Posted: Feb 20, 2008 10:13 am
Sellers boycott eBay over fees, feedback
Ellen Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
From YouTube to MySpace, angry eBay sellers are tapping the Web to call for a boycott of the online auction house, which beginning today is changing the fees it charges sellers to use the marketplace.
Last month, eBay announced plans to raise prices for certain sellers as well as tweak how buyers and sellers offer feedback about each other.
EBay, faced with a depressed stock and increasing competition from sites such as Amazon.com, is in the midst of preparing for its new CEO, John Donahoe, who takes over from longtime head Meg Whitman next month.
EBay said the price changes will benefit many sellers, who will see a decrease in the cost to list their item. But some sellers point out that at the same time, eBay is increasing its commission on sold items. EBay also said that the new feedback policy, which no longer allows sellers to offer feedback on their customers, was in the interest of buyers. But sellers worry that it gives buyers too much power, for instance, to retaliate or scam them.
Some disgruntled eBay sellers started online petitions, uploaded videos to YouTube, flooded message boards and joined on social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook to promote a one-week boycott of eBay to push the company to reconsider its new policies. Participating sellers have yanked their items off eBay, and some have listed them on rival sites.
"I feel bad because a lot of sellers are losing money, and I know it hurts," said Timothy Church, an eBay user who started a "Boycott eBay" MySpace page that has drawn more than 470 friends. "But we have to take a stand. We have to be united. They have gone too far this time."
Jose Mallabo, a spokesman for eBay, said the company is paying attention to the feedback. It is going ahead with the fee changes, although it did tweak the cost for sellers of DVDs, books and other media in response to recent complaints.
"It's emotional and they're voicing their concern, but we think the changes are for the long-term health of the business and community," Mallabo said.
It's difficult to gauge how many of eBay's 276 million buyers and sellers are participating in the boycott, which lasts until Monday. Boycotts are nothing new for the company, whose buyers and sellers historically have proved to be a vocal bunch.
But AuctionBytes.com President David Steiner said this boycott has drawn much more attention than past attempts and appears to be the loudest yet. Increasingly, sellers have more options outside of eBay, such as Amazon.com and Etsy, a site selling homemade crafts, he said. Etsy raised $27 million in funding last month, including from Accel Partners, one of the early backers of Facebook.
"The boycott in and of itself may be hard to quantify for how much damage it's done to eBay," Steiner said. "But in the long term ... their goodwill is scraping the bottom of the barrel."
Church, who lives in Lancaster (Los Angeles County) and buys and sells superhero collectibles on eBay, pledged to continue the boycott beyond Monday.
"If we have a virtual union ... and decide a direction for where we want to go, maybe we can be stronger and more successful," he said.
E-mail Ellen Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.