I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: eBay has reached its nadir. The once might giant is now facing competition not only from Craigslist but from online forums and shops where experts in their field, be it photography equipment to watches, are buying and selling to an informed audience. In short the economy of ignorance that drives most auctions is almost dead and everyone from Joe the Plumber to an auction-master at Christie’s knows – or can find out – the true price of an item online.
n a nutshell, eBay wants its sellers to keep a 4.3 or above (out of 5-star) composite average on several metrics on which customers leave feedback. The most controversial is the shipping and handling feedback. A 4 in this metric means “reasonable,” but if a seller starts getting mostly 4s, eventually that will pull her overall rating down below 4.3. If a buyer rates the shipping charges as “neutral” (3) or “unreasonable” (2)—even if that perception is mistaken—the seller’s ratings will plummet and her account can be suspended. Sellers do have 30 days to increase their rating while they’re suspended, but if they’re not selling, it’s obviously tough to get better feedback.
While this ostensibly weeds out the bad sellers, eBay is also looking to move towards an instant pay model, thereby using its PayPal service to its fullest and gaining minute profits along the way. Encouraging people to Buy It Now is actually fairly important: it moves eBay from a browsing site that requires two or more hits to get a transaction to an outright sales site that requires only one click for a purchase.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great marketplace for crazy crap (my wife is bidding on some out-of-production lipstick right now) but I’ve all but abandoned the site for big-ticket items. You?