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Nobody Thinks About EBay (racked.com)
52 points by pmcpinto on Oct 17, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments

The fact that eBay is now primarily (80%!) new items that are 'buy it now' not auctions is why I have lost interest. Amazon wins that game hands down with competitive pricing, 2 day shipping, and no-hassle returns. I can't get any of those assurances from a bunch of random sellers on eBay.

What made eBay fun and interesting were all the weird things you could find there that you couldn't find on sites like Amazon. Now every time I try to go searching for something on eBay I have to wade through all the shady sellers who have packed it with thousands of items that are better bought elsewhere.

I don't know if it's different in the US (I'm in the UK) and obviously this is just personal experience, but I still feel like ebay has a much broader array of stuff vs amazon. If you're after something really obscure then ebay is a way better bet than amazon.

That doesn't stop Ebay from trying. It seems every week they come out with some new initiative to try to enforce consistency between the thousands of sellers on the site. All these initiatives really do is create busywork and resentment for the sellers.

My wife has been selling new Women's clothes on Ebay for many years, and has seen this all first-hand. Her life these days is nothing but stress, as she has to go through and change thousands of listings for the latest boondoggle. Her income has been decreasing steadily over the years and it's almost too much to bear now.

If Ebay keeps trying to be Amazon, they are doomed to fail.

It's still mostly where I go if I need some non-mainstream used item but it's definitely not their focus anymore and that makes them less attractive for me generally. And, as you say, it was always caveat emptor to some degree but my impression is that it's gotten much worse.

Ebay auctions were also just fun and new for me back in the day. For various reasons, I just sort of grew out of it and, if I actually need something, I'll just buy it off Amazon or whoever rather than trying to chase down a bargain that may or may not actually be one.

for non-Americans, Ebay is great for cross boarder shopping. Amazon doesn't have nearly the selection outside the USAA, so E-bay becomes a great way to do that.

Yeah Amazon is pretty weird for cross-border stuff, even in the EU. I'm in Czech Republic which doesn't have its own "amazon.cz" ... you can order from amazon.co.uk or amazon.de but many items are unavailable. I think there's an upper-limit on price as it tends to be Electronics (laptops, phones) that I struggled with.

Yep! This 100%! Ebay is trash now. What was fun was finding some thing you wanted (like vibram shoes) and bidding against other people on them and possibly sniping an awesome deal. Instead it's now like "Well I can buy these now... for regular price.. just like anywhere else.."

There are some niche markets that eBay caters for and Amazon doesn't. For example, used car parts, especially if you are into classic cars, you can find anything on eBay.

I think this is not fair. It really depends on what you are looking for.

You really do not get speciality items from Amazon. For example old photographic gear.

I very much see where you are getting at and largely agree, though I must also note that I have frequently managed to find the same item significantly cheaper on eBay than Amazon. If you are in no hurry to get the item(s), cross-checking eBay might very well be worth it.

FWIW you can filter results to show just auctions, used items, etc.

The key to eBay, IMO, is setting up good searches and email alerts.

They should try sucking less:

My most recent peeve is that its virtually impossible to order searches by cost anymore. Every hole-in-the-wall Chinese seller has figured out that you can do a multi-select on your listing and just stick in a random item with a $0.99 price as one of the selections. This makes it appear as a $0.99 item in the search results. The real product then has to be selected before you can see the real price.

Literally every product is $0.99 from friendship bracelets to jet-skis with no way to sort them. You just have to click each one to discover what it really costs.

I mostly use Aliexpress now for that sort of thing; It's just easier and works better.

And don't even think about selling an Apple product or you will learn quickly about the "brick scam" that's been going on so long and is so well know, ebay is basically complicit in it at this point.

Yes, I'm ranting but: I used to use ebay a great deal. Now I don't. They are richly earning their irrelevance.

Yes, I'm ranting but: I used to use ebay a great deal. Now I don't. They are richly earning their irrelevance.

Another recent misstep on eBay's part has been to prohibit links to offsite information in listings. So if you're selling anything that requires an informed buyer -- from electronic parts and equipment to the aforementioned jet skis -- your ability to communicate that information has just been removed, or at least made artificially awkward.

It's as if eBay can't decide what kind of company they want to be. A back-alley venue for scams and junk? A storefront for cut-rate Chinese clones of popular gadgets? A place where the latest luxury goods from Guccci and Sorny are always on display? Or a legitimate online marketplace that encourages honest transactions between informed buyers and sellers?

They used to be the world's garage sale. This worked for them.

Now, not only did they become the world's sketchy back-alley, they're not even very good at it.

This is a great point too! It has, admittedly, always been difficult to use ebay to find the best prices because people refused to use categories properly. Trying to find the cheapest iphone 6 was like 60 pages of stupid cases and danglers!

I use eBay all the time. It's my default shopping site. It has the things i want, and it's no more expensive than Amazon, sometimes cheaper.

