What is wrong with so many sellers on ebay?!?!?!

30 replies
So I just got a subscription to Terrapeak, and I've been doing a lot of research into importing products from China to sell on ebay. I sold on ebay about 7 years ago, was a powerseller in high school, but I went off to college and forgot all about ebay except for buying a few things here and there. I got back into it when I started buying storage units, because I had stuff I needed to sell. Anyway, that's not the point. This is the point:

A lot of sellers on ebay are doing terribly. I'll give one guy as an example, a top seller in his category, he lists over 4,500 items per week with a sell-through rate of only 6.5%. If you look at his listings, they are bare bones. What I mean by that, is that there is a picture of the product and a description. NO ATTEMPT TO SELL WHAT-SO-EVER.

What I mean by this specifically: Features are listed, but benefits are not discussed. No social proof (ex: if you are selling kettlebells, why not put in a youtube video of someone who has had success with your kettlebells?) No building value. Just, "This is what I got, u want it, cool, then bid."

This guy sells around 400 items per week, and after you calculate his ebay fees and what he pays for his products he probably only makes $1 per item he sells.

Here is the thing: its the same story with a lot of sellers on ebay. They scrape by on terribly thin margins that are made super-thin by their low sell-through rates. Am I missing something? Are there ebay policies against being to "salesey" in your ebay ads?

I'm thinking of trying to make a very salesy ebay ad, complete with product demonstration videos and customer testimonial videos and seeing if I can hit it out of the ballpark with the ad. Good idea?
#ebay #sellers #wrong
  • Profile picture of the author Sally K
    I've been selling on eBay for nearly 5 years and the site has changed a lot in that time.

    IMO the reason you're seeing listings without much copy is because many sellers are trying to hang on via quantity selling, low margin-high volume. More and more business risk pushed onto sellers, and there already was a lot.

    Testing is always a good idea, and eBay has plenty of name recognition to bring in potential customers. But if you haven't sold much on the site since 7 years ago, I'd suggest reading up about the site as though you'd never heard of it before, and see if it makes business sense when plugged into the rest of your concept, before you plunk down big $$ for some skid loads of goods.
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  • Profile picture of the author alcymart
    I been a powerseller on eBay too many moons ago and my profit margin was acceptable, but I was selling Plasma TV's and sound systems, so my ROI was high.

    You would be referring to those sellers that sell lower priced items and once ebay takes fees, of course they don't make a huge profit. In fact, many go under and close shop.

    My suggestion would be to sell higher end pricier items. A sale is a sale whatever amount it is. You won't get much more sales because you are selling lower end items.

    The point is I rather sell an airplane and make a quick $70,000 profit than 1 pair of batteries and struggle to earn $1!

    Some may want to debate that pricier item sales result in higher ebay fees but I been successful on eBay with pricier items and fees were pocket change, instead of a nightmare for the lower end item seller.

    I've sold both low and high and high is the best route to take on ebay based on my own experience.
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    • Profile picture of the author Beatrice
      My suggestion would be to sell higher end pricier items. A sale is a sale whatever amount it is. You won't get much more sales because you are selling lower end items.
      I totally agree with that. I have been a powerseller for years and have seen many changes in Ebay (most of them unhelpful to sellers). These days I list a lot less items and only stick to High value items.
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  • Profile picture of the author FranciscoDancon
    To be clear, I've been selling on ebay a little bit for the past couple of months. I haven't been buying items specifically for ebay, but I've been buying storage units at auction and usually there are some items that just work best for ebay. My favorite was some magazines having to do with marijuana. Apparently people collect those, so I listed a lot of 8 of them and got $25! Who would have thought!?!?!

