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eBay Is Conducting a 'Mass Layoff' in the Bay Area (fortune.com)
222 points by rmason on July 18, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 159 comments



I can't say I am surprised as they have spent the last half decade or more trying to reinvent themselves as some sort of Amazon marketplace for companies selling new goods. Policies and rates have repeatedly penalised sellers ever harsher. It is now so buyer-centric that eBay is a safe place for buyers to experiment with their first fraud.

In the process they have thrown away their reason for being and why they grew. At one point just about everyone I knew used to get rid of their spare tat on eBay and post a link. One or two had nice little hobby businesses selling collectables etc. Now I doubt many of them remember it exists. No one I know sells on it any more. I used to get rid of all my old IT kit on eBay, yet now I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot barge pole to sell anything.

That is equally reflected in what's there when looking as a buyer - mostly company sales and endless cheap rubbish and far fewer private sales.


We launched a new brand of cell phone mount products several months ago. We were set up and going on sales with Amazon in a trivial amount of time. Meanwhile, on Ebay. Tried to start a new account to match our brand name. Pretty much immediately banned, I think it was because I used a Chinese cell phone number in my contact info with the account, but not sure, as it was never actually clear why I was banned. Then, after about a week of back-and-forths proving I personally am an American and we were selling with an American corporation. Got the account reinstated. Finally, trying to list the products in coordination with our shopify store was a nightmare, the products wouldn't list, and as I recall we had another round of account troubles due to just trying to list our products. I finally said screw Ebay, I give up. Well, surprise. If you can't onboard sellers then good luck staying in business!


+1

eBay used to be great when it was genuine people selling their spare stuff. I used to buy and sell a lot on eBay and it was great - picked up a lot of great secondhand stuff at decent prices, and found new homes for kit I didn't need any more.

But for the past several years it seems to be dominated by "professional" sellers doing buy-it-now bulk-sells of new cheap stuff shipped directly from China/Hong Kong that takes 6-8 weeks to arrive then when it does it is often awful quality and/or not what was in the listing. This ruined it for me.

There are a few decent secondhand sales still happening though - e.g. I got a really decent refurbished secondhand projector a year or two ago from a guy that specialised in projectors, and in the UK you can now collect your eBay orders from highstreet stores for free. It is just a shame that these genuine sellers are drowned out by the crap-pushers selling cheap tat.


I used to use eBay to buy/sell musical instruments. It was a typically a great platform for that. Then in 2009, I had a terrible experience with PayPal withholding my money because the buyer complained that the $1,000 keyboard I sold's AC adapter wasn't working. I offered to refund the cost of a new adapter and everything, but they buyer kept stalling and it was impossible to get anyone on the phone at PayPal to help resolve the situation -- my money just sat in limbo.

I think the whole ordeal took over 30 days to resolve. $1,000 held up in uncertainty over a $10 part.

Thankfully, Reverb came around for people like me. They are truly a joy to work with. I had one instance where the buyer seemed like he could be sketchy, mostly because he was from a foreign country and the shipping on the item would likely be a large percentage of the cost of the item itself. My item was somewhat rare, but not sought after, high quality, or that collectible, so it was only sold for around $500. However, I didn't want to expose myself to any fraud risk, and Reverb walked me through everything I needed to do to ensure that even if the sale was fraudulent, Reverb would take the hit and not me.

I'm sure running a massive marketplace at scale is hard and since eBay and Amazon have both tipped the scales considerably towards the buyer, that that's where problems tend to impact worse and occur more frequently. But the seller horror stories are impossible to ignore. I'd have a hard time selling anything worth more than $100 on eBay anymore.


Thanks for posting this. I have some vintage synths I've been hanging onto for 10 years precisely because I didn't know how or where to sell them.


> But for the past several years it seems to be dominated by "professional" sellers doing buy-it-now bulk-sells of new cheap stuff shipped directly from China/Hong Kong that takes 6-8 weeks to arrive then when it does it is often awful quality and/or not what was in the listing. This ruined it for me.

It depends on what you're buying I think, and whether you actually care that it's a cheap knock-off... and whether you're willing to dispute it if it turns out to be genuinely awful. (Why wouldn't you?) In my case I bought a laptop keyboard at some point that I didn't really expect to find anywhere at a reasonable price, so I kind of expected what I got to be a cheap knock-off, and sure enough it was, and did have minor problems. But it wasn't a big deal; I used it and it did the job and I was happy. On the other hand, just 2-3 weeks ago I went looking for -- and found & bought -- a used version of a particular scanner I wanted at ~10% of the MSRP (which BTW still sells at near the MSRP right now if you find it new-ish), and it's been working just fine. It's just not the kind of thing that sellers sell in bulks... and I frankly don't expect I could even find a fake version of it no matter how hard I tried.


Agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately the prices don't seem to reflect the cheap "knock-off" products that are sold. I have since moved on to Wish and AliExpress, where the delivery times are also 4-6 weeks but the prices are 1/5-1/10th of eBay listings and the quality (in my personal experience) is at least on par or better, not to mention there is often a much larger selection.

We are lucky in Austria though, for 2nd hand stuff we have willhaben.at which everyone uses and is basically a mix of eBay and Craigslist (which we officially have @ vienna.craigslist.at but after years is still mostly just spam listings and is therefore IMO unusable).


My wife used to run a small volume eBay shop, maybe 50 listings at a time. About once a month she would have to deal with outright fraud, and eBay almost always sided with the buyers. I'm talking about things like brand new items of clothing returned completely destroyed by the buyer---huge tears, burn marks, etc---and my wife would be forced to refund the purchase price and shipping costs. It certainly wasn't worth her time or all of the stress.


eBay is rampant with fraud..I have a buddy that does a tremendous amount of of business there and the amount of crazy crap he puts up with is insane. "I just lost 2k today, well back to work"

The scammers on eBay are bold because they know eBay doesn't care at all about the sellers.


