Ebay Inc.
In Reply To:
Watch a Scam Artist at Work

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By LongHook
December 3, 2002

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Well, since Ebay gets a % of the sales why would they limit this ?

I keep seeing rationales like this over and over, that and the tired "buyer beware!" and "it's not E-Bay's fault if the buyer is stupid!"

Yes, it IS E-Bay's fault, and it will be E-Bay's problem in the long run.

This is a case of short-term profitability completely destroying long term viability, and taking the profoundly short sighted view that the buyer is entirely at fault, even though it is ACUTELY OBVIOUS that the sellers are doing everything possible to mislead buyers and capitalize on overzealous bidders (this is Christmas shopping time folks, and if you see a deal, sometimes you just grab it after a cursory look at the picture and a glance at the feedback), ends up hurting everyone.

The #1 fall out over this is an undermining of the trust in E-Bay. Trust is the FUNDAMENTAL THING that E-Bay is trying to engender in buyers and sellers. When this trust has been built up over years, the last thing you want to see happen is to have apocryphal stories of "I got ripped off on E-Bay!" spreading around.

Suddenly people that were interested in buying or selling on E-Bay aren't as interested because their sister's florist's husband's brother-in-law got ripped off on E-Bay.

If E-Bay allows this type of thing to continue, it WILL hurt E-Bay's long-term reputation and viability, and there will be an opening for someone else to come in with a more buyer/seller friendly system. In some ways, already provides this type of service -- pay a higher fee for more apparent guarantees. But what happens when E-Bay's reputation becomes so undermined that the heretofore runner-ups like Yahoo! Auctions and uBid suddenly start looking attractive?

The second major problem is that these types of spam listing undermine the value of E-Bay for buyers and sellers that are attempting to do trivial searches. When you, as a buyer, list item X, and find that it's on page SIX of a search, behind six pages of "info item X", how good are you going to feel about it? What happens when you now have to start "Searching defensively", excluding words like "info CD" from your search, only to find that they're now hiding it in HTML just like spammers use to fight spam assassin? How eager are you willing, as a buyer, to wade through pages of crap looking for the items you really want?

The third major problem is that E-Bay has, in the past, had to deal with liability issues and legal repercussions by allowing the sale of various items such as pirated media, computer game accounts, Nazi paraphernalia, etc. If E-Bay willingly and knowingly allows and encourages sales of this type, then it's only a matter of time before someone that wants to get into the public eye (Attorney General, District Attorney, Assemblyman, class action suit, etc.) decides to take them to court. E-Bay doesn't want this kind of publicity, and E-Bay does not want to spend money fighting this kind of stuff.

So, the question that everyone has to ask themselves, buyers, sellers and stockholders, is this: who benefits and whom is hurt (and by how much) by continuing to allow these types of auctions? And is it worth it? To me, the answer is pretty obvious -- think how much anecdotal harm can be done by one bitter buyer that had saved up $150 for that PS2 for their nephew, then found a CD in the mail after already paying their hard earned cash? You don't think THAT kind of hatred, bitterness and anger won't find its away around the net via way of anecdotes? What happens when CNN gets wind of this, and how E-Bay is possibly complicit in this type of misleading advertising?

The Internet garnered a reputation for being the Wild West, making up the rules as it went along and with frontier justice. It wasn't until this reputation was somewhat lessened that people finally were willing to trust it for day-to-day communications or their credit card information.

E-Bay and its users do NOT want it to suddenly acquire the reputation of a scam artist haven. It makes no sense.


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