    But if I buy items specifically for ebay, I'd like to have the best of both worlds: low purchse cost for me, and a high price point for the item. How do you do this? By building value in the listing! I don't want to sound like a jackal, because I haven't done this yet so I can't really talk, but I think it could work well. MSRP is what the manufacturer in China tells me I should sell it for. When you're negotiating over price, they will tell you some crazy high numbers. So obviously this is for sale for 90% off MSRP. Why not point that out? And don't forget how when you're wearing the item, people will treat you with more respect, and the ladies are going to love it. Insert video of guy talking about how many girls wants to dance with him when he was wearing the item. And what about bonuses? Oh yes, you get a bonus, why? Because the factory was in financial distress and we got a limited quantity of this bonus item for a song (and a dance, don't ask!) and we want to thank you for your business!

    I've read cashvertising. I'm just really surprised not to see cashvertising put to use on ebay.
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  • Profile picture of the author FranciscoDancon
    Another thing: Where is the sex appeal? I'm looking at lots of jewelry listings, and I don't see any sex appeal in there. Come on, that has got to be the primary reason people buy jewelry. Men buy it for women in anticipation of reciprocation, and women buy it to wear as an adornment. The other big reason people buy jewelry is because it is a status symbol, and this is very closely connected with sex appeal, but I actually don't see the ads appealing to either of these.
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  • Profile picture of the author Charlotte Jay
    I agree with the other comments about high volume and low margins. Also, eBay has changed so much over the past few years that I really hate using it as a small time seller. It's like they're out to make life difficult for the little guys.
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  • Profile picture of the author saeed13
    I guess adding videos, would build up trust and potentially more consumers buying
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  • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
    Banned
    Ebay jumped the shark back in 2005-2006 I'd say. These sellers aren't going to start selling more because they start talking about features/benefits. The competition is fierce and there are no barriers to entry. It'd be like if you put 100 people in a room of internet marketers with copies of mass control and tried to sell it to 10 people. These people know what the product is, they are looking for the best price.

    In my view the only place for ebay these day is for people getting rid of old stuff...or companies liquidating inventory. For everyone else, time is better spent elsewhere. These big liquidators are not paying the same fees as you, so it's not even a level playing field.

    I import products from China so I have an extremely low COG. And I find ebay just to be a huge pain to deal with. I can literally make 5x the profit by selling it on my own. And a much better option is Amazon. You can setup one listing for a product, stock the inventory, and then just let it go. Much, MUCH easier.
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  • Profile picture of the author Marvin Johnston
    Originally Posted by FranciscoDancon View Post

    I'm thinking of trying to make a very salesy ebay ad, complete with product demonstration videos and customer testimonial videos and seeing if I can hit it out of the ballpark with the ad. Good idea?
    What you are talking about doing really depends on the buyer demographics. And that will depend on the catagory where you are selling.

    The bottom line is to test your ideas, and see what works.

    A lot of sellers *might* be doing badly judging only by the public results that are shown. But that doesn't show the offsite sales or benefits of using the site for advertising rather than sales.

    I use Terapeak frequently now, but my favorite when I was selling was HammerTap as it gave the data I needed in an easily accessible format. I still get a kick out of sellers donating money to oBay because they didn't do the necessary research to find out if their stuff would actually sell ... and at a profit .

    My rule of thumb was if I got everything for free and sold it there, would I still make a profit. It only goes downhill from there .

    BTW, I quit selling there almost 3 years ago when the oBay mentality became one of screw the sellers. Their customer service at that point was a disgrace (might still be ... I don't know.)

    AFAIK, seller complaints have almost from the beginning (I first started selling there in 1998) were almost universally ignored.

    My point above is the type of things happening there are a result of s**t falling down from what passes as management. Do you want to sell in that kind of an environment?

    I wish (sometimes) I was the type of person that could ignore the customer service issues, but I can't ... or won't.

    Rant over .