Not only that but they benefit from buyer fraud.

I have experienced first hand refusal to refund selling fees (even after escalating the issue) after an item was fraudulently returned.


Interesting, I don't discount your experience, but with PayPal/eBay sides with the buyer, case closed. Their customer support to a seller might as out right have "fuck off" in their script.


I paid for my university tuition using eBay. I’d buy broken printers and repair them and sell them.

Eventually someone started buying printers from me, claiming they were broken and getting refunds. They would open new accounts and do it under different names, to the point where one week over half my sales were all scammed in the same way. I was out 5 printers, and had no recourse. That ended a very successful 3 year venture.


I suppose part of the problem is that most of eBay is large-volume-low-price, so there's no chance at all of a law-enforcement solution to the fraud.

It it practical to implement a We don't sell to brand-new accounts policy, as an eBay seller?


I totally agree. I have largely abandoned eBay, and I was an early adopter. Their policies are definitely buyer-centric, but the prices frankly are rarely that great, so when I am looking to buy something I can usually find it somewhere else cheaper with less hassle. When I want to sell something, I just put it on Facebook or Craigslist. Not great, but no worse than eBay and less likely to get scammed.


For me, eBay is the 99 cent store of online shopping. I'm not interested in the auctions anymore, and if I am there to buy something, it's because I was trying to save a buck & it showed up as the cheapest place to buy something on Google Shopping.


True. Come to think of it, I haven't participated in an auction for over 5 years.

The thing I do like about ebay is they don't have the increasingly annoying dynamic pricing bullshit that Amazon is pulling.

i.e. you see a price on Amazon that's great, by the time you've spoken to your better-half and gotten back to the computer... the price has gone up!

Back to ebay though, I actually sold my car on ebay about 10 years ago... there's no way I'd attempt it these days!


Try https://camelcamelcamel.com. It shows you the price history of Amazon items and can alert you when they fall.


not just amazon. here's a piece on using 3 people's different devices and price difference they get: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZVpbwz6kPk

as for amazon price changes, i use the honey plugin, can see the past 120 day price history. surprised by how much it can fluctuate.


I enjoy using eBay. I can sometimes get faster and cheaper shipping than using Amazon. I have also bought all of my smartphones and laptops from here for the past 5 years.

I wonder if this layoff has more to do with the online tax reform on small businesses.


As a buyer it is often excellent, particularly as nearly all their policies now heavily favour the buyer.

Buyers need sellers and those same policies have put off many (most?) of the private and small sellers. That's removed many of the products I liked to buy and the very reason I used to visit and browse regularly. It's still handy for toner, and a few other random purchases, I even bought my Macbook via eBay.


No there are also scammers targetting buyers. In my case some script outbidding everyone seconds before the end of an auction to reveal bid limits, cancelling the bid, and setting a new bid £1 below the bid limit to max out people’s bids. Ebay support clearly uninterested in curbing this (the account that did that cancelled many other bids in the days after I reported this, having never completed a single transaction). I think their are outright complicit.

Ebay is a scammer nest and I will stay away from it.


ebay needs to realize their actual customers are the sellers.


That was their belief back then, under Meg Whitman. It didn't work too well for them, sales dropped because the site had a reputation for low-quality products and sellers who were plainly crooks. With Donahoe matters improved fairly rapidly.

The NY Times had a series of articles back then about the struggles. This is one of them: https://theboard.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/25/going-going-go...


There's no reason it needs to be just one or the other, especially considering a business based on network effect and, literally, market-making.

> Ms. Whitman got in a few public tussles with the “community,” as eBay’s buyers and sellers are known. One came when she made an arrangement with Disney to give it special status on the site — its own Disney Auctions page. That violated Mr. Omidyar’s founding principle that eBay would be a global platform to which any buyer or seller could come as an equal.

I hypothesize that the departure from this treatment of buyers and sellers as equals has eroded their uniquenes and therefore that part of its value.

Presumably there's plenty of competition in both the buyer-first and seller-first e-commerce spaces.


Gotta love Disney. In my humble experience with that company, it very often requests (and obtains) special treatment from business partners. It's magical.


For me it is the opposite, and I have been using eBay since the early days.

I can get from Amazon stuff that is new, that I can return with minimal fuss, at my doorstep, often next day.

Whatever savings I might get using the same item used on eBay do not compensate the time and mental strain of dealing with shipping delays, potential scammers, articles with defects "unmentioned" in the original description, non-existent warranty.

Nowadays I use it only for very specific items that cannot be found on Amazon, or just to sell spare stuff (in the very rare occasions where it's worth it).


eBay is just craigslist, but you have to hand over your money before you can tell whether they're a scammer.


No, there's a pretty darn crucial difference which is the reviews/reputation that you can view before you conduct the transaction. Someone with 5192 sells and 99% good reviews is probably not going to outright eat your money, but you have no idea if that's the type of person you're dealing with if you're using craigslist.


For all we know, that person blatantly ripped off 50 people. 99% sounds great, but at the volumes these massive sellers operate, a lot of people fall into that one percent.


On the other hand, if you use that criteria you exclude basically everyone who is not a commercial seller, which is one of the main points of craigslist-type sites.


> On the other hand, if you use that criteria you exclude basically everyone who is not a commercial seller, which is one of the main points of craigslist-type sites.

I was merely exaggerating criteria to get across a point regarding a very critical fundamental difference between eBay vs. Craigslist, not trying to list a comprehensive set of criteria for choosing reputable sellers. Evidently this wasn't clear, so to clarify: I also think someone who's merely sold 10-15 items of comparable prices over the past 4-5 years ago can also be sufficiently trustworthy if their reviews are 100% positive. And again, none of this is to say these criteria could not be relaxed or tightened depending on the situation, item price, etc... and, in general, you should also incorporate your common sense (which I would hope could go without saying).


but can they "game" those fake reviews? we live in a world of fake news and fake reviews. Craigslist is a start up for scammers.


