Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guess I'll never be a Top Rated Seller on eBay again -- here's why

EBay is infamous for changing the rules on sellers, and they just did it again.  In addition to having good customer satisfaction, a seller must now offer 1-day handling on 90% of items in order to get the Top Rated Seller rating -- and the 20% discount on eBay fees that goes with it.  Problem is, as a Sabbath-observing Jew, I can't guarantee that orders will always go out within 24 hours  -- which is what "1-day handling" means.  So I'll never again see that reward.   Read on...

Since 2005, I have had a little store on eBay called The Happy Rooster where I sell, among other things, cruelty-free feathers and wildflower seeds.   If you check out my feedback there, you will see that, as of this writing, I've got 100% positive feedback and very good comments from my customers.  I also still have my Top Rated Seller status, even though I list my items as "3-day handling."  But that is about to change forever -- not because my quality of service will change, heaven forbid, but rather, because I observe the Sabbath.

You see, the Jewish Sabbath starts at 18 minutes before sundown on Friday and, in the wintertime, that is around 4 pm up here in the Northland.  There is simply no way I can package and ship a bunch of orders, make a trip into town to ship, then get home in time to have everything set up for the Sabbath.  This is why I've always said "3-day handling," to cover items ordered on Thursdays that won't go out until Monday.  There are also times when Jewish holy days come back-to-back with the Sabbath, creaitng a 3-day period when I do not do any business, period. 

My customers understand this and, as my feedback shows, there have been very few complaints.  Frequently, my items do get shipped faster, sometimes even within 1 day at the beginning of the week.  But orders that come in late on Thursdays simply cannot go out until Monday.  Bye bye Top Rated Seller perks.

EBay's rationale for this is that "Savvy online merchants understand that consumer expectations are evolving, and they are adapting to the world class services needed to compete." (Spring 2012 eBay newsletter).  In other words, people are getting extremely impatient and eBay wants us little cottage businesses to compete with Big Box stores that can afford to offer free shipping and have people working 24/7 to fill orders. 

But those same Big Box stores do NOT have cruelty-free feathers -- just try and find them in ANY commercial craft department.  (For more on what makes a feather cruelty-free, read my essay.)  Ditto for personalized and/or made-to-order items -- I'll bet the custom crafts people are having fits over this new policy, too.  Customers looking for hard-to-find specialty items are usually willing to wait a bit longer in order to get exactly what they want -- something the eBay executives apparently do not understand or care about. 

Frankly, I think that eBay is just looking for new excuses not to give out the incentive bonuses.   Why else would they change the rules on sellers like me, who already have 100% customer satisfaction? 

One eBay consultant suggested that I have my Thursday-Friday items picked up at the door instead of driving into town.  Sure -- if I charge $5.50 for Priority Mail, because the post office will not pick up First Class mail at the door.  But who is going to pay that much to ship a $2.00 package of seeds?  Nobody.  Not to mention that eBay now charges sellers fees on the shipping charges, too, which means I'd have to raise the cost of Priority to $6.00 to cover the 9% that goes to eBay.

So why do  I stick with eBay at all,  you ask?  I've tried other places, but I just don't get the traffic or the sales. And I really do need the money.   So, like the proverbial frog in the pot of water, I guess I'll  just have to keep adjusting to the heat until eventually I'm cooked...


Patricia Lichen said...

Well, this is so wrong that I'm trying to think what action you can take to fight against it. Maybe creating a petition (at a site like http://www.change.org/) and sharing it with your customers and other sellers. Or moving over to eetsy or some such.

Bah. 'Tain't right.

Rooster613 said...

Yes, it is very, very wrong. I am working on moving to Etsy with the feathers, but can't sell seeds and my books there. Petitions do little good -- eBay doesn't listen. I have thought about a lawsuit based on religious discrimination, but unless somebody does it pro bono, I can't afford a lawyer to do it.

