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Ebay fee hikes cause panic, general ugliness.

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
I’m not sure how much of this has filtered out into the wider Internet, but this month, eBay announced that it would be raising fees for inserting items into eBay stores by a rather outlandish amount. It once cost 2 cents per store item per month. Costs will now be 5-10 cents per item per month. Ebay has also added a 2% raise to the cut they take when an item sells – termed the Final Value Fee. It may sound like pennies, but for vendors who have 5000 items in their eBay stores, we’re talking big money. This abrupt alteration in eBay’s policies has caused nothing short of mayhem, and a visit to the eBay stores boards now reminds me of nothing quite so much as a metropolitan black out wherein normally law-abiding citizens have turned suddenly to smashing windows, mugging their neighbors and looting. Obviously, no real physical violence is taking place (isn’t that one of the benefits of a virtual world?), but it’s been rather numbing to watch folks who were swapping cookie recipes last week suddenly hurling epithets and scathing remarks at one another across a Hatfield McCoy-esque line that separates those who are keeping their eBay stores open from those who aren’t. Data suggests that hundreds of eBay stores will close this month, either in protest or due to lack of budget.


Ebay store owners were informed of this change via an extremely snooty e-mail from eBay owner, Bill Cobb, entitled Resetting the Balance of the eBay Marketplace, the basic gist of which is that he realized he messed up by allowing 83% of the listings on eBay to be sitting in the eBay stores, rather than in auctions. EBay wants to move back to their auction-style roots (they’ll make more money this way). The only thing standing in Cobb’s way of recrafting eBay is the store owners, and so he is hiking the fees in hopes that most of the store owners will go away. Understandably, all of the sellers who got into eBay under the impression that they were going to be highly promoted by Mr. Cobb’s company are seeing red. For some, this will represent a considerable loss in total or partial income. Ebay has gone on to make a bit of a clown of itself by policing the stores and auctions to make sure no one is allowed to post retaliatory items containing the red flag phrase ‘fee hike’. Over the past few years, eBay has enacted so many drastic changes that the store sellers were simply not in a docile or receptive mood when this latest flip flop hit. Meanwhile, it’s free to list items on eBay in China….

Now, here is what really bothers me. As you may or may not know, Solas Web Design maintains a small eBay store offering customized templates to eBay store owners (a side venture from our normal work in traditional web design/SEO). When we registered with eBay, the community stationed at the eBay Stores Board was friendly, helpful, even tight-knit. People were happy to offer advice to newcomers and pleasant in their praise of their neighbors’ eBay success stories. Sure, there were a few kooks there posting random nonsense or flaming anyone they happened to come across, but that’s rather the rule with on-line communities. What I’m trying to say here is that the Stores Board was a vibrant and very nice place to be. Not so anymore. Not by a long shot. If the collective venom of the community over this had all been targeted at coming up with ever-more creative curses to call down upon the Cobb family, that would be one thing. It’s the fact that the fear caused by this change has resulted in folks tearing into one another that I find so repellant. Should you dare to post on that board now that you just made a super sale, you are likely to end up being called a liar, a traitor and basically the scum of the earth. On the other hand, should you post that you just don’t know how you’ll continue to support your handicapped father-in-law as a result of the eBay fee hikes, it’s likely that some self-righteous ‘friend’ will come along to tell you what a loser you are for not having the budget to run a ‘real’ business. You get the picture. It’s hostile. It’s ugly. It’s undignified. Of course, fear is at the root of it, but it really does hurt to see the collapse of what was once such a nice place to be.

While I’m ready to lay the blame in this at Bill Cobb’s door because the fact of the matter is, he doesn’t want the community of eBay store sellers to exist anymore and is doing all he can to diminish it, it is still the responsibility of the individual business persons to behave themselves like dignified adults, rather than ruthless barbarians or petulant children. It’s never pretty when human beings become convinced that the time has come to ‘let it all hang out’, no matter how justified they may be. It’s a simple case of failing to act with grace under pressure. Though it is not universal and some good souls have continued to behave in a kind manner, a major percentage of the eBay store owners appear to be spending hours every day finding new ways to hurt one another’s feelings. I hate seeing this. Business is business and eBay has acted like every other corporation I can think of. They’re in this for the money. That’s what big business is all about. But the ‘little guy’ has the wonderful opportunity to live a life free of the unethical, cruel and heartless double dealings that go on in the world of high finance. The eBay store owners could be assisting each other right now to face these changes and come up with strategies for continuing to earn income via the Internet. They should be helping each other. Isn’t that what community is all about?