No, I don't think they can. They can "game" maybe 15 reviews, but I have yet to be scammed by (or even hear of someone being scammed by) someone with thousands of reviews when they're almost all positive. It's kind of absurd to suggest the system is similar to that of craigslist where you generally have no data points whatsoever.


Something I heard about recently was businesses offering to buy accounts from legit users, priced based on how old the account is and % rating. Obviously that's something that could be abused by a scammer (buy trustworthy account and sell as many empty laptop boxes as you can before you get closed down).

I think it was ads popping up on FB asking to buy eBay accounts that made me aware of it but can't find anything right now on a quick Google search.

A couple of days ago I saw some tablets being sold for about 1/10th of their normal price by a seller with an old account and good feedback. But looking into it more I found that their only current sales listings were duplicates of the same tablet offer, and looking at past feedback it was mainly buys rather than sells and usually for household items and stuff that seemed personal rather than business related. Not exactly conclusive but it smelt funny enough that I didn't risk a purchase (I realise lots of people will just say that the low price makes it obvious, too good to be true means it isn't true etc... my own life experience has shown otherwise and I've probably had some bargains that those people would have missed out on).

I just tried to find the listing again and it seems to have disappeared - I feel it might have been a scam.

I enjoy using eBay as a buyer, been using it for 10 years and hundreds of purchases, only sold a few times but it's always been ok for me. There have been a few hiccoughs but I've always found some kind of resolution in the end. If the purchase is even slightly significant I check the seller's feedback out carefully. Really I think that's all that needs to be done but some people either don't know this, can't be bothered to, or don't want to spend their time in that way.


I seem to remember that the old-school method was to auction off a bunch of small-ticket items like shareware/freeware CDs, bumper stickers, etc. to build up positive reviews.


You can do that, but you can't do that and have an account creation date that's 10+ years ago with 10k+ positive reviews,


Nah, you have to hand over your goods before you can tell whether the buyer is a scammer.


How do you scam as a buyer, when you have to pay the money beforehand? Are you talking about stolen cards?


Another commonly reported one is paying for an item by Paypal then collecting. Once you have the goods you report the item as undelivered[0]. eBay ask for proof of delivery that you can't supply, so automatically refund.

Has been happening for years, but has become more prevalent recently.

Last time I risked selling on eBay I spent a good part of the listing opting out of eBay Ts&Cs: Cash only, collection only, Paypal will be instantly refunded etc. Probably meant eBay could have cancelled the listing, but it worked.

[0] https://community.ebay.co.uk/t5/Seller-Central/Ebay-Paypal-C... (INR=Item Not Received)


Proof of delivery? Registered mail or even tracking will do it (at least in Australia, dunno what Royal Mail give you). I can send a package that requires a signature at the other end.


That's if you send it, when there's a few different services with proof of delivery and some with insurance. I was calling out when the buyer visits your house/premises and collects in person, then claims to eBay the item was not received.


I'm not saying it should be this adversarial, but why not take a few photos with the buyer and the goods, them have them inspect the goods and sign a form with the date they received it and and a report on the condition?

I wouldn't think it's that weird since anyone who's rented an apartment has to do the same.


Always ship with tracking, proof of receipt and insurance to cover the transaction value plus any out of pocket expenses.


The scam is the buyer paying by Paypal, collecting in person, then claiming it's not received.

eBay would ask for proof of delivery!


Isn't this solvable with a camera or is eBay's process broken?


eBay/PayPal almost always sides with the buyer in disputes.

It's relatively common for a buyer to purchase e.g. a DSLR and return it as "defective", mailing back a box of rocks to the seller.


I beg to differ. In my experience (a small sample set of 1), Ebay sided with me, the seller, and not the buyer.

A gentleman from Italy purchased an old book I was selling. He disputed the transaction, saying the book had never arrived; however, the Italian post said they had delivered the book.

eBay sided with me. I kept the seller's money.


I mean at that point when the post office agrees they had the package, they literally cannot logically blame you, because you could not have had any fault in this decision. What else were you supposed to do, fly over and hand it over to them in person? The onus can only logically be on the receiver to make sure they get the package the post office delivers, not on you.

I understand the trouble starts when there's plausible deniability and no witness around. How do you prove they shipped rocks? How do they prove they didn't? At that point it really could be either person's fault, and their policy seems to be to blame it on the seller. That's what people mean when they say eBay "always" sides with the buyer. They don't mean that this is literally true even when it clearly doesn't make sense.


What could the buyer do at that point if you had send him rocks?


Yup. PP will freeze your whole transaction without notice if the buyer flags you for any reason without explanation and you can forget arbitration. Good Lucky.


"I never received the item"

Then file a refund request. Ebay will eventually refund it if the seller can't provide a tracking.

You can also spin it any number of other ways like if you get the item and the seller requests you to return the item then you just ship back a broken version.


You dispute the transaction and always win.


"It arrived in broken condition, I want a refund", etc, I'd imagine.


Ah, so Amazon is like eBay, but with new merchandise.


Right, but did the wreck everything by changing into a marketplace, or were they responding to the change they saw coming?


I think eBay has a lot of what I would call "process debt". Not technical dept, I don't know what their code looks like. It's all that extra complexity that has built up over the years. eBay has so many menus and settings and listing options that I just get lost.

The most obvious one is PayPal. That may have made sense in the '90s, but today I should just pay money to eBay, they take their cut and send the rest to the seller. Instead I pay directly to the sellers PayPal account, which may be named something completely different from their eBay account. Then eBay sends the seller an invoice at the end of the month or something. All unnecessary complexity, but I'm sure someone would be outraged if they changed anything.