Since I joined eBay in 2005, they have taken away:

(1) digital downloads --which is how I was selling a lot of my self-published books, such as "Jewish Themes in Star Trek" -- and doing very well. I now have to ship on a CD, which means adding shipping costs and waiting time -- back to the stone age in a time when downloads are all the rage. So, of course, sales plummeted. And oh yeah, they gave us ONE WEEK to adapt to this major change -- whole stores went down over that fiasco. I do sell downloads on Lulu.com but don't get nearly the traffic as I got on eBay;

(2) the store referral commission -- so all those links I had set up went kaput as far as any referral rewards were concerned;

(3) the ebay blogs -- which were a BIG part of networking for me, as well as a community that eBay destroyed. EBay recommended we use Facebook but you can't write long essays there, you have to blog somewhere else and then link -- and your customers have to be Facebook friends to even see your links. On the old eBay blogs, any eBay member could read everything, plus the posts went out to all the search engines.

The blogs went down when eBay teamed up with Google, so I guess they wanted us all to move to Blogspot. But Blogspot is not integrated into eBay the way the old blogs were, where every post or comment was linked to the seller's profile page and list of items for sale. Not to mention I lost hundreds of articles I took time to write;

(4) the ability to mass email customers directly, which was very important for me, because I used to auto-send a message about the Sabbath to Thursday buyers, telling them I would ship on Monday. Now it must be done individually. Queries about "when are you shipping this?" skyrocketed, as did nasty notes from people who tried to message me over and over or call me on Saturday and did not realize I was offline for the Sabbath. Ebay does have an "out of office" message option but half the time it doesn't work;

(5) adding explanatory words, arrows, etc. to photos. So I can no longer say "cruelty-free" or whatever on the pic, nor can sellers put in something like "Made in USA" -- thereby wiping out the hard-earned brand recognition of a seller's listings. EBay expects us to put that info in the description now, but half the time, people don't bother to read, they just click on the pic;

(6) and now the Top Rated Seller discount is gone unless you do 1-day shipping and post 90% tracking numbers (which, on small items like seeds, DOUBLES the shipping costs.) Sellers of things like collectable postage stamps, patches or recipes -- which are usually sent in a regular letter envelope -- were up in arms about that, but to no avail.

Plus, they now give 50 FREE auctions per month to non-store owners, but store owners still have to pay. (Granted, we get a discount on fees, but still...) and since all 12 pix are now free (that used to be a store perk), what is the point of even having a store anymore?

YonassanGershom said...

Now that Amazon and Walmart are offering SAME DAY DELIVERY during the holidays, I wonder how long it will take eBay to want to require THAT? Sorry, just not possible in rural America -- I can't even guarantee overnight shipping, which is mainly from one big city to another. Priority Mali takes 2-3 days. There's no fleet of trucks delivering my stuff, folks. Just little old me, taking the packages to the post office all by myself...

Anonymous said...

I believe stuff bought on Fri must have tracking uploaded by and of day on Monday to still qualify as next day shipped. You can see for yourself since there is a link to show you which items did not make the cutoff.

YonassanGershom said...

So what happens when a two-day Jewish holy day comes back-to-back with the Sabbath -- as sometimes happens - meaning I am offline for 3 days straight? Used to be, it was enough to put up a vacation notice and an auto-reply stating when i would ship next. And no, hiding Buy It Now items doesn't always work, because if they are watching the item they can still find & buy it.

RE: tracking, for small items such as seed packets, this almost DOUBLES the shipping charges. Yes, you can get free tracking if you print your shipping label on ebay, but these are so HUGE they don't work on a regular envelope such as one might use for, say, collectable stamps or a postcard. So would have to use bigger packaging, which costs more... can't win for losing anymore.

YonassanGershom said...

Well what do you know -- eBay actually came up with something positive. They are now giving us store owners 150 free listings per month --which is enough of a savings to make up for the fees discount I lost when this post was written. Not sure how long this will last, but it is at least an attempt to be more fair.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a way to disable your eBay account all together on the sabbath day? Then re-enable after the sabbath day has ended. Then you won't take any orders you cannot manage, or any Sabbath-breaking earnings for that matter.

Yonassan Gershom said...

Not completely. It is possible to disable the listings on the homepage but if people have bookmarked them in their Watch lists on their own accounts, they can still order. I would have to disable Friday also. And this does not solve the problem that there is NO overnight delivery available in rural areas. And in the winter, when the sun sets at 4:00 here on Fridays, I can't do a Friday mail run either. So I just have to live with it. I now view it as a test of faith.