Indeed, i feel it has a bit of an edge over Amazon in selling slightly odd, not entirely mass-produced things. For example, a while ago, i wanted to grow a couple of plants from cuttings. Just two. To do that, i needed a couple of millilitres of rooting hormone and a couple of peat pellets. No manufacturer packages those things in such small quantities. xxlbigdaves-hydro does, though. He buys big packs of rooting hormone and peat pellets, splits them up, and sells a tiny quantity of both, together. He even throws in a razor blade. Ideal.

More recently, i wanted a very particular make of lipstick for a halloween costume. I could buy a single 2.5 ml tube of it on eBay. On Amazon, you can either buy a big tube, or packs of several 2.5 ml tubes. That's a lot more lipstick than i'm likely to get through in my life.

I'm in the UK, and maybe the sellers here are better than in the US, or Amazon is worse. It probably matters that i am the last surviving human without Prime, so Amazon has a higher marginal cost for me than for the typical Hackernews. And i confess that i use eBay partly out of sheer bloody-minded desire not to see Amazon take over the entire universe.

In the USA, and I would buy things like untailored men's dress pants and little copper squares for heat sinks on eBay

Re: Amazon comment. How do you see this playing out?

Amazon will take over the world outside China, and then a few years after that, become just another seller on Tmall.

Surprised by the comments here, I've always found eBay positive, I buy mostly used items, usually 'Buy it now' rather than auctions, and usually from sellers with solid sales histories. I can't remember ever having a problem, and I can't really imagine buying from random classified ads in preference.

It is disappointing though that they're focusing on new items, and not trying to find ways of improving the situation for buying or selling used items. For instance, perhaps you could have projects to figure out what most customers look for in images, and encourage sellers to provide good coverage, or to pick up images not properly focused on the product. Think of how many pictures eBay must have of any particular laptop model, and when buyers browse, what images they pause on, and where they zoom; it really must be an unparalleled dataset. There are a lot of listings, even for expensive items, where the pictures are just insufficient. And even with filtering and categorization, you could more intelligently encourage sellers to answer categorization questions that meet seller desires, that can be picked up through analysis of how people browse or search for listings. If you could say to a seller "not putting in RAM for a laptop cuts your audience by 18%", and gameify the process of improving the listing, I imagine you could make a lot of progress. Or perhaps using known dimensions of objects or their packaging to provide an simplified, streamlined marketplace for shipping options.

Essentially, they probably feel that second hand sales are a niche market, so they can't continue explosive growth without moving into standard retail. It's the downside of the continual fast growth mindset. They could really cultivate their market, and grow the company by growing the market, by incrementally improving the buyer and seller experience for 2nd hand items. Shifting focus away from that has big risks, not just rewards.

I hate to say it, but it appears they have no idea where they’re going.

They talk about Etsy, they talk about amazon, they talk about aliexpress - and then they say they want to focus more on new goods. From where I come from moving out of the niche you dominate and increasing your competing surface area (retail of new goods is, uh, crowded) is an asinine move.

As to “millennials haven’t even heard of eBay” - what utter tosh. I and many, many others I know have used eBay since our teens, and I’m now in my 30’s. I’ve just furnished an entire house, from floors to fittings to fridge to furniture through eBay.

Either way, if they honestly think they’ll succeed by trying to compete with amazon and Ali on their own turf, they’re deluded, and signing up for an express train to insolvency depot, where buyers loiter offering shady deferred stock deals for sick companies to harvest for corporate organs.

They’d do far more for their brand by making the feedback system actually useful again.

Oh, and their API is a world of hatefulness. Built an end to end integration for an ecommerce platform - stuff of nightmares. 2000+ page PDF API guide. Zero consistency in communications. Count from zero, count from one, can’t count here. Single shared sandbox for the universe. No support. Spontaneous deprecation. Never again.

I remember when eBay was though of as the ability to sift through a million attics or garages to but all the things that someone else thought was barely worth the effort to carry down for curbside trash pickup. Now it has a very different feel, and it is somewhat taken over by new low dollar junk. Thankfully the auctions are still there, and I can still buy old synths that few people want, used parts for my motorcycles, or 30 year old Pentax lenses.

I've had far less problems with eBay than I have with Amazon. I mostly buy used items on actual auctions. Occasionally a buy it now used item, but rarely new stuff. Perhaps its because I'm a long time user of eBay (1997 IIRC) that I've internalized a consistent process that works. Amazon was great when Amazon was the only seller, but when the opened it up to third party sellers and that turned into questionable and counterfeit items, I don't generally go back.

Ebay lacks consistency, UI-wise. It reminds me of MySpace in the generation of Facebook, where users can use whatever visual themes they like and either include or omit whatever technical details they'd like. After seeing people get burned with being shipped empty boxes or just instruction manuals for games, and then the hassle they dealt with just because the seller had evasive language and fine print, I lost a lot of respect for Ebay.

Sure with Amazon, my shipper's items are all mingled together, but if I get shipped a lemon, I don't even have to worry about it being taken care of because Amazon handles that extra-mile beautifully. Ebay is borderline scams and china reseller junk most of the time. One thing that Ebay has cornered the market on, however, are items being sold for parts.

I think Ebay's value is in its flexibility: you don't need a category to sell an item.