"I should just pay money to eBay, they take their cut and send the rest to the seller."

That makes eBay the seller, or auctioneer, which gives you consumer law rights against eBay.


Absolutely not. On Amazon when you buy from a 3rd party seller, you always send the money to Amazon, but Amazon is not the seller. It just handles payment.


That’s not how it works with marketplaces. Otherwise Shopify would be on the hook. eBay could process payments but that doesn’t make them the seller.


Shopify uses Stripe to process payments because they don't want to be responsible for it.


Good news on the Paypal front. eBay didn’t renew their deal with PayPal. They’re going with Ayden, the European processing company. Should be integrated into the site.


Looks like eBay unloaded PayPal in 2015. Guess this is how long it takes to unwind that relationship.


What a mess that spin-off showed eBay to be, too - At IPO, Paypal's market cap was nearly 150% of eBay's - Meaning that investors valued all of eBay as a 15+ Billion liability on Paypal itself. Given their complete lack of movement since, that's not a surprise.


eBay is worth $37 billion today. They very clearly were not being valued at a negative market cap.

There are no examples in recent US stock market history of a large, extremely profitable corporation with a positive balance sheet being valued at a negative market cap. There's a reason for that.

The combined unit was suffering a discount. That's precisely why PayPal was separated. If your premise were right, eBay today would be worthless, not trading for $37 billion.


> eBay is worth $37 billion today

> extremely profitable corporation

Yup, layoffs look like a classic pump and dump to fiddle with the numbers for a sale.


300 positions is not going to significantly alter ebay’s profitability. It seems more likely to me that this is an occasion to drop a group of low performers all at once, or to make a certain job family redundant.


We don't know yet whether or not that's good news I think. I've never knowingly used Ayden.


> today I should just pay money to eBay, they take their cut and send the rest to the seller

That is exactly what they've been planning for a while: https://pages.ebay.com/seller-center/service-and-payments/ma...

They are starting it with some sellers this year but are expecting the full roll-out to take several years, with majority of customers transitioned by 2021.


FYI, on the open data angle, the California state WARN site (named after the law which requires public disclosure of mass layoffs) publishes all the announcements -- unfortunately, in Excel Saved As PDF format:

https://www.edd.ca.gov/jobs_and_training/layoff_services_war...

The eBay listings seem to have been announced 2 weeks ago, on June 29: https://www.edd.ca.gov/jobs_and_training/warn/WARN-Report-fo...


Thanks! Did not know about this site. Annoying that they convert to PDF.

Any idea how frequently this is published?

Looks like Al Jazeera is shutting down it's office in San Francisco. 68 people getting the Axe on Aug 5th

> 05/07/2018 08/05/2018 05/11/2018 Al Jazeera International (USA), LLC San Francisco San Francisco Closure Permanent

Source: PDF link in parent comment.


Did a quick check on Internet Archive. According to this April 23, 2018 snapshot, the most recent file is said to cover July 1, 2017 through April 10, 2018, so 1 to 2 week delay?

http://web.archive.org/web/20180423074904/https://www.edd.ca...

Over the years I had some reason to analyze them, and I do some half-assed job of collecting and parsing them into useable data. This repo from 2 years ago contains the PDFs as translated by ABBYY FineReader (in my experience, the best converter on the market, at least sub $100):

https://github.com/datahoarder/ca-warn

Today I started a new repo (forgetting about my previous one). I've been wanting to create a series of repos showing how I "casually" practice programming and data analysis. That is, satisfy and iterate upon a curiosity without going all-in on best software engineering practices. It's aimed at people who've tried to learn coding themselves, but don't have a job in it but don't know how to practice it in the wild and just for "fun":

https://github.com/hackbashscoop/california-warn

Not much there except a simple wget invocation to pull the latest files, and the use of Poppler's pdftohtext to convert into plaintext files. Even though it's unstructured text, I think it's regular enough to be parseable with some regular expressions. For reference's sake, I've done an ABBBY PDF-to-Excel conversion (and will write a Python script to do the remaining data wrangling), but you can do what you want with the spreadsheets as they currently are:

https://github.com/hackbashscoop/california-warn/tree/master...


somewhat OT, but fwiw I recently stumbled upon the Fonduer project which does some interesting extraction methods beyond just OCR. https://hazyresearch.github.io/snorkel/blog/fonduer.html

They have a pdf-to-tree package which i haven't had good results from but perhaps i need to finally learn ML and try to train models for this a bit: https://github.com/HazyResearch/pdftotree


The reason it's a "mass layoff" is because that's what the California law requiring notification calls it. Better articles about this news mention facts like EBay's end-of-2017 employee count being 14,100 people.

That's 2%.


Thank you for mentioning this. It gives a much better perspective.


This is bad news IMO. I get a lot of great deals on things on Ebay that I wouldn't find on Amazon, or that would require me to be a Prime member to not get socked with a high shipping charge without buying a bunch of other stuff, or would require me to wait a long time to get it because I'm not a Prime member.

I get all my cellphones on Ebay, for instance: I get high-end models when they're about 2 years old, from high-volume sellers who specialize in refurbished/used cellphones. People are always jealous of my nice phones, thinking I spent $800+ when I usually only spend $100-150.

Many times, if I want something that's only $10 or $20, Ebay is the way to go because I don't have to wait long to get it, and don't have to get $50 worth of stuff to get the "free" shipping, so Ebay ends up being a better deal.

Also, avoiding Chinese sellers is easy on Ebay: just click the box that says "North American sellers only" (or "US sellers only") and you don't have to worry about stuff being shipped from far away and taking a month. Amazon doesn't make it quite so obvious, nor do they allow you to actually exclude such sellers with a search.

Of course, Ebay lets you buy stuff (usually used, or perhaps secondhand but never-used) from non-commercial/individual sellers. Amazon has removed the ability for individuals to resell their stuff unless you sign up for a special seller's account for $35/year.


