eBay Shows Users Who’s Boss

eBay users are a vocal, attentive lot. If Meg Whitman sneezes, they rush to the message boards to issue a “Bless You” en masse. But mostly, they use their electronic soapboxes to vent.

Recently, those message boards overflowed with vitriol regarding eBay’s newly reinforced policies restricting contact between eBay auction sellers and buyers in non-eBay sales.

Of course, those rules make perfect sense for everyone involved. You know it, I know it — and if you look at the complaints of the eBay users themselves, they know it too. They just hate to admit it.

Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

The eBay bashers are always throwing out the names of possible alternatives to patronizing the site. One colorful message board regular even promotes founding an offshore auction house to wage war on eBay.

In the end, though, those who would go elsewhere soon learn that alternative sites lack something quite important: eyeballs. eBay is what it is because millions upon millions of people visit the site every day, many sticking around for quite a while to see what’s up for sale.

So now eBay wants to hang onto those eyeballs, and users are upset. These users should — and again I say, do — know better.

Think about how many click-through deals have been struck in the history of the Web. Some sites get paid every time someone directs a surfer to another site. Why should eBay users get to do it at no charge?

It’s Meg’s Turf

eBay has spent years building a brand and building a community. The passion with which people respond to eBay being down for even a minute reflects just how successful the company has been in making its site more than just a place to buy and sell stuff. It is an online destination. And users want to piggyback on it — for free.

One user posted a message saying, in part: “Whatever goes on between people (buyers, sellers, other sundry capitalists) outside of eBay is none of eBay’s business.”

Wrong. It has everything to do with eBay. The company spends big bucks building an infrastructure capable of handling millions of visitors a day — well, most of the time — but now you’re saying that it can’t act in its own defense when somebody with a dial-up account and 10 megs of Web space starts siphoning off users? Give me a break. After all, if eBay doesn’t look out for eBay, who will?

Who’s Greedy?

The upset users are using a different ploy to bash eBay, too, saying that the move is not about protecting buyers — as it has been dressed up to be — but about revenue and profit.

Maybe eBay is guilty of being disingenuous in hiding behind the illusion of user protection, when profit is probably the driving force here. But so what? After all, is community the only thing driving eBay users to make outside deals with people? Whos being disingenuous now?

No, eBay users make outside deals in order to sell items without paying the listing fee and the commission to the site. The common folk want to keep that money for themselves.

So you see, eBay users, you’re just like the site you love/hate so much. You want to maximize profits just like they do.

Happily Ever After?

One might fairly point out that eBay is causing itself some unneeded agitation by stepping up the enforcement of this policy now.

Even if it has to put out some public relations fires, eBay is doing the right thing. eBay has to protect its turf, keep its kingdom a peaceful place. That now means guarding the gates as well as keeping a closer eye on the people already inside the castle.

And there are simply too many good things inside the gates for people to brave the wild and wooly countryside.

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

To Message Board

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.

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