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Thursday, Sep. 18, 2014

eBay Chatter - Viewpoint on the fuss about changes

Posted Thursday, March 6, 2008, at 10:08 AM

I monitor a number of news sources for information regarding eBay. One thing I noticed is the predominance of negative comments about the changes going on at eBay, compared to the relatively few positive comments.

To make it clear, this is a positive comment. NOT because I agree with everything eBay does, I don't, but I do not always agree with my employer either. If I reacted as vehemently as many of these eBay Powersellers SAY they are doing, I would be out of a job every few weeks!

I see value in many of the changes, and could see a better way on others, BUT I am not in their shoes, so I do not know all the details. They have been wildly successful so I choose not to over-react and take the wait-n-see approach. After all, I am still making more profit than I would from a bricks and mortar store so....

eBay knew this would send some people packing and in fact, if they do not shape up, eBay would prefer they do leave. These are the sellers who are ransoming the feedback system to leverage their own feedback, those who are giving poor customer service, selling bogus merchandise and those who are padding the shipping and handling fees.

The sellers who are complaining most, may be the ones who are playing these games the most, so it is natural that they would complain.

In the midst of this complaining are the statements that eBay is raising fees on people who are trying to make a living. What do they think eBay or their investors are doing? Do they notice all the upgrades and improvements? Do they think that eBay does not have increases in their operating expenses.

Has the grocery store, department store, pharmacy, building supply house, utilities raised their prices? Sure they have. Will you be boycotting all the grocery for two weeks?

eBay is a centralized target, so when they do something it is very obvious and they expect responses. When a store raises the price of toilet paper by a few percentage points, baked beans, or most of the products we buy, only a few people who are tuned in to that product notice. When eBay does it, THE WORLD knows it.

Just as I will not stop buying food because the price went up (probably should to lose weight, but..), I will not stop using eBay to earn money or find a good deal. Will I look at other options? Sure, but I always have and always will.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I love Ebay and really don't have a problem with them . . . people don't realize that Ebay is a company too and needs to make money to do what it does and cant do everything for free. It is like putting a house up for auction . . . you don't expect a real estate company to come out and do it for free. They have to pay for advertising and for the person running the auction and etc and so they charge you a certain fee for the service.

Unfortunately, many people always want something for free and most of those negative comments spring forth from that kind of mentality. If you don't want to pay those prices, then have a yard sell and do it from your house but if you want the vast network that Ebay offers to sellers to reach so many customers, then you have to pay.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 10:26 AM

Well said. Nothing is perfect, and even though some things are advertised as being free, they rarely, IF EVER, are truly free.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 10:56 AM

Does anyone want to help me break a website? I have all payment stuff disabled so you won't need a paypal addres or credit card, just list fake stuff and bid on fake stuff that gets listed. Make stores add fake stuff etc. I can't seem to find flaws, but I need people that doesnt know how it works to try and find the flaws I would need to fix.

Thanks

Here is the link: http://www.shelbyvillehosting.com/auctio...

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 8:53 PM

This will not be a live site so don't ask if it is coming to this area because It's not my baby.

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 8:54 PM

Do you mean break-in a website? Or you are testing a design for a customer that will actually set up something else?

Just kind of like to know what I might be getting in to if I participate.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 9:49 PM

I need to know if there are any dead pages, all the data is going to be erased. You can even use a fake name etc. use a disposible email address. I want to break the site. See if there are any problems are vulnerbilities i missed.

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Thu, Mar 6, 2008, at 10:38 PM

I will check it out.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Mar 7, 2008, at 9:22 AM

Revised 13 March 2008

A comment on eBay Australia's introduction of absolute anonymity for (shill) bidders, and some other matters

An expanded version of an earlier comment on the whole-of-auction absolute anonymity of bidders recently introduced to Australia by eBay, including responses to the various, sometimes nonsensical, statements being offered by eBay in support of this decision--with apologies to all the shill bidders out there.

I have bought many more items than I have sold on eBay so this comment is primarily from a buyer's perspective. I am most unimpressed with eBay Australia's decision to now make all auction bids absolutely anonymous, and the various reasons given for this decision I find unconvincing. Indeed, the principal reason given, supposedly to protect buyers from fake "second chance offers", is far outweighed by the field day this decision creates for shill bidders from whose activities buyers will now have no effective means of becoming aware and thereby protecting themselves.