> just click the box that says "North American sellers only"

That doesn't necessarily block Chinese sellers. There is one seller named X-Channel that is based out of China. They sell used phones as new, they lie on many of their listings about the devices the sell -- they have a terrible reputation that is well-earned. They have at least 3 different seller accounts on Ebay doing the same scam: two of them, 'x-channel' and 'lotus-online' I can recall of the top of my head.

They must have an address in NYC they use for Ebay's billing purposes or where they distribute the imports, but the items they sell are the shadiest crap from China that you'd want to avoid by ticking Ebay's 'north america only' box.

Anyway, my point is that the 'North American-only' box can be gamed, and is not a surefire way to avoid the Chinese scam sellers.


You basically gave the reason for its decline. Somewhere along the way it changed from being a place for people to sell their second-hand stuff to a storefront for cheap Chinese goods. For most people it is too hard to sort through the mess and find actual good deals.


That description sounds much like Amazon, except you have to change the "for people to sell their second-hand stuff" to "for merchants to sell their genuine products", and modify "cheap Chinese goods" to "cheap Chinese goods and counterfeits".


> This is bad news IMO. I get a lot of great deals on things on Ebay

I wouldn't worry. This is nothing close to existential. Large companies like this use a downturn or bad quarter as an excuse to cull weak performers or just stop the unchecked needless growth that successful companies tend to have when no one's paying attention.


  ...or just stop the unchecked needless growth that
  successful companies tend to have when no one's paying
  attention
Could you expand on this portion? What is 'unchecked needless growth'?


A company with the means to do so will grow, as much out of principle or reflex as necessity. Middle managers hire as many as they can justify. The people at the top watching the bottom line are many levels removed from the $200/hr contractor doing trivial or unimportant work so they don't know to fix it. The middle manager/director has more to gain by increasing their head count than by being efficient.

And while hiring is easy, firing and laying off is hard. So the path of least resistance of an org is to grow larger than it needs to be, as long as there's profit or investment to feed it.


> What is 'unchecked needless growth'?

This is one of the most “HN” things I’ve ever read here. Thank you for making my day :)


One assumes it's growth of the staff and associated expenses, not growth in revenue, profit or customer base.


Is it bad news? 300 doesn't even sound like that many for eBay -- but the article provided no context for their size. According to wikipedia they have (Had?) 14,100 employees.


> People are always jealous of my nice phones, thinking I spent $800+ when I usually only spend $100-150.

Assumption on your part. I see people that really do spend $800+ on their phones and I don't think jealousy ever entered into the equation, more like 'wow, they can't handle money'.

Maybe their jealousy is just in your head?


The people who are jealous have either cheap, crappy phones, or very old (older than my 2yo flagships) phones. Yes, they are jealous because they can't afford $1000 phones. They're not like frugal people like you, who think spending $1k on a phone is ridiculous. Most people simply don't think that way; they would buy $1k phones if they had a lot more disposable income, and the only reason they buy crappy $100 (new) phones with pre-paid plans is because that's what they can afford.

The jealousy isn't in my head. What's wrong in your head is that you assume that most people think the way you do about money management. They don't.


I'm jealous of his 2 year old phone. My iPhone 6s is so slowwww....


I just figured out a way in which Apple could make a couple of billion with 10 minutes of developer time. There are those little taglines at the end of emails sent from iPhones: 'Sent with my iPhone', they should change that into 'Sent with my iPhone 6'.


That wouldn't even take a developers time- its configuration.


Nexus 5x... It is a long slow death.


I'm sure those sellers would find Shopify or something to offer their stuff.


I don't understand why there hasn't been a significant challenger to eBay in their space. They are notorious amongst sellers for their high fees and dispute resolution that almost always sides with the buyer.


Network effects. Sellers use eBay because buyers use eBay because sellers use eBay. eBay dominate the long tail of e-commerce and will do for the foreseeable future.

You can challenge eBay locally, as shown by Craigslist and Gumtree. You can challenge eBay in a specific niche, as shown by Etsy. Facebook tried to take on eBay directly with Marketplace, with limited success. Amazon Marketplace competes fairly directly with eBay, but at a significant cost to Amazon's reputation - it has flooded their platform with counterfeits and fake reviews.


From a buyer's perspective, the network effects are strongest when you're shopping for one-of-a-kind items. If you're a coin collector looking for a 1896 half-crown in grade 62 toned, you have to be on the largest marketplace to have the best chance of getting one.

If you're seeking commodity items, the network effect is far weaker When I need a cheap USB 2.0 hub, why should I buy it from eBay when it will likely be a buck or two cheaper from a DealExreme/Banggood/LightInTheBox style direct-from-China shop? The selection will be adequate even if there's only one seller.

Similarly, as a seller, a combined marketplace makes sense when you have narrow inventory drawing low traffic. You have two widgets, and they'll sell faster being listed inside eBay's assortment of 500, than by trying ti SEO your two product pages. A lot of the classic eBay product lines were stuff where there were few "category killer" web shops with wide inventory and workable sales flow. (Think of the baseball card dealers where they publish paper price lists)

I wonder if in 10 years we'll see an eBay much more like that from 10 years ago. The cheap commodity items will eventually move to sellers' own sites where they aren't giving up a major cut of the purchase price, but more differentiated individual items will stick around.


Yes, as a customer, I think Amazon has been accumulating negative aspects of Ebay marketplaces faster than Ebay has been acquiring positive aspects of Amazon. That said, I have recently found myself buying some products on Ebay (w/o going thru the auction rigamarole) because they're priced better than Amazon .


For reference Gumtree was only challenging eBay before 2005, when they were bought by eBay.

Shpock (mobile only I think) seems to be the nearest thing to a competitor at the local level, in Europe at least.