    Marvin

    PS - Here in California, I saw a lot of comments that people would not vote for Meg Whitman for governor in the last election because of the many problems with oBay.
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    • Profile picture of the author Black Hat Cat
      Banned
      Originally Posted by Marvin Johnston View Post

      PS - Here in California, I saw a lot of comments that people would not vote for Meg Whitman for governor in the last election because of the many problems with oBay.
      Which pretty much confirms that California is a lost cause, considering who they voted for instead. All hail governor moonbeam, lol.
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  • Profile picture of the author FranciscoDancon
    @Beatrice: Do you have a dollar threshold that you don't mess with products underneath?
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianTerr
    Instead of competing with these poor quality sellers, why not contact them, offer them your services, i.e. offer to improve their listings by writing good display copy, offer to fill their auctions with pictures with no extra ebay fees etc (I am constantly amazed by the number of sellers who host pics with ebay and pay through the nose for the privilege). Sheesh it's ebay 101, my margins increased a lot as soon as my listings looked more professional. Charge what you feel comfortable with for offering your marketing services.

    You can still compete with them, they'll never know anyway.
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    • Profile picture of the author FranciscoDancon
      Hey Brian that is a great idea! I like it a lot and I'm going to run with it! I have to actually do it myself, get the tweaks out, but there is no reason a big deal ebay seller shouldn't be willing to put down $97 for me to come along and triple his sales of an item that currently sells $500/week. That there is a FERTILE MARKET!
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  • Profile picture of the author Tess D
    I had been selling on ebay for years and making a very steady income on the products I created. Then came 2007 - 2008, and my business was competing with people selling their products for peanuts.
    I don't know why sellers insist on giving away the store or ugly ads, but I agree with your premise - sex up the listings and sell for better prices!
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      I used to buy several things a month on ebay - in the past year I've made ONE purchase there.

      importing products from China to sell on ebay
      That's the main reason I stopped going to ebay. On regular purchases of standard items, Amazon was eating ebay's lunch on prices with free shipping.

      For so many items I buy - the ebay market was flooded with cheap junk from China - and fake products from the same place. Many of these items are listed as "located in the US" - but were only shipped to one US location and then forwarded to buyers.

      Prices on ebay are often not competitive today. The one item I purchased was only $1 less than I could get it elsewhere. Seller offered free shipping and that's the only reason I made the buy.

      kay
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      • Profile picture of the author Dave Rodman
        Banned
        I agree about Amazon. Amazon PRIME rules!
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  • Profile picture of the author Dan Anton
    I used to sell quite a bit on ebay but the last few years I've just gotten tired of the whole platform. I've found better and more innovative ways to market products now.
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    • Profile picture of the author bgmacaw
      Another former before 2007 Powerseller here.

      It just became too much of a pain and too unprofitable to sell there. Instead, I concentrated on local venues like antique malls/auctions, consignment shops and flea markets depending on the particular items being sold. Then I got into IM and affiliate marketing (no inventory, no living in a warehouse)
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      • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
        I used to sell on eBay years ago, but I haven't sold anything on eBay in years. That is, I haven't listed anything to sell.

        EBay just wound up making things too difficult for me. In my niche, there was a revolving door of sorts. When I started, I could sell items at a decent profit. But, toward the end of my run, competitors were selling things at cost or less than cost. Probably using them as a loss leader in the hopes of building a base of recurring customers.

        But, most eBay buyers were one-off buyers. They'd buy once and never again. So, you'd see this revolving door of competitors where they'd keep changing because the former ones would realize the strategy just wasn't working.

        So, I just stuck with selling things off my own website, which I had been doing before eBay anyway.

        And now, as a buyer, I find myself using Amazon more. There are some items I still buy on eBay, but I think I only had a couple purchases off eBay last year. I used to use eBay for new and used items, but now I mainly use it for used items that are no longer in production. Other stuff, I can get from Amazon and, with Amazon Prime, I get (basically) free two-day shipping.

        If Amazon ever adds auctions (or maybe they have and I haven't noticed), eBay's days may be numbered. EBay just isn't a seller-friendly place anymore and, without sellers, buyers don't have a reason to go there.
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  • Profile picture of the author Silas Hart
    eBay isn't doing so well in the eyes of even the large million dollar per year sellers, not to mention the people clinging to profit $100 a month.

