All eBay Has To Fear Is eBay Itself

The online auction world shrugged its collective shoulders when two of the biggest competitors of Internet auction powerhouse eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY), Yahoo! Auctions and uBid, announced that they had made a deal to share listings.

The blase reaction proves how entrenched and invincible eBay has become. Right now, it appears that eBay’s fiercest competition will come from eBay itself.

And that’s something eBay rivals can be optimistic about.

In what seems like overnight fashion, eBay has quickly become as ubiquitous as any company, online or off.

This is not an accident, of course, and it hasn’t hurt eBay’s stock price one bit. Pervasiveness isn’t the goal for every company, but for eBay, which makes its money by enabling sales between others, it’s just the ticket.

But how much is too much? Does everyone with something to sell have to put it up for auction on eBay and then tell the world about it? The other day it was guitars and drums from Genesis (the rock band, not the opening chapter of the Bible). Before that, the cars of the rich and famous, 2002 Olympic tickets and the oldest known pair of Levi’s Jeans.

Add in TV spots, PBS sponsorships, newspaper ad listings and you get the idea. If this keeps up, eBay overload is just around the corner.

Community Affairs

Meanwhile, eBay is constantly under siege from within. Its sellers are a unique group of people who usually have one thing in common: A love-hate relationship with eBay.

They love the online auctioneer when it sells their items, but then hate the company when even the slightest changes are made to how things operate. eBay sellers also constantly complain about the financial arrangements.

Buyers have fewer complaints, as it turns out.

Happy Town

But a recent incident highlights how difficult it is to keep everyone in the sprawling Internet community that is eBay happy at all times.

What happened was, eBay decided to kick off a seller who aptly called himself “Rabidboy.” The company was responding to a number of complaints about the Timothy McVeigh-related items Rabidboy was selling.

Now while the decision drew applause from many corners, it also renewed questions about how eBay is going to determine what and who stays and goes. Community standards usually carry the day, but this is no ordinary community. This is a community brought together to buy and sell stuff.

Fine Line

So what’s the right approach? It’s easy to say “hands off” and let the buyers and sellers work it out. If people are offended, they’ll shun the seller and economics will do its thing.

But that’s how Yahoo Auctions! ended up to its neck in hot water it has yet to climb out of. The litigation over auctions on Yahoo! of Nazi-related items in countries where such items are banned is still moving through the court systems in more than one country.

So some patrolling of the eBay main streets and back alleys is in order. Yet heavy-handed police action is only going to rekindle eBay angst.

Track Record

Competitors are busy circling the eBay camp, of course. Amazon and Yahoo! are not going away, and several online auction houses are doing well in their own niches. However, eBay has world domination on its mind.

Auctions were a starting point, but eBay’s efforts to raise into a strapping e-tailer in its own right is evidence of a larger agenda. eBay is apparently thinking that it can get a piece of nearly everything being sold online in fixed-price or auction form.

And given the eBay track record, only a fool would bet too heavily against the giant.

Loyal to an E

eBay should worry less about the things it now seems so concerned about — such as whether its auction sellers are linking customers away from eBay and making offline sales, and whether stalwarts are wandering away and need to be brought back.

Instead, eBay would be well advised to work out a customer loyalty plan. In other words, the Net auctioneer should take some time to figure out how to keep so many different people with so many different viewpoints on the same page while it constantly evolves its focus.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


  • This Fool is betting against eBay because the present management has become its own worst enemy.

    By investing in companies like ReturnBuy, a large eBay seller, and then not enforcing the rules with them it requires of most sellers, eBay has clearly demonstrated they administrate an uneven playing field.

    The recent introduction of spamming of underbidders created a protest by some of their most successful sellers, and even though they quickly modified the program, an Art Auction Protest continues.

    Their Free Listing Day may reverse what has been a down trend in listings since the first of the year, but the opening on July 4th of Internet Pioneers, the first site developed by sellers to be a general purpose online auction co-op, is indication that their customer base is not waiting for them to change nor solely dependent on them and other commercial sites for online opportunities.

    They have turned their back on their core customer base in search of greater immediate profits and expanded market domination while financially hurting many small independent sellers.

    This Fool is willing to bet that the people will win out in the long run.

    Which abusive company with a monopoly-like share of their market lasted forever? Well, OK, I’ll give you Microsoft, but name one other.

  • I agree that ebay will eat itself away soon enough .. they are very picky and choosy on who will deal on their site. They tend to kick off the people trying to make money and buy things and keep those that are there to scam.

    I work for a computer company that buys machines on ebay for parts. That is why I was hired — to work ebay. I have purchased over 1 million dollars on ebay and out of 500 deals I’ve done 10 have gone wrong. It may seem that this percentage is small, but this is considering that they have kicked me off for not completing a deal that I thought was a scam (seller would not provide any valid info). I have been kicked off about 8 times already. I don’t mind using their services, but they need to get a grip on who’s who.

    And as for customer support, they must establish one because as far as customer support goes it is a very very generic letter that could cover about 90 different problems. They don’t have an 800 number or even offer help if one of their sellers is scamming or has false info on their site. And if they don’t know the answer… forget about getting a response. But overall, hey! I guess we gotta keep using it.

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