eBay blinks

Rob Hof

Well, just a little. Amid mounting anger by eBay sellers over recent fee hikes, the company early Sunday announced a small fee cut and expanded customer service. Will they be enough to quell the rebellion? ...

On the morning of Feb. 6, eBay North America President Bill Cobb posted an open letter to eBay sellers that amounts to a partial mea culpa. eBay's not scaling back the fees it announced it will raise starting Feb. 18, but it is giving a one-month credit in May to owners of eBay Stores. It's also reducing fees, as I had suggested recently. One of them anyway: The minimum listing fee on items that start at 99 cents or less falls from 30 cents to 25 cents. And it's planning to start offering more live customer service by e-mail and phone.

No telling yet whether that will be enough to stop angry sellers from making good on their threats to leave eBay. At least some still aren't happy, judging from one auction message board. But while eBay's often accused of not listening, these new moves illustrate how adept it is at putting its finger to the wind when it needs to.


One Tech Beat reader, Mona L. Swearingen, isn't so sure eBay has gone far enough. Here's what she wrote in an e-mail:

eBay hasn't blinked enough yet.

1. Listing fee decrease - benefits those that start out listings at ridiculously low amounts and charge too much shipping. It is only on items starting at 99 cents or less. Everything else remains unchanged.

2. A basic store subscription fee rebate for one month - as if eBay's billing department is going to be able to get it right? They still haven't credited a lot of sellers for the "free" trial month. I can see this working just as well.

3. Telephone support for eBay store sellers - another way for somebody at eBay say: "Clear your cookies and your cache" while ignoring the question originally asked. eBay support quite often has no idea about the features of eBay. Unless eBay conducts major education of their customer service representatives, this will be a useless as the present system.

None of this addresses the growing un-usability of the site. If eBay fixed the numerous and unending glitches, I don't think anyone would have been quite as outraged. Paying more for a service that is declining significantly in quality just doesn't make any sense.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.