Once a particular item can be sufficiently categorized, it gets its own marketplace, like what's happened with cell phones.

It happens to Craiglist all the time. E.g.

Rooms for rent --> Airbnb.

Craft products --> Etsy.

“We have to tell our story differently because what people know about us is not really who we are anymore,”

My last sale (of macbook) on Ebay was to somebody clearly trying to scam me. But they were not good at it. I knew they were trying to scam me but I also knew ebay protects the seller as long as you can prove the package went to the address from the payment and the weights and sizes for the package made sense. "Not really who we are anymore"... meaning a trustworthy place to sell junk?

I feel like ebay died when they removed the ability of sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers back in 2008. I understand why they did it, but they created a less than desirable environment for sellers who moved to other platforms like Etsy, and the buyers just moved along with them.

Iunno, negative feedback for buyers was never helpful for sellers since sellers never had much control over their buyers anyway.

At least these days you can somewhat restrict buyers (can't have zero feedback, more than 2 unpaid item reports...)

They should double down on the auction part and maybe find some way to make money off a craigslist like feature. Why bother trying to chase amazon?

They're taking exactly the opposite approach, I wouldn't be surprised to see them eliminate auctions entirely someday.

That's a very Apple thing to do haha. "The new eBay. Get what you want. When you want. You'll never have to wait for an auction to end again!"

As a seller, I've found I get more money on fixed price listings.

Most users will pay more to buy-it-now rather than deal with auctions.

And I can target a price at the top 10% of the market (easy to do when I'm selling a small number of items, harder when someone is selling 10000)

EBay has Kijiji, which has decimated Craigslist in the Canadian market.

There's talk about embedding Ebay listings into it... they'll have to tread carefully.

"The company’s research has found that a younger audience wants unique products and “is searching for items that push against conformity.”"

I wonder how much time and money was spent for Ebay to realize the obvious: that young people like (and have always liked) being different.

One of the biggest problems of eBay is item categorization. Just search for "iPhone 6" and see what I mean:


Even if you go the their "structured" iPhone 6 page it barely gets any better: https://www.ebay.com/b/Apple-iPhone-6/9355/bn_3897179

All I see are iphone 6's, what do you mean?

Try sorting by price. I commented the same thing (oddly enough, using the same example) above and I remember, when searching by price, how difficult it is because idiots don't like to use the categorization!

Eh same thing happens on amazon. I search for a bike jersey and get totally unrelated stuff.

I stopped thinking about ebay a long time ago. I would only consider it if it's the last seller of the thing on the planet. And I definitely do not and will not use paypal, willingly, ever.

They've done not much more than strong-arm their user base on both sides in one form or another for years.

Sorry, they're nothing but a ghost of the Internet past to this little clicker.

I think about ebay. No other place to search (learn/discover) used collectable stuff, like maps

A far as buy it now, that is a "wish" price for collectable stuff we buy. Everyone knows the real bidding starts with 2 minutes left in the auction.

Where else is there? When craigslist could search every city - that was the closest.

For me Ebay is the place where I go to buy x and instead find a million listings for knock off Chinese versions of x, novelty accessories for x and finally when I find x it is a sad worn out x that sells for 80% of the cost of a new x on Amazon. Except Amazon shipping is cheaper.

eBay is quite a mess today but it seems Amazon is almost on the same path these days.

They shut down Half.com not so long ago having bought it in 2001 or so for $300 million. There goes a good marketplace for books & CDs. Bad move!

Betting the farm that mom and pop shippers can deliver a better customer experience than Amazon is a fast track to an earned death. Cest la vie.

Bought some stuff from EBay back then, the tracking status never works, not even once. Until it was delivered after 2 weeks, I had no idea where my order went. Never used it afterwards.

ebay is great for buying things like fabrics and wholesale items but I would never trust it to buy or sell anything more expensive than £20.

The risk of fraud is too high and I have zero confidence in ebay to resolve the issue if I were to buy or sell an item and something went wrong. None of this is based on actual experience just a feeling and other peoples experiences - and I think that may also be why people are moving away from ebay, a lack of trust.

Any idea why the stock price is 4x from 2009? Does the company own other significant assets aside from the marketplace?

Well the entire market is up over 3x since 2009. Also Ebay does indeed make a lot of money. The current P/E ratio is 5.6 which actually makes it a good value. Amazon is starting to struggle with the issue of fake or defective goods that hurt Ebay as well.

The P/E ratio being low does not imply it is a good value. Indeed, the most reasonable assumption would be that the market does not think highly of its future prospects.

I wondered about this too so I RTFA and now I know!

I've recently been exposed to the resale community that uses eBay, and it's quite impressive. Many people scour thrift stores like Goodwill for items to resell, but the process seems inefficient for both the resellers and the thrift stores.

To make the process more efficient for both and to increase demand for goods, I imagine that there could be pre-processing services provided to both sellers and buyers, which take photos of groupings of goods and use ML to provide likely metadata about each good and assemble thumbnail photos of each good. They could then be posted to a central "marketplace" area that is accessible to buyers.

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