Monday, October 8, 2012

eBay Revisited

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote an article/post about eBay and its basic flaws. I considered this my first "substantial" post, in that I presented a fairly good analysis of the state of eBay, what was wrong with it, and things they could do to fix it. A year has passed, and although things have changed for the better, some things haven't changed at all or have gotten worse. I wanted to highlight some of these things in a follow-up article! I will talk about things in parallel with my old article, for a clear "then-and-now" approach to this.

My first major topic was fees; final value fees were roughly 9% back then, and according to the fees page now, they would be 11%, assuming YGO cards would not fall under the categories of electronics, clothing/shoes, or books/music/movies/games. So we have seen a slight increase, but luckily we have gotten something in return in the form of 50 free auction-style listings per month. This has personally helped me a lot since I don't have to pay insertion fees for those 50 items, and about 50-60 auctions per month is about how much I sell. Once you have exceeded the free 50, then you are forced to pay the standard insertion rates. Using a fixed-price listing is still expensive, so I just avoid that altogether. Unfortunately shipping prices have also increased with USPS, but I have found the beauty of using eBay's auto-generated shipping labels which saves quite a bit of money, and you also get to avoid having to stand in line at the post office! The post office I go to is almost always busy, and the workers there are incredibly slow. I always feel like a douchebag when I go in with a bag of packages to send out, place the packages on the side-table, and walk out. Everyone looks at me with that "why the f does that guy just get to drop off his stuff?" look lol. I wish I had been using the shipping label maker all this time - over the years I could've saved a lot of time and money!

In terms of PayPal fees, I actually didn't talk about that in my article from last year. Currently they are 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction, on the assumption that you aren't receiving any kind of discount. So taking the previous percentage of eBay fees, and considering PayPal's fee, that's basically 14% in fees. You also have to factor in shipping for the raw materials (envelope, tape, etc) plus the actual cost. It adds up! That's why when I sell in person, I'm willing to sell at 85-87% of eBay prices. It's a deal for my buyer, and it saves me the time of packaging and listing the item, and the worry of hoping that the buyer doesn't decide to screw me over.

Delivery Confirmation/"I Didn't Get my Item" *wink wink*
In my previous article, I gave a few examples of how I was screwed over on eBay and the strategies that people use to "get something for nothing." All in all these strategies still exist and basically nothing has been done to mitigate them. Between 'Item Not Received' (INR) and 'Item Not as Described' (IND) cases, buyers are pretty much covered in regards to how they want to screw a seller over. If the seller doesn't send with Delivery Confirmation, file INR and boom, get your money back. If you simply don't want the item anymore (or because of reprint screw), file IND, claim it wasn't in mint condition as described in the auction (even if it was and still is when you return it), and boom, get your money back. You don't even need to pay return shipping since eBay will generate a pre-paid shipping label for you! Due to all of these shenanigans, I vowed to myself that I would no longer sell singles on eBay - not for me, not for my team, no one. I've broken this a couple of times (with a lot of apprehension), but for the most part I do not sell singles on there anymore. I've noticed there are far fewer sellers that offer international shipping now, which is a shame but buying internationally was almost a guarantee to get your money back because no one really wanted to use or charge for a Registered Mail equivalent. And on top of all this (holy cow there's more?), eBay has its "wonderful" return policy.

The Return Policy
Back in March eBay sent out a newsletter about their new return policy in which buyers have a 14-day time frame in which they can file an official returns claim and send the purchased item back to the seller for their money back. I wrote about it here. Sellers have the option of accepting returns or not, but this is moot because even if they don't "accept returns", by using IND as previously mentioned, if you want to return your item, you can and you will get your money back. All along I have said that budget should no longer be an issue, as long as you have the initial amount to cover the cost the card(s) in question. What I mean is, if you want to play Geargia with 3 Gigant X's at your next regional or YCS or whatever, there is nothing stopping you from buying the cards on eBay, then filing a return once the event is over to get your money back. I have yet to file a return or have one filed on me, but from what I have gathered the process seems rather simple. I have told people "don't let budget stop you from running what you want to run (at the YCS)". There is literally no point in hindering oneself in terms of card pool when virtually unlimited access is at one's disposal. I don't think anyone on the team besides me and Roy have a functional PayPal account for what ever reason, but that's why I'm here and the service I can gladly provide.

Star System
My biggest gripes about the star system was the inability to give fractions of stars and "buyer bias". If I wanted to give a seller a 4 because I considered them "above average", I could, but due to the high demands that eBay poses on seller performance, this would have been considered a "bad" rating for them. Fast forward to now, and all this is largely unchanged. eBay doesn't explicitly state a minimum rating, but looking at their performance standards page, it is easy enough to infer that you have very little room for error. I believe a 4.8 out of 5 is still considered the baseline minimum and you still have no ability to give fractions of stars. Luckily some of the "auto-5-star-rating" things I talked about last year have been implemented. I have noticed this when leaving feedback for other sellers - in some instances I can't enter anything for a particular rating and the seller will automatically get 5 stars for it. At the very least, it has become a little easier to maintain a good rating! There is still a valid amount of bias though - one buyer gave me neutral feedback on an item, because the item came 1 day after the shipping estimate date that eBay automatically generated based on the sale date. I thought that it was pretty ridiculous, but nothing I can do about that. The system in general has seen some improvements, but there is still more to be desired.

Non-Paying Winners
While I didn't talk about this last year, I have seen that this has become a growing problem over the past few months. For what ever reason, I had a period of time where only about 1 out of 4 people would actually pay for the item that they purchased. Usually it's people that recently joined eBay and/or have very low feedback scores that didn't pay. The punishment for this is basically non-existent; get a "strike" or whatever but as far as I know these have very little significance. Having people not pay for an item doesn't exactly cost me money, but it is annoying, takes time, and you don't get the "free 50 listing" aspect of it back- you use it, you've used it. Doesn't matter if they don't pay. This is why I've changed my auctions to require immediate payment when a user uses Buy-It-Now. I have far fewer issues with non-paying winners now. It sucks because I know some people may be interested in an item and they legitimately are waiting for funds to transfer so they miss out, but unfortunately that's what eBay has come to.

For the most part, eBay is still largely the same (at least in my view). Like I said last year, "it is a free-haven for rippers and buyers". This still holds, and may be even more problematic simply because of the return policy. Whenever there's an issue, in the large majority of cases, the buyer will always win. If you sell on eBay, protect yourself as much as possible but know that if the buyer wants to screw with you, they very easily can. In my opinion selling in person at a discounted rate will always be the best method of sale, followed by selling to sites like Troll and ARG.

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