    The thing is, if you are going to export in bulk from China, you are going to be competing against people in China. Most things that people look for, say Super Mario Plushies, are going to have Chinese sellers selling them and they can get them cheaper than you ever could, despite you buying in bulk of 10 or 10000. Not to mention, shipping from China and within China is actually pretty quick. I can ship something from Yiwu to Nanjing in a day, and then its out of the country hours later by plane, sits in customs for a day, then circulates into the USPS. So, if you are undercutting Chinese people, can you afford to work 8 hours a day on eBay for the same kind of wage they are comfortable with? Probably not. If you are looking for items, find things that look good, that nobody else is selling - which sucks because you dont know what you could sell something for. Another tip, sell above $25. It's nearly impossible to really profit on anything less. Hell, if you sell an item for $9.99 on eBay, eBay takes 30 something percent! Also, if you dont want to buy in bulk... go on eBay, buy from a Chinese seller, and resell the item once you get it for a couple bucks more because people do buy from sellers from their own country, but not nearly as much as you might think.

    Lets not mention, eBay is pretty much forcing you to offer free shipping which is risky, the USPS is getting horribly unreliable (now I ship through FedEx and UPS) - if you don't, your account WILL be hit by a low DSR score which will cause eBay to suspend and delete your account.

    Other sellers are becoming cut-throat. I was selling Anime items that were completely legit, eBay had all of my supplier information, but because eBay is so automated, it doesn't take much for a competing seller to create a couple buyers accounts and report your item as being fake or bootleg.

    eBay just doesn't offer much of a platform that you can build a big consistent business anymore, and they don't care.
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  • Profile picture of the author JSProjects
    I've been a seller on eBay for over 5 years, and with the recent changes, my business has dropped so drastically that I'm thinking of leaving it completely.

    My services have always been around $100-$150, so I was never a huge volume seller, but I still made more than enough to qualify as a power seller, and for about a year, a "top rated" seller. But over time I lost my top rated seller status due to a lack of sales volume. (Keep in mind I have had PERFECT feedback since opening my seller account 5 years ago.) I far surpassed the required earnings amount to be a power seller, but since I didn't sell a certain amount of items over the course of a year, I lost both my power and top rated seller status.

    After losing my status, my listings fell to the bottom of the last pages when searching for my keywords, effectively killing my business on eBay. The ironic thing is, if I ever want to get my status back, I have to increase my sales volume. Which is IMPOSSIBLE since I'm no longer anywhere near the first page of search results.

    This has to be driving sellers away. It's a shame that legitimate, long time sellers are getting treated like this. My eBay sales have essentially dropped 70-80% since losing my status. Yet here I am, perfect feedback after 5 years. At the bottom of the pile. Losing out to sellers who undercut and offer ridiculous promises just to sell a high volume.

    My primary business on eBay is (was?) web design and SEO. How can I compete when sellers are offering websites for 99 cents, and I'm offering them for $100? It's impossible. My clients are always impressed with my level of service and attention. Yet apparently I'm not good enough for eBay, since I don't scam everyone by selling 99 cent websites that are sold over and over and over and over again.

    Ugh, enough venting. Sorry everyone.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joe Benjamin
    Wow.

    @ JSProjects : I know what it's like man. It sucks. It sucks even more
    because eBay -- before it got to big for it's own good -- was actually
    a good way to make money.

    The system the way it was worked. The treatment between buyers &
    sellers were about balanced. PayPal didn't have silly rules like putting
    21 day holds on money you can't use to re-invest long after the item
    was shipped.

    The more "new" changes they made -- the worse the experience. I
    still remember the 2-3 months when everything went haywire and ebay
    did a "ebay slap" (when there wasn't one needed in the first place).

    @ Dan C. Rinnert: I agree. Sellers would sell their products as a loss
    leader hoping they would actually make a profit on the back-end with
    the same customer...

    little did they know most ebay buyers (myself included) were buyers
    out of convenience. I've never purchased from one ebay seller more
    than once out of loyalty. I did it only because they just so happened
    to be listing the item I want in the moment at that time.