OLX is a pretty big competitor in many countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OLX


There are many other regional competitors too. e.g. https://www.willhaben.at is very popular in Austria, mostly private sellers.


Two sided marketplaces such as Ebay have very strong network effects and as a result are super sensitive to first mover advantage.


Ebay stopped being a two-sided marketplace when they banned leaving buyers negative (or even neutral) feedback.


>Ebay stopped being a two-sided marketplace when they banned leaving buyers negative (or even neutral) feedback.

What? As a buyer, I can still leave positive,neutral, or negative feedback. (I just checked.) I don't sell on eBay; so, maybe it's sellers that are limited in leaving feedback?


Sellers can't leave negative feedback on buyers, I think is the meaning.


That doesn't stop Ebay from being a two-sided marketplace.

GGP simply doesn't understand the terminology.


Wait, what?


As a buyer, where else can I find the insanely wide selection of goods on a listing-type site?

Consistently siding with the buyer is the reason I use Ebay (and Amazon with A-Z) with confidence. You sell me what you listed, we're good. You don't? I'm probably going to be made whole by Ebay. That does open the door for scammer buyers. I hope, for sellers' sake, that Ebay has some kind of attention that they pay to patterns of bad behavior.


> I hope, for sellers' sake, that Ebay has some kind of attention that they pay to patterns of bad behavior.

They don't. There have been quite a few stories about this, including some on HN, but the bottom line is that buyer fraud is rampant on EBay, and, as the GP said, when there's a dispute EBay never ever sides with sellers.

To be honest, while I also like buying on EBay because of the protections, I'm amazed that anyone still sells there; that's how bad it's gotten. I suppose whoever is left has just accepted that the fraud is a cost of doing business and prices it in accordingly.


The mere whiff of them siding against a buyer would drive buyers away, destroying the platform. On the other hand, it’s evidently impossible to drive sellers away, no matter how badly they treat them. eBay could require sellers to undergo full body cavity searches and daily beatings and sellers would still sell there.


Amazon is much more expensive and even more buyer-centric.

Groupon isn't particularly busy and definitely aren't good with sellers. I've heard a lot of horror stories.

Overstock is probably the worst, and I'd say downright abusive to their sellers. They also have no API or FTP.

Rakuten, nee buy.com is a strange beast. They will pause your account for strange reasons. No API either.

Walmart has little useful online presence for 3rd party sellers and no API.

Newegg also has no API. I haven't heard any real bad things about them otherwise.

There are a lot of niche marketplaces that do very well in their domain. They aren't using APIs. Some are absurdly expensive and others are cheaper.

It doesn't really matter. No online market takes care of the seller, and honestly, the buyer is far more common than a seller. One seller leaves and another takes their place.


Newegg has been expanding into 3rd-party retailing, which is what I've come to loathe about Amazon. Newegg's advantage, to me, was trust that they were carrying legitimate, good products that would arrive quickly, and a process without surprise. I can't reliably distinguish actual-Amazon-warehoused product on Amazon any more, and I figure I soon won't be able to on Newegg either. So, when I need computer kit, why not just get it from Amazon, where I already pay for Prime? I really wish Newegg would walk this back. I think the future of online retail is focused, curated shops, and not the worldwide haggling vendor stall that Amazon has become.


Auctions trend towards being natural monopolies since the network effect is so strong: more buyers -> higher prices -> more sellers -> more items -> (infinity)


High fees? Yeah, they kinda suck at 10% of the gross (plus whatever Paypal charges, usually 2.9%), but this isn't high compared to Amazon's fees.


Amazon is a different business model, and doesn't really serve the same market.

Bonanza and Etsy seem to be the closest things to what eBay was "back in the day".


I've never heard of Bonanza, but Etsy is pretty different: it caters to people who handcraft stuff and sell it directly to customers. You can do that on Ebay, but Ebay is(/was) really more of a giant garage sale.

Amazon used to have a facility where any regular Joe could resell some used item on there: you'd see the new item listing, and then you'd see "available for as low as $$$ from these new and used sellers" that you could click on. You can still buy from other sellers there, but only if they have paid sellers' accounts, which keeps out the regular Joe who just wants to sell a few things a year, like the time when I resold a used table saw I didn't need any more.


Aliexpress covers the bulk of their business which is drop shipped stuff form China. Craigslist covers "used stuff from other people".


The number of items available on Aliexpress seems far smaller than eBay. And the overall shopping experience on Aliexpress is kind of miserable, worse than eBay.


I think selection and misery depend a lot on what you shop for.

Looking for LoRa modules, eBay has 10 times more items, but half of the sellers are list the same item 30 times with different price and shipping costs, so that is actually reduced offer and enhanced misery. On Aliexpress you rarely find dupes from the same seller, they keep that shit at bay.


adding amazon marketplace, ebay's growth is in serious doubt.


The alternative is Amazon Marketplace, which has even higher fees and is even tougher on sellers, yet it's taking marketshare from eBay. They are not 100% competitors, but most of eBays volume is competing directly with Amazon.

They have to be a bit biased towards buyers because scammers want money, and sellers get money. Buyer scams are mostly items that can be easily converted to cash, like laptops and phones.


Because it’s the default place to go in everyone’s mind when you need some random one off item like an ALF alarm clock.


Craigslist is the only one that could do it and they aren't interested in growth.



There is a service called Layoff-Aid that helps SF tech workers line up new jobs: https://www.layoff-aid.com/


That’s neat. High probability of employee taking your offer and not just shopping around because they are layed off and good for the employee who needs to make ends meet quick. I like that they try to exclude companies that had mass layoffs within the last 3 years as well.

Though if I were the employee, I’d take that severance and try to stretch it for a couple of months and depending on the engineering field, do a bunch of interview questions and apply at FAANG or other high paying ones. I feel like a large portion of layed off employees aren’t the ones who jump companies and get promoted regularly. Those ones can smell the end is near and jump ship probabaly beforehand. If finances are stable, getting laid off might be a great opportunity if one can maintain focus and is willing to put in the time.


