Ebay, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for Seller's

This is a 2 part series and another article will be written from the buyer's point of view.


The Good

Ebay has many reasons why you would want to sell items on their site.  First and for most is the built in market place, with the millions of members you have an instant audience, although you still have to market and attract buyers to your listings.  Keep in mind some items, like anything else sells better than others.  Electronics for example are a big selling item on Ebay.  Coincidentally, electronics are also one of the most competitive categories so the prices typically are also very competitive.

Processes and policies are already in place to handle many, if not most scenarios you are to encounter, there are exception though.  If you are new to selling online Ebay is a good place to break into the market and learn the Do's and Don'ts.  With the policies already in place this also means Ebay has many automated systems in place to walk you through each potential issue or transaction.

Stores fronts are an option for the more ambitious seller that you can opt into, this will come at a cost of a monthly subscription.  There are three rates and also different benefits that come with each subscription. A General run down of some of the benefits for the basic subscription are:

  • Reduced final value fees for specific categories.  The fees range from 4% to 10% of your final sale, without a store every item you sell has a fee of 10%.  Keep in mind the fees are also applied to your shipping.  For ex if you sell an item for $50 and the shipping cost $10, then the fees apply to $60 because the shipping is included in the fees.
  • You can list more fixed value items, also known as buy it now, with a subscription.  The basic subscription includes 250 items before you are charged an insertion fee.  After the 250 included listings each listing will cost you .30 Cents.  The subscription also includes additional auction style listings for very specific categories.
  • You will receive discounts on various business services including Vista Print and other branding services.  In addition you will also receive $25 towards packaging materials to help with your shipping.
  • Marketing tools are available to you to help get the word out on your store.  People can subscribe to your store allowing them to receive flyers and other discounts in their email.
  • Minimal customization features are available with the built in tools.  This allows for a custom banner, logo, general format changes and custom colors.
  • Ebay has a number you can call if you have an issue weather it is with a buyer or some other problem.  Be prepared to be on the phone or a while explaining the problem.  I had to rephrase my issue at least 10 times before customer service began to understand what I was referring to.  There is also the option of forums although some forums are only for people who subscribe to the more expensive stores.

You will receive discounted rates on shipping with USPS, UPS and FEDEX  Unlike many stores on the internet both paid and free you have many options for shipping.  Perhaps the most useful is the shipping calculated base on weight and location.  Many of the store fronts online only allow for weight base shipping or location based, neither allow for calculated making for a potential costly learning curve with shipping.  Make sure you purchase a good scale that will allow you to weight items accurately avoiding additional shipping costs.

The Bad

With any store you have to be careful of fraud, but with caution and a bit of research you can avoid much of it.  That being said you will find from time to time you will have to eat certain costs because of Ebay policy and what is widely known in the seller circle as the unfair Bias in favor of sellers.  This is because in most cases the burden of proof is on the seller.  You may ask what that means exactly, well lets put out a scenario:

A buyer purchases one of your items from your store or listing.  You package the item and send it on its way after you receive payment.  The buyer can then claim the item they received was not as described or a completely different item all together.  They will then initiate a return request and you will be forced to pay the return shipping.  Once you receive the item you open it and find out the item that was sent back was not the item you originally shipped to the buyer.  In this case there is very little you can do unless you video taped the boxing before shipping the item and video taped opening the item after receiving the return.  In this case you are now out the item you shipped, the original shipping of that item and also the cost of the return shipping.  Unfortunately Ebay will almost always side with the buyer in this case and you will have to eat the expenses.

You can create a store a on Ebay but it will not truly be your store.  I say this because you can state all the policies you want, no returns, buyer pays return shipping, etc...... but in the end Ebay can, and in many cases will reverse your policies if they deem your transaction meets specific criteria.  In the end it is Ebay, not you that is in control of your transactions of "your" store.

The Ugly

Ebay has it good and bad points, but there are some truly head scratchers when it comes to some of their decisions.  Back many years ago Ebay had this great idea that provided checks and balances for both Sellers and Buyers, this was known as the Feedback system.  Both sellers and buyers could alike provide positive, neutral or negative feedback for each transaction helping other people decide if the buyer or seller were trustworthy.  This feedback system has morphed into an ugly monster that no longer provides the equal checks and balances it once did.  There are a number of changes that have been made to the feedback system that are detailed below:

  • Probably the biggest and most talked about is the fact that sellers are no longer able to leave feedback other than positive.  This means neutral and negative feedback for the buyer are no longer an option.  The problem with this is the seller now has no way to know what the buyers trustworthiness is, completely invalidating the buyers feedback.  Some people will say there are other checks an balances that were put in place but they are a poor substitution and I will get into that later down the list.  Lets say the buyer has 10 positive feedback on their account.  The 10 positive feedback means nothing because there could also be 50 other sellers that would have left negative feedback if they were allowed.  Some people say they can leave negative feedback with the positive category, the problem with this is it is against Ebay policy and can cause problems for you and potentially get you suspended or banned from selling.
  • Sellers are allowed to ban buyers from bidding on items if they commit to pay and in the end do not pay.  Some people might say what is the harm in not paying when the item has not been shipped.  Due to red tape i.e. Ebay policy there are minimum days the seller must wait until they are allowed to file a non-payment claim.  The reason a non-payment claim is filed, is because Ebay charges you the commission before you actually receive the money.  Let me break this down, Buyer bids on an item and wins, buyer decides not to pay and ignores all messages sent buy the seller and Ebay to make good on their commitment.  Mean while Ebay has already marked the item as sold and the seller responsible for the commission even though payment has not been received from the buyer.  It takes a week minimum before the seller is allowed to close the case and recoup the money, so for that one week the seller is out the cost of the item, the fee's charged to their account and any other money tied up in this transaction.  Also, the item can not be relisted until the case has been closed.
  • If a buyer has 2 non-payment item strikes on their account a seller can also automatically ban them from bidding, but many of these solutions are too little to late because the damage has already been done by the time these controls take affect.  There are other controls that can be put in place but are meaningless at best.  Another good example is if a buyer has a negative feedback rating they can be banned from bidding.  This however is quit meaningless because buyers can no longer give negative feedback.

As stated earlier the feedback system on Ebay is a major flaw, not has, but is a flaw.  With most review and feedback systems one problem most of them face is everything is an opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.  With that in mind Feedback for a seller can make or break them on Ebay and there are very little checks and balances in place to protect a seller from unjustified negative feedback.  The feedback system in many cases comes down to little more than a way for buyers to extort free goods and other services from the sellers at the sellers cost.  Ebay allows the seller to report a buyer for many of the actions but again, the burden of proof is on the seller and action is rarely taken against the buyer.  This is not to say all buyers are terrible, in fact many are great, but it only takes a few to make a bad experience.


I hope you found this article informative and useful in some way.  Another article will be written from the buyer's point of view.