08 April 2008

Selling on the Moon (A Rant)

I've had an account on eBay for seven years now, as of last month. For most of those years, I was buying; then, two years ago -- again, as of last month -- I started selling some of my Beloved Crap. Much of which I had bought earlier on ebay. The Alice Starmore stuff especially.

And it was good. I loved buying things on eBay. It was a very good place to find unusual things. I had searches saved for things that I wanted and couldn't possibly find anywhere, and sometimes they appeared and I bought them. My favorite of these was an Eva Rosenstand cross stitch kit of some little foxes ripping apart a pigeon, part of a pair of bloody-minded pictures of little fox cubs learning to tear up dinner. I owned one; the other had been discontinued for YEARS. Should have bought it when I was a graduate student and loved it and couldn't afford it. Should have realized it wouldn't last in the catalog, cause not so many people would be amused by it. Anyway. I had a search on for Eva Rosenstand kits, and by god, that kit came up, being sold by somebody in England. And I put an REALLY high proxy bid on it. REALLY high. And I got it, for a fraction of what I would have been willing to pay, though a startling amount anyway.

Yep. eBay was good for buying.

Also, selling. I never sold large amounts. I had things I didn't need anymore, and I wanted more space and more money, and I sold stuff off on eBay. There was a rare Alice Starmore knitting booklet for which I had paid $400 or so on eBay a few years before -- I got $900 when I resold it on eBay.

Ah, the days.

Now to to the present: eBay has been changing its rules lately. There's a lot of flurry about this on the discussion boards over there. Basically, the changes I'm interested in are these:

1) eBay has raised the fees for selling -- they cut the listing fees, but take a higher percentage of the final take. This doesn't really concern me, because I only sell on eBay as a hobby, so I can lose the money. Others are more deeply affected.

2) As of May 1, sellers will no longer be able to leave negative feedback for their buyers. I don't like this much, because I like to look at the bidders when I can, and remove those who have too many neg's, or a history of bid retractions, but really, usually online sellers don't know the history of their buyers, so what the hell, I can live with this.

3) They've instituted a thing called "Detailed Seller Ratings," a system of 1-5 star ratings that buyers add, besides the usual negative, neutral, or positive rating. And this is why I'm leaving eBay.

eBay tells the buyers that 4 stars are good. But 4 stars get you in trouble, as a seller. You need 5 stars, or you fall down the newly instituted curve, and don't show up as high in the searches. In what I sell, this doesn't matter, cause I sell mostly hard to find widgets. But it also affects your rating.

And here's what's happened to me so far: I have JUST now got enough ratings to have my Detailed Seller Rating displayed. And damned if I don't have less than 5-star ratings.

Now, understand this. I have 100% positive feedback. I send emails immediately to my buyers, giving them the invoice, and telling them my policies. I let them know when I receive their payments. I let them know when I ship their widgets. Indeed, I ship ASAP as soon as I receive payment, usually the very next business day (eBay recommends within 3 days). I don't charge for handling -- I charge only the postage it costs me. Sometimes I up the service at my own expense. I don't charge for insurance; I pay for it myself.

And couple of people -- no way to know who -- have rated me a 4 in shipping costs.

Oh really. Perhaps I should have driven over in my car and delivered your widget by hand. For free.

eBay has announced that it's moving out of the auction format and into a retail format. And they've been pushing out the small sellers for a while. There are a host of small sellers (and some of the big ones, too) who are leaving eBay and going to other online sites. In the forums, you can't say the names of these places, cause eBay will (naturally) take down the post. They're referred to as "the river," or "the moon." (There's one that is "Scotland," but I haven't figured it out yet. Anybody who knows, tell me, willya?)

I'll be one of them -- I'm finishing off selling my hard to find widgets that sometimes go for lots of cash, and opening up an online store over on the moon. I'll let you know where it is. Some dolls! Some hard to find embroidery books! Some really darling widgets!

I'm keeping my eBay account just in case I need to use it. And I'm going to continue to lurk on the discussion boards, to see how things turn out after the May changes in feedback. And I'm grateful to eBay for the lovely times I had buying and selling interesting and sometimes expensive crap. But I'm going to the moon, Alice.

3 comments:

CarlBrannen said...

Scotland? Hmm. Craig's List perhaps?

My buddy's crazy used equipment business started on eBay (with stuff like this) and we've been following the recent changes as well though we mostly sell direct now. Ebay's problem was that Amazon (and others) stole most of the book business from eBay by having no insertion fees. Your cousin Gus sells books this way, it's perfect for rare books.

The problem eBay faces is that people can put something up for sale on eBay, get contacted by a buyer, and then sell it outside the eBay system. I don't see how they're going to avoid that.

The problem with the auction format is that things sometimes go really cheap. I think that if there is a great deal of interest in something unusual the auction is the only way to sell it. Auctions also work for commodities that everyone knows the value of, but it is not necessary there.

I hear that eBay is getting new management this spring, perhaps they will return a little to the old way of doing things.

Otter said...

I, too, think Scotland is probably Craig's List.
Nice to hear your voice once in a while.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Scotland is Neoloch (also referred to as the Friendly Auction Site): http://neoloch.com/