I was laid off from my first job. It can be really soul crushing at first but luckily in technology its not that hard to find openings in a short time span.

Apart from the constant fear of not getting another job, it was actually a very very pleasant experience. I ended up doing a lot of reading by the pool at my gym, working out a lot and traveling. All the while reading up on algorithms, learning new technologies.

Of course I was pretty stable financially and that really helped. The severance made the first month seem like a paid vacation. The next 2 months were pretty wonderful as well, except that it hurt to see my savings get eroded.

I don't think you're accurate about the kind of employees that get laid off though. If I was a little more experienced, I would have seen it coming and started interviewing long before I was laid off. There were a couple of other folks who got laid off with me and they're not doing all that well now.


Those ones can smell the end is near and jump ship probabaly beforehand

If you sense it coming and you work for a company that treats people decently (dunno if eBay does or not) then why wouldn’t you hang around for the payoff? A good company will give a months pay per year of service.


  why wouldn’t you hang around for the payoff?
If you took a job as a developer because you love creating useful things that people like; and you know after the layoff the product is going in the trash; that's going to cut into your job satisfaction a lot.

Plus there's the risk you'll be among those who aren't laid off, but your working conditions will worsen.


The site appears to be just another recruiter using layoffs to gather more product to sell to companies.

Are they helping anyone laid off or just the techies? If it is only the latter, then they are definitely recruiters.


Founder here. Technically speaking we are the modern version of what "outplacement" service should be, rather than another recruiting platform.

I'm in Product Management by day (when I'm not in between jobs because I got downsized!), and I help to build out Layoff-Aid on my nights and weekends. More on my story here: https://www.layoff-aid.com/team

Layoff-Aid is my passion project that just hit the one-year mark: https://medium.com/layoff-aid-blog/layoff-aid-busts-4-startu...

Our first market is SF Bay Area tech talent -- anyone who has work experience in tech and is seeking employment in the SF Bay Area. Our candidates are roughly one-third business, / product & design / technical; basically the same distribution you'd find at a typical tech company that slashes headcount in a downsize event.

We do want to expand to anyone who gets laid off, in any industry, in any location, but we need to figure out how to sustainably generate revenue from our SF tech industry niche before we expand. Until then, I've somehow avoided burning a hole in my pocket as we figure things out, but we still have a lot of work to do to monetize effectively.

Our mission matters more than making money, but we need to make money to execute on our mission.


Not sure I want to have shares in ebay.

Have you heard about OpenBazar?

Besides this: They had paypal. Lost They had Skype. Lost.

They could have build the first social network on skype. Nothing. They have skype on the phone. They could have been the major western payment processor. The Alipay or Wechat of the West. Nothing.

It looks to me like a long series of lost opportunities. A one trick pony, a fly that is looking for a windshield.


A fly looking for a windshield! Brilliantly describes Yahoo! as well.


How is ebay not making money? They are a glorified e-commerce site that does a huge amount of business, taking a cut of each transaction with very low per-transaction cost.


Poor business decisions, strategic mistakes, and improper spending? The usual reasons, probably. $1B loss so obviously huge spend with little return.


Well on the home page right now ebay is offering a 20% off coupon for products that they don't directly sell, and $100 for $90 in gift cards. Ebay takes a big cut but it's not 20% big, so they're probably losing money to acquire customers through deals.


And no risk of inventory shrinkage or obsolescence.


I just don’t understand how they have $9 billion in revenue but are unprofitable. A slightly simpler version of the site could probably be run by a few people in someone’s basement plus some outsourced support staff.


It always feels that way doesn't it? Except then there's the other 99% that it takes to run eBay.


They aren't unprofitable. Their EBIT last year was 2.2 billion dollars.


I don’t use eBay much as a buyer. My primary dealings on eBay tend to be in collectibles categories, and they have a real problem with fakes. It’s better to go to a reputable specialized auction house, and just mentally subtract buyers’ fees from your maximum bid, IMO. Stuff I still buy there tends to be low value, but moderately uncommon stuff I can find there simply because they have so much of it.


We sell on eBay and Amazon (and Walmart). eBay is a fraction of the business and traffic that Amazon is, but it's 100 times the headache that Amazon is. The layout, getting around, finding settings is just completely horrible. To do simple things some times we have to resort to googling the answer because everything is hidden and obfuscated.


Funny, as a buyer, I'm finding the same to be true of Amazon. There was a time where I would just trust Amazon to have the lowest prices and to have legitimate reviews. That time is long gone.

Anything higher than 4 stars is now taken with a grain of salt. I'm running every listing through fakespot.com and even then, I still have to research the reviews to verify the items are actually any good. I'm certain that I've decided against purchasing an item because the reviews looked too good. It just screams "FAKE!"

But the biggest issue (and headache/hassle) I have with Amazon reviews is the mixed reviews they lump together for different items. This just recently bit me in the ass when I totally missed that an item I purchased had a bunch of 1 star reviews, but was lumped together with a much more popular item boosting the item(s) to a 4 star review. That was a month ago, and I've refused to purchase from Amazon because the headache just isn't worth it. Amazon's customer service is great - but I'm tired of having to deal with them...

Factor in actual co-mingling of items (I've been the victim of this as well) and now I can't even trust that the item I ordered from Amazon is even real. As a seller, I hope you understand that as a buyer, I no longer have faith in the item you are selling actually being sold by you. At least with eBay, where there is no fulfillment, I'm working directly with the company.


sometimes when I stumble upon Ebay for some reason, I have to check that I'm not using the "Wayback machine". It feels like the site has not been updated in 10years.

Hard to believe that (presumably?) a large team actively develops it and that Ebay is a $38.8bn company.