I have in the past corresponded at length on the matter of shill bidding with the "robots" at eBay Customer Support and, frankly, the experiences have invariably been very frustrating and unsatisfying. I have formed the opinion that eBay does not have any tools, let alone the "sophisticated" tools that eBay claims to have, for the detection of shill bidding. I appreciate that investigating user reports of shill bidding requires the expenditure of some ergs; but eBay has a moral and usually a statutory obligation to stop shill bidding whenever eBay is made aware of such activity. Unfortunately, my experience with eBay is such that I have formed the opinion that eBay is very little concerned about this activity, and indeed eBay's responses to my reporting of such activity in the past have habitually been to initially deny that such activity is taking place and it is only after much kicking and screaming and threatening that eBay has finally taken any action against a shill bidding seller.

Shill bidding brings no financial disadvantage to eBay; indeed it potentially increases the listing and selling fees that eBay receives, and I have therefore, reluctantly, come to the conclusion that eBay is in reality little concerned about shill bidding, and this decision to now make all bids absolutely anonymous will, intentionally or otherwise, very effectively hide such activity and will stop potential buyers from being able to notice and report same. As a consequence of this decision, eBay will no longer have to worry about shill bidding or do anything about it as genuine bidders can't detect and report that which it is no longer possible for them to be on guard against. Considering the fact that eBay has made the absurd statement: " this initiative has no impact on shill bidding. There is no correlation between hidden IDs and shill bidding," one has to wonder if this whole exercise is not simply a disingenuous move to remove shill bidding from view and thereby simplify matters for eBay. A very unsatisfactory situation from a buyer's point of view. I don't like being cheated, I don't like watching others being unknowingly cheated and I particularly don't like the appearance that eBay is so indifferent to such cheating. Clearly, from a buyer's point of view, eBay has now become a not so "safe and fun place to trade."

On 26 February, on the eBay Workshop Board michelleoz@ebay.com, in anticipation, posed a question and responded thereto:

"Won't the recent changes to 'safeguarding member IDs' allow more shill bidding to take place?

"No--the changes will not make shill bidding any easier.

"Our experience is that the detailed information provided on the buyer, and how it is presented, has been more useful to members of the community who report such activity. That is, we still get good quality member reports.

"Furthermore, ebay continues to monitor the back end of the site using both data provided by members and also data captured from members as they transact on the site.

"And ebay continues to adapt registration and account activity rules to make the site safer overall.

"Shill bidding is banned by ebay for good reasons: it hurts buyers (who see less value--one of the major drivers for internet purchases) and also hurts legitimate sellers. Any person who argues that ebay wants shill bidding to drive up revenue through inflated final value fees is way off the mark."

The first sentence of this answer ("No--the changes will not make shill bidding any easier.") is a patently absurd statement; of course absolute anonymity makes shill bidding easier--as it would so do at any personally attended live auction--just as the absolute anonymity offered by eBay's "User ID kept private" facility has already enabled shill bidders to operate on eBay with little fear of detection (see "bmw scan tool" below)--notwithstanding eBay's dubious claim of having "sophisticated tools" for the detection thereof. And, at an attended live auction (assuming the auctioneer is not complicit in the activity) a shill bidder risks having to pay the auctioneer's full selling commission and a buyer's premium to boot; no such risk with eBay: if the naughty "buyer" does not pay then the seller pays only the nominal listing fee. All the more reason for eBay to maintain (revert to) the transparency that had been a hallmark of the their online auction process from its beginning.

And, to the contrary, the "detailed information provided on the buyer" now supplied is not more useful: you really can't expect the majority of the sheep that graze on the eBay slopes to be interested in sifting through multiple pages of such "detailed" information to try and ascertain whether or not another bidder is a shill--assuming they are aware of such activity in the first place. I am certainly not interested in doing so; I prefer to be able to put a "face" on another bidder, so that I can more easily make that judgment. I use a third-party auction processing programme to keep track of eBay current and past auction activity that is of interest to me (with no 90-day limit) and I can manipulate that data (like an Excel spreadsheet): previously, that gave me a good chance of noticing any suspicious patterns of bidding--but no more, now.

Having said that, and not wanting to appear negative, no matter what, to any suggestion of change, the "Bid activity (%) with this seller" on the Bid History Details page, at first appearance, may appear to be of some use in some circumstances but its usefulness is severely limited by the fact that it is a summary of only the past 30 days. I accept that the compilation of the Bidder Information data is more complex than simply storing and incrementing a count of a buyer's feedback but why is this "30-Day Summary" not a summary of at least the previous 90--120 days--ie, for the whole of the period that past auction details remain available on/to eBay? If that was the case and an indication of that "Bid activity (%) with this seller" figure appeared on the Bid History page and, better still, also for the current high bidder on the primary auction page (eg, "Bidder n (nnn I nnn%)")--notwithstanding the basic objection to the absolute anonymity of the Australian alias, "Bidder n", as opposed to the unique alias, "a***b (nnn)", used elsewhere in the world and which offers some opportunity for checking for any habitual appearance of a particular bidder on a seller's other auctions--that might well be of some usefulness in detecting shill bidding by regular eBay sellers.

