • Sadly for Motors' sellers, they are the losers this time round, with insertion fees, FVFs *and* listing enhancements all increased in price. Still, we think that absorbing an extra fiver's fees into the cost of selling your car isn't really so bad.

  • Finally, eBay take yet another swipe at the reserve price format, as reserve listing fees will no longer be refunded if the item sells. It's well-known that buyers don't like reserve prices, and eBay have done their best over the last few years to discourage their use: I'd bet that we'll see the removal of reserve prices altogether in the next year or two.

Altogether, these are at worst a "no change" relief for UK sellers, and at best, a permanent cheap listing day.

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Sunday, 28 January 2007

PayPal implements EV SLL to combat phishing

PayPal have moved further ahead in the fight against phishing by implementing EV SSL certificate support. SSL has been standard in browsers for some time and stands for Secure Socket layer, the EV stands for Extended Validation. Other browsers are looking to follow, but Microsoft plans implementation by the end of the month for Internet Explorer 7.

PayPal are one of the very first sites to go live with EV SSL certificates, having just released Security devices it's good to see they're pushing ahead with more stringent security as well.

The big difference you'll see with EV SSL certificates is the lock icon (the padlock or key depending on your browser) will be moved from the Status Bar at the bottom of your browser to the address bar at the top (where you type the web address). In addition the address bar will turn green for known safe sites, red for known phishing sites, and yellow for suspected phishing sites.

One issue for the Firefox (Mozilla based) browser is that it already changes the address bar yellow for standard SSL certificated websites. With users trained to associate yellow as "safe", using it for "Suspect" on IE will take some getting accustomed to and may lesson the security awareness it may have otherwise had. EV SSL support is unlikely to appear in FireFox until version 3.0 is released later this year.

There are also concerns that smaller websites who have been unaffected by phishing attacks will be able to afford certification costs leaving users unsure which sites are secure and which are simply uncertified.

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Bid for the contents of the tuck bin

The People (part of Mirror Group Newspapers) are the latest to cash in on the craze of running bizarre auctions for charity.

Up for sale are a Strong used PG tips teabag, One used 3A Duracell battery, One Peanut - dry roasted, A packet of cheesy Quavers with one crisp and One After Eight Wrapper, Chocolate already eaten.

Sadly they show the normal sensationalist attitude of the tabloids and appear oblivious to eBay for Charity and Missionfish - they probably don't expect to raise enough to go to the effort of signing up! They've used a virgin account with no feedback and no information to link the auctions to the newspaper which does make the charity claim appear dubious to the casual browser. It's worth noting that when the charity card is played it's better to be transparent with plenty of information rather than leave bidders wondering. A link to the article on The People website wouldn't have gone amiss.

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Microsoft to challenge PayPal and Google Checkout

Well what do you reckon? Third time lucky for Gates to plunge Microsoft into the forefront of online payments? Microsoft wallet (built into Internet Explorer) was a bit of a failure (as in no one used it), so they changed it to a server based system (Microsoft Passport - and still no one used it!). Now after a week of contemplation, Gates announces he's reviewed plans for an online micropayments project. Watch out for a solution to allow you to economically collect payments from a few pence to a pound at lower rates than credit card merchant accounts would charge.

The thinking behind the re-entry into online payments is a system designed so that you can charge small amounts for online content that's currently free, e.g. Tamebay could charge you 10p for reading this article and it wouldn't all be swallowed up in precessing fees. Now there's an idea... charge you for reading this ;-)

So Microsoft aren't really out to compete with PayPal or even the easier target of Google Checkout (who continue to lag way behing PayPal regardless of the freebies they try to tempt buyers and sellers with). PayPal already have PayPal Micropayments with fees of 5%+ $0.05 per transaction. It will be interesting to see firstly if Microsoft can beat these rates and secondly how easy implementation is.

In a years time you could find yourself paying to read online content from sites like online newspapers. In fact with printed newspapers in decline we predict it won't be long before they're largely published online for micropayments anyway, so Gates could be bang on the button with this one!

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Genuine fakes

Seth Godin tells a superb story about Picasso verifying the authenticity of his own work:

"Fake!" he bellowed.

After the dealer left, I couldn't help myself. "Picasso, why did you say that painting was a fake? I was here, in this studio, last year when I saw you paint it."

Picasso didn't hesitate. He turned to me and said, "I often paint fakes."

Art NYC has some interesting thoughts on this story. I'm just relieved that Picasso never had a job working for VeRO...


Revealed : How the Sunday Times decided to set up eBay sellers

This morning's Sunday Times carries a piece which it claims reveals how eBay sellers push up the prices on their own items, a practice which the paper believes is "widespread" across the site. Though the report alleges that "businesses ranging from overseas property agencies to car dealerships" shill-bid, they focus on one single seller, who apparently admitted to an "undercover reporter" that his associates bid on his auctions for him.

TameBay were contacted by a reporter from the Sunday Times back in December. This is what he had to say:

Hello Sue,

I am researching an article on Ebay "spill bidding" ie: the process of artificially bidding up an item's value through false email addresses, friends or associates. Is this something you have ever come across? I would be interested to hear examples.

Many thanks

Jonathan Calvert
Insight Editor

Some reporting if he can't even get the term 'shill bidding' right! We know that several other UK eBaying websites were contacted by this same gentleman, begging for information and examples of shill bidding. One, UK Auction Help, even went so far as to email all *it's* members, asking if they could help with examples:

Subject: Fair Trader Scheme ­ Can you help?
I have been contacted by Jonathan Calvert the Insight Editor on the Sunday Times, he is working on an article about Shill bidding.

I have spoken to him about this but have no current examples to show him.

If you have any examples, recent experience etc of Shill Bidding on eBay he would like to hear from you.

eBay sellers who are members of this scheme might like to consider whether an organisation which is so ready to help the biased media tar all eBay sellers with the same 'shiller' brush, is one that they wish to continue to support.

Furthermore, Mr Calvert has obviously begun his research with the assumption that eBay sellers are mostly shillers, and has dug and dug until he managed to find one seller for his News of the World-style set-up. So much for objective reporting. I'm sure that if I decided to publish an article arguing that all Sunday Times reporters are lazy, biased hacks, I'd be able to turn up one example to back up my argument. Would that mean that all employees of that august publication are the same?

As for Mr Paraskevaides, well, he has rather a checkered history. He resigned from his gynaecologist's job after concerns about his work were raised, and subsequently has been frequently accused of selling merchandise said to be fake. While we hope and expect that eBay will now close any other accounts he still holds on the site, to expose a well-known scammer as a scammer is hardly great investigative journalism, is it, Mr Calvert?

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