For me eBay always had some niche products I couldn't find on Amazon. Now I just look for it on AliExpress.

Unless you're looking for used items, most items on eBay are sold by Chinese sellers or US resellers with a markup. I'm guessing AliExpress is much easier to use and friendlier to Chinese sellers.


They just have too many employees. They make plenty of money. If they get lean, they should be fine.


I wonder what effect niche sites have had on eBay’s bottom line.

I bought my last 3 phones on Swappa and just spent a few hundred dollars buying vinyl on discogs. Did not even consider eBay for these purposes, and perhaps that is true for many shoppers across many niches.


eBay has created a one-sided marketplace, where sellers are getting ripped off with impunity. It's great for buyers like me, but I would never sell anything on there because it's so easy to get ripped off.

When you have an unhealthy marketplace like this, of course it will suffer.


eBay sucks. I haven't used it in quite a while and last month I decided to sell some small electronics that I had around the house. 2 items sold at auction but then the buyers didn't pay (a common occurrence), oh well, not eBay's fault.

I went through the eBay procedure of waiting 2 days, open an unpaid item case, then waiting some more before closing the case for non-payment and re-listing the item.

Today I got my eBay invoice and I got charged the 10% Final Value Fee for those items. And now I have to call customer service to get some type of support.

Really eBay?


The fact that Shopfy is crushing it in an era where Ebay and Amazon should be able to take that space is really interesting.

One interesting thing is the crazy UI complexity of both Ebay and Amazon interfaces. I wanted to find something that provided fairly quick shipping, I couldn't figure that out. Text and presentation seem to be half-hazard - and this is not even getting into the softer issues such as brand/image/placement, my god man, I wouldn't want my 'upmarket' product jammed into those byzantine pages.

Instead of trying to be 'everything' it may make sense for EBay to focus very narrowly on their differentiating factor, and instead use their process and infrastructure to attack other opportunities under a different brand.


> The fact that Shopfy is crushing it in an era where Ebay and Amazon should be able to take that space is really interesting.

Um, source?


"(Shopify) Fourth-Quarter Revenue Grows 71% Year on Year Fourth-Quarter ... to $128.9 million, driven primarily by the growth of Gross Merchandise ..." "Fourth-Quarter Gross Profit Grows 78% Year on Year" [1]

Shopify custom storefronts are growing explosively.

There is nothing in EBay's financial releases which indicates they are doing this well in this area, moreover, the non-Ebay branded interfaces are somewhat of inconsistent with their core business model.

[1] https://www.shopify.com/press/releases/shopify-announces-fou...


Lol calm down.

Shopify is SaaS product that's like Wix + Stripe, it's growth is driven by the personality cults that made use of Facebook ad networks to convince others that they can make millions dropshipping or printing tshirts.

$128.9MM Q4 is ~$500-$600MM annum. At $30/mo that's maybe 1 million paid users.

$637MM was eBay's marketing budget for one quarter.

The only thing going for Shopify right now is the huge margins and cash accumulation they're doing. Which is pretty fantastic, and they're smart enough to know how precarious that position can be so they then reinvest back into other things, like a POS in an already very crowded POS market.

eBay in the beginning was also doing gangbuster numbers. Then they too invested that money into things and grew into a major corporation.

And that's the whole point. Those bets either pan out or they don't.

And when they don't it completely obliterates the margins on a long enough time line.


$5 Billion dollar valuation, 70% YOY growth, $580M sales last year, will blow past $1B in sales soon - that's 'crushing it'.

FYI those are market, i.e. public valuations, not fantasy VC hype valuations.

"At $30/mo that's maybe 1 million paid users."

1M users at $30 a month is spectacular at that rate of growth. (Though thats not actually how their revenue model works entirely)

... and they just secured the government of Ontario's Marijuana program worth billions.

While 'Dropbox', a YC darling: "Dropbox is filing for a $500 million IPO—but also saying it may never be profitable" [1]

"(Shopify) it's growth is driven by the personality cults that made use of Facebook ad networks to convince others that they can make millions dropshipping or printing tshirts."

No, there is quite a lot cost to 'switch over' to another platform, even for small companies, and they have tremendous buy in.

Shopify is basically sucking in the massive long tail and mid-market of companies who don't want to handle so many of those issues - while EBay and Amazon have failed to do that well.

They are in a spectacular position, and if they continue on this trajectory for a couple of years they will not only blow past Dropbox, they will probably eventually leap frog Stripe once the later's actual numbers start to come public.

If anything, YC darlings Stripe and Dropbox are in precarious positions, because both are heavily commoditized markets, and neither of them have a distinct competitive advantage.

[1]https://qz.com/1214822/dropbox-is-filing-for-a-500-million-i...


> to $128.9 million

That's not even remotely close to "crushing it" in the retail space.


*haphazard


The accessibility of eBay is a nightmare. I would need an assistant to get anything done with that beast. Pretty much the same with Etsy. Digital divide, thank you. You will not be missed.


do you mean, eBay/Etsy are difficult or impossible to use with any of the assistive technologies? (on desktop web or on smartphones?)


Here is my analysis of StubHub business:

1- TM is licking down access to the tickets, making it hard for Stubhub.

2- AEG and other primary concert ticket issuers are building their own ticketing system.

3- StubHub acquisition of ticketbiz and their international ambitions are failing because of very soft secondary landscape.

4- StubHub leadership and culture inspires politics, back stabbing and values BS over innovation.

5- New StubHub CTO is known failure at Amazon. He is bringing a lot of ex-Amazon to SH. There is feeling that something is fishy!

6- Vivid is spending much more in Marketing than SH.

Based on these, I think eBay will spin off StubHub in next 6 month.


There are more and more challengers now with slight niche market, for example local exchange or second-hand market.


Good luck to all affected. Hope you get decent packages.


So long, and thanks for all the phish...




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