    But, I give sellers credit for "trying" because it could have worked and
    that seller would have made a fortune.

    @ as for me: eBay is hard to do business with. They make it difficult
    to work with them and treat MANY of their sellers as CRIMINALS who
    rip off their buyers -- those people are the small minority.

    I LOVE buying from ebay. But my experience SELLING on eBay (as of
    now) is more of a hate relationship. I'm confident eBay will get back
    to it's roots. The way it was BEFORE they hiked up their percentage
    fee's. The way it was BEFORE they went too corporate.

    Only time will tell, but I'm not looking forward to it because I wouldn't
    count on building a business around any one elses model buy my own.
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    • Profile picture of the author JSProjects
      I don't know if eBay will ever get back to its roots, to be honest. There was a time when my entire online income was coming from eBay and affiliate commissions, from referring clients to a hosting company. (Which I even joined myself to ensure that they were a quality company.) The good thing, though, is that it forced me to really get into my own projects and not relying on eBay so much.

      I hate to even buy things on eBay now. These days, most of my purchases are from Amazon. I don't even like supporting eBay after what they've done to sellers.
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  • Profile picture of the author donhx
    Originally Posted by FranciscoDancon View Post

    A lot of sellers on ebay are doing terribly. I'll give one guy as an example, a top seller in his category, he lists over 4,500 items per week with a sell-through rate of only 6.5%. If you look at his listings, they are bare bones. What I mean by that, is that there is a picture of the product and a description. NO ATTEMPT TO SELL WHAT-SO-EVER.?
    I don't want to go off-topic on this, but this is a common IM problem.

    People don't realize that every page is a landing page, and they often just put filler on pages. They hire the cheapest person possible to insert keywords in text that barely makes sense, with no concept that a page needs to be filled with persuasive sales copy to convert.

    That is the downside of so many cheap content writers, particularly those offshore, but others too. They may be able to write some English, but they don't understand the psychology required to motivate people to buy in the this culture, where so much stuff is being sold. IM people don't seem to get it it either... they want 500 articles with 500 words each for $500 and then wonder why their sales suck. There is no magic in articles themselves, only power in words that persuade.

    I suspect the same thing is happening on eBay. People are just putting products on display, but are making no real effort to sell them.
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    • Profile picture of the author c.t.coburn
      I'd recommend people not even bother with ebay as an income stream.

      I've got 100% feedback, sold for years, and some things I've attempted to list in the past couple years?? invisible!

      Yes, I know some steps I could take, and certain there are others I could learn but I would then be mastering a platform I don't own and don't control. And it's been established ebay changes without regard to the seller.

      I only play in my little niche of bookmarks that I create myself. only worthwhile since they cost a few cents to produce.
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    • Profile picture of the author Silas Hart
      Originally Posted by donhx View Post

      I don't want to go off-topic on this, but this is a common IM problem.

      People don't realize that every page is a landing page, and they often just put filler on pages. They hire the cheapest person possible to insert keywords in text that barely makes sense, with no concept that a page needs to be filled with persuasive sales copy to convert.

      That is the downside of so many cheap content writers, particularly those offshore, but others too. They may be able to write some English, but they don't understand the psychology required to motivate people to buy in the this culture, where so much stuff is being sold. IM people don't seem to get it it either... they want 500 articles with 500 words each for $500 and then wonder why their sales suck. There is no magic in articles themselves, only power in words that persuade.

      I suspect the same thing is happening on eBay. People are just putting products on display, but are making no real effort to sell them.
      The only real purpose of a persuasive description is for SEO, in hoping that a search engine crawls your listing and directs you some traffic that way and hopes that the buyers aren't capable of finding the same item and possibly cheaper, from other sellers - which eBay makes it very easy to find. If you are selling an item in which you have only 1 other competitor or 10, people likely won't buy from you if you are not the cheapest. If you are second cheapest, maybe... but that's only if the cheapest competitor is sold out.

      eBay's new listing format doesn't even show the description anymore.