Unfortunately, this type of summary is of little use when a bidder is only an occasional buyer and may well cause other potential bidders to mistakenly suspect that a genuine non-regular bidder is a shill; and that is made even more likely now in Australia because, unlike elsewhere, the alias currently used in Australia ("Bidder n") does not include the total feedback count, but only the new-member symbol or the vague feedback "star" symbols (the meanings of the various colours of which I can never remember). Why does Australia--unlike the U.S.--now use only the vague feedback symbols and not the actual feedback count for describing bidders--particularly in lists? At least Australia does not--yet--use the Australian form of alias to declare the winning bidder (we still get the actual ID which gives us a chance of spotting shills after--but not before the event). Such absolute anonymity for the winning bidder as well would, once again, bring certain joy to the shill bidders. Nor do I understand the use, in the U.S., of the feedback count in combination with the vague feedback symbols; surely it's the count that counts. I don't understand the logic of having so many variations in the information supplied between the various eBay national sites.

With respect to the "Bids to unique sellers" count that appears uniquely in the Australian "30-Day Bid Summary", this statistic represents only the number of unique sellers with whom the bidder has placed bids, and does not represent feedback (ie, completed transactions) and it is therefore a pointless statistic except, possibly, if this bid count appears to be way out of proportion to any feedback count (by their nature shill bidder's are going to nibble, not snipe), it could indicate that someone may have been placing small bids on other sellers' auctions in an attempt to create the appearance of genuineness when laying the groundwork for shill bidding may be the intent

For example, see the high-priced item 300194283130; Bidder 7 (a "nibble" bidder): on 2 March, was "a new eBay member, less than 30 days"; Items bid on: 22; Bids to unique sellers: 18; but still zero feedback: 0/22--losing that many auctions can't be much fun! A look at the Bid History for this same bidder for the, now finished, same auction on 13 March (11 days later) the stats are: Bids on this item: 5; Total bids: 96; Items bid on: 49 (up 27); Bid activity (%) with this seller: 5%; Bids to unique sellers: 31 (up 13); at least the feedback, now described in the vague "1 to 9" terms, suggests that this bidder has finally bought something. However, 5% of 96 equals 5 (bids on this particular item) whereas 96 divided by 49 equals only 2 (average bids on the other 48 auctions): what does all that tell you, if anything? And, Bidder 5 (another "nibbler") on this auction is now tagged as "Not a registered user"; what conclusions does one draw from that?

Previously, when such bidder anonymity was not activated until bidding reached USD180/AUD250 (whatever) it was still possible to watch for suspicious bidding activity early in the auction. Now, after observing a number of auctions since total anonymity has been introduced for the whole of the auction, I have formed the opinion, that such whole-of-auction anonymity, particularly that with the absolutely anonymous form of alias used in Australia ("Bidder n"), is nothing more than an outrageously effective hide for shill bidders. I challenge anyone (eBay-programmed robots excluded) to make the same observations of bidder activity and the bidder information now supplied and argue otherwise.

And then there is the situation where bidders apparently can choose to keep their "feedback" private (ie, "alias (private)"). What is the point of having feedback if a bidder can choose to hide it? What is the point of having feedback, particularly, if an anonymous bidder can choose to hide it? Presumably it is not hidden from the seller, only from other bidders. What possible purpose can there be for the hiding of feedback at any time--except for the possible obscuring of shill bidding?

Then there is "User ID kept private" facility: If ever there was a scheme principally designed to hide shysters this is it! It should be borne in mind that it is the seller--not the bidder--who may choose to use "User ID kept private" (what I call the "shill bidder's paradise tool"). Why is it not the individual bidder who may choose such anonymity, if they desire it, when bidding on a high-value item? Of course, the obvious answer to that is that the shill bidder then could still individually choose such anonymity--but it's far better for the shill-bidding seller to have this choice as he can then better hide his shill bids amongst the genuine bids--if indeed there are any genuine bids--when all bids are kept private (do an eBay search for "bmw scan tool" for a good example). If, as is claimed by eBay, this facility is to protect the identity of bidders on high-priced items then there should at least be a substantial minimum starting value qualification ($5000?); and even then this facility has to be viewed with great suspicion. Frankly, now that we have general bidder anonymity, this classic "shill bidders' hide facility" should be done away with completely!