      And if you are the only person selling a specific item, then maybe... but really, I haven't seen a difference for most of the items I sell going from a basic uninteresting description to a targeted persuasive for the demographic/potential customer that I knew was already semi-interested in my items, and over a 6 month period for each listing, I haven't seen an increase in sales.
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      • Profile picture of the author Antonios
        Some years ago I was growing my eBay business.

        I even wrote a pdf ebook on how to sell on eBay. What others had in 10 steps I stripped into about 100 steps. Very easy step by step process.

        I was selling digital products only.

        But when eBay changed their rules and prohibited digital downloads I stopped accessing my account. I had 100% positive feedback.

        Now digital products have to be mailed in some device (cd, dvd).

        The recommendations were to use eBay as a list builder for your own website. One cent offers were very common.

        You could list completely free and pay after sales a very low fee.

        I understand that at present there is monthly fee ($9.95?) required.

        I was planning on entering the arena again and was planning on buying an eBay powerseller ebook on how the things work now:

        Auction Income Formula.com (2.0 version) from Edson Buchanan. He offers a 7 day trial for $4.95. I don't know if this is sufficient time to use and see if his system works.

        But by what I have read here on these posts, it apparently isn't a good idea to return to eBay.

        Apparently, eBay is useless even as a list builder or as an ad campaign for a website outside eBay.

        Comments?

        Sincerely,

        Antonios
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  • Profile picture of the author sarahberra
    I've heard that there are too many sellers on eBay to make it worth it. However, I have noticed that there are powersellers who have gotten over this hump as the years have gone by. I'm not what their secret is, but they have found a way to have a profitable business, despite the competition.
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  • Profile picture of the author ahlexis
    I hate to say this guys, because I too disliked all the changes oBay made, but the truth is I think they just took their business to the 80/20 rule, what I call Parrette's Principle which is basically that 90 percent of your customers will generate 5 percent of your results. Invert Parrette's Principle and then you have 5 percent of your customers supplying 90 percent of your profits.

    (Yes, I know it's Pareto, but with all this talk of ebay slaps I couldn't help but think of the old NCIS Gibbs slap and well, there you go! An explanation of how 90 percent of the work gets done and then the boss shows up asking why it's taking so long to get results!) (And yes, I know I've left off the last 5 percent, but it's eaten up by oBay miscellaneous fees anyway!)

    I think that oBay eliminated 90 percent of their customers (the sellers) because they just didn't think they were worth the trouble to keep them. That MUST be what happened, it's the result they got, and it's obvious customer service means nothing to them. If they had longed for any other result they wouldn't have slapped their nasty changes in so often.

    It's gotten so bad till now when I buy something I just automatically leave positive feedback, before I've even gotten the product, even if later I've been ripped off. Doesn't make a bit of difference. How do I know? I put positive feedback on a guy, then when the product showed up, it was not as advertised. I logged a complaint in oBay, they immediately closed it down and referred me to Paypal. Since he provided me something that was used and I could prove it by the fact that it would normally require a 3rd party to activate the devise and they refused due to an outstanding balance (and I had chat transcripts with date and time) and the ad said "new" then Paypal gave me the money back.

    Why did I leave positive feedback for this guy? Call it my futile form of protest; feedback now means nothing if sellers cannot leave it for buyers. And a lot of sellers have automatic feedback generation so as soon as I leave my positive their auto-system leaves me one back. Insane system, that oBay, isn't it?

    Read my sig file below to understand the true nature of oBay. Their business model of messing about the majority of their paying customers that made them great is one of those infinite things Einstein once talked about (I'm talking about the customers paying oBay directly, the sellers). And I'm pretty sure we're not talking about the universe here.
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  • Profile picture of the author Marvin Johnston
    A post (seen in the first response) that was made about 2 1/2 years ago pretty much spelled out the powers that be and their attitude towards the smaller sellers. In retrospect, it was unfortunately only too accurate.

    I only offer it as an interesting look at the times when many of us saw the company as a declining opportunity for small sellers.

    Marvin
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