I am afraid the decision-makers at eBay (particularly in Australia) use a different form of logic to that which I instinctively use; the whole premise that absolute anonymity of bidders is the only, or even the best, way to protect buyers from fake second chance offers is a nonsense. There is none of this absolute anonymity--yet--on the U.S. or European sites, and with the form of alias currently being there used being a contraction of the actual bidder ID [ie, "a***b (nnn I)"]--a potential buyer has still got some chance of noticing if another bidder is, or has been, active in a questionable manner on a particular seller's other auctions. This observation cannot be made with aliases that are neither unique nor consistent--as is the case with the aliases currently being used in Australia (ie, "Bidder n I"). And the use of such absolute anonymity will undoubtedly further "aid and abet" shill bidders--anyone who thinks otherwise is either being disingenuous or is a fool. Do I then believe that, in lieu, eBay will now, of its own volition, step up to the plate and better detect and act against such shill bidders? Not on your Nelly! And the rest of this boiler-plate answer is simply more meaningless words seeking some form of purpose.

And on the same workshop venue danieloz@ebay.com responded to a questioner asking if there is any "publishable data to back up the claims that second chance offers are such a problem, or that shilling has not in fact increased since the introduction of "hidden" bidder IDs for bids >$250?":

"It is difficult for us to get accurate data on second chance offers because this activity happens outside of eBay's systems and is not always reported to us.

"However, I can assure you that eBay wouldn't have lowered the limit to $0 when hiding bidder IDs if the results from the initial launch over a year ago weren't positive.

"Once again, this initiative has no impact on shill bidding. There is no correlation between hidden IDs and shill bidding."

The content of this statement expresses the similar "we see no problem" attitude to that of other initial boiler-plate responses invariably received from eBay Customer Support. If this patently absurd statement (" this initiative has no impact on shill bidding. There is no correlation between hidden IDs and shill bidding.") truly reflects what eBay believes, one can only say that this is simply one more example of just how na*ve (or disingenuous) and how far out of touch with the real world are the decision makers at eBay!

And again on the same eBay workshop danieloz@ebay.com responded to another question about eBay's data on fraudulent Second Chance Offers with:

"eBay saw a dramatic drop in the number of reports received of fake second chance offers for items above $250 after introducing hidden IDs.

"However, what followed was that criminals started to target items below $250. So it only made sense to extend hidden IDs to $0.

"Fake second chance offers are one of the ugliest types of fraud experienced by buyers because they believe they are operating under eBay's watchful eye, when in fact they are not. Any action to reduce eBay members falling victim to this type of fraud will benefit sellers by increasing confidence among buyers by ensuring less of them get into strife."

No specific data--just more meaningless words searching for a purpose. The simple fact is that underbidders can effectively protect themselves from emailed fake "second chance offers" simply by ignoring them unless such offers are also received via the eBay website.

And another gem from another of eBay Customer Support's boiler-plate statements on the matter:

" a high percentage of members have registered an email address that is close or identical to their eBay User ID so it is easy for them [the fraudsters] to guess their email address based on their User ID,"

Surely, this is a nonsensical statement; and smells more like some sort of "red herring."

If eBay truly wanted to protect buyers from fraudulent "second chance offers" then the other obvious option, that has always been available, was to do away with the "second chance offer"; I would hypothesise, anyway, that most second chance offers are the result of the underbidder having been outbid by the seller's shill. That indeed was the case with a genuine, and the only, "second chance offer" that I have received in the 18 months I have been a member: the particular auction was for an artwork; when I received the second chance offer, I looked more closely at the supposedly non-paying winner and there was a symbol indicating that this "winner" had very recently changed their User ID; on further investigation I noticed that that previous ID happened to be made up of the same uncommon name as that of the painter of the artwork item on which I had bid. To me then it was obvious, beyond any doubt, that this was an offer that resulted from a case of failed shill bidding, but not so to eBay when I reported it; disingenuously, eBay even suggested that the offer was a fraudulent one.

One particular seller I have noticed is auctioning a constant stream of identical items, with a starting value at 1.00, sometimes with a "Reserve not met", sometimes with the addition of a "Buy It Now" at USD49.99, and habitually using "User ID kept private" to hide any vestige of bidder ID (search eBay for "bmw scan tool"). What possible purpose can be served by eBay allowing the use of "User ID kept private" by sellers of such petty items. What possible purpose could such a seller have for choosing to use "User ID kept private" for such petty items. Some cynics may think that the only purpose could be to ensure, by the means of shill bids, that any successful bidder pays at least USD49.99. So, I would again ask, where are those "sophisticated" shill-detecting tools that eBay claims to have?

I think eBay should reverse this latest decision on anonymity; indeed I think eBay should do away with all anonymity of bidding, certainly the absolute form of anonymity used in Australia, and also, in particular, the "User ID kept private" facility (or at least apply a substantial minimum starting value qualification), as all this anonymity--particularly "User ID kept private" and the Australian form of alias ("Bidder n")--serves too effectively as a hide for shill bidders, and anyone who argues otherwise is either being disingenuous or is a na*ve fool. In lieu of such a reversal I think we can predict a downturn in buyer activity--particularly in Australia. Certainly, this is one person who will be doing less buying on eBay (or at the least I will be treating eBay auctions as "closed tender" transactions), particularly when I see anonymous bidders (dealers?) with large-quantity feedback (where that feedback detail is available to other bidders) nibble bidding on items. And, anyone who nibble bids (let alone bids at all) on a seller-selected "User ID kept private" auction is surely na*ve or, quite possibly, a shill.

In lieu of receiving eBay's prompt advice that eBay intends to do away with all absolute anonymity in bidding and/or in the case of "User ID kept private" severely qualify its use, one has to consider reporting this situation to the Office of Fair Trading and to the media and anybody else who will listen. I can see the television "Current Affair" show promo now: "eBay not concerned about shill-bidding sellers ripping off buyers," or possibly, "eBay Australia introduces absolute bidder anonymity to protect shill bidders."

On other matters: And then there is the inconsistent application of the auction "reserve price" facility ($10 fee). For some unfathomable reason we in Australia can only put a reserve price on "cars, boats, motorcycles, and other vehicles" whereas the rest of the world appears to be able to put a reserve price on absolutely anything--including the kitchen sink.

And another crazy eBay idea: the looming proposal to bar sellers from lodging negative feedback against buyers because some unscrupulous sellers have used such negative feedback in retaliation. As predominantly a buyer I have received three such negative feedbacks from sellers (3/134); all have been in retaliation for negative feedback that I had lodged against them after all attempts to communicate were exhausted or the response from the seller was not satisfactory to me. Unfortunately, eBay uses a totally different form of logic to me; I would have thought that, instead of barring sellers from posting negative feedback--if and when such feedback was truly deserved (a non-payment being the principal reason)--the simple answer would have been to require sellers to lodge feedback first, before there could be any request for a buyer to lodge feedback, as surely the transaction is "satisfactory" for the seller when they receive payment for the goods (credit card purchases from Nigeria always excepted). You can very quickly identify the potentially less scrupulous sellers as those who habitually delay lodging feedback until the buyer has done so; not that that sort of detail is available to potential bidders at the time: maybe eBay should consider publishing that statistic (ie, how many of the seller's supposed sales have not had any feedback lodged for them by the seller) on the Seller' Feedback Profile page; better still, on the primary auction page. A large number of "sales" sans feedback could indicate a lot of potentially dissatisfied buyers; it could also indicate the possibility of the seller being involved in shill bidding.

A quote from another eBay boiler-plate response probably says it all:

"Thank you for writing eBay in regard to the suggestion that you have given.

"eBay welcomes comments from members of our Community, and we appreciate your suggestions. This type of communication helps us improve our services and meet your needs.

"However, our company policy doesn't allow us to accept suggestions unless we specifically request them. We hope that you understand that this policy can avoid future misunderstandings if new products, services, and features developed internally by eBay employees seem similar or even identical to a member's idea."

One has to wonder if there is not a disgruntled group in the eBay management team that has some sort of death wish and intends to take this organisation down with them (remember Egypt Air).

What say you eBay?

-- Posted by PhilipCohen on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 10:22 PM

Phillip,

You have certainly spent much time and effort on this response. It is almost overwhelming in its scope and complexity. I expect that you post this listing in numerous eBay conversations and hope that you get an informed response to your points. I am afraid that mine will be limited.

No organization, group or even a club will ever be perfect. No actions taken can not be interpreted from another viewpoint and the very nature of many people is to suspect motives.

I trust eBay to be trying to "do the right thing" for the buyer, seller and their investors. It is a fine balance and when you consider the hundreds of millions of members, it is a very daunting challenge. If I did not have that basic trust, I would not be selling, buying or in my case teaching as well.

As an Education Specialist trained by eBay, I do not propose to know all, nor do I think anyone could claim that.

Your analysis of shill bidding makes some interesting points and in some cases I agree that common sense says that anonymity increases the problem, but it may solve an even bigger problem from eBay's viewpoint.

BUT, with the solid belief that the company is trying its' best, I prefer to watch, learn and adjust. The eBay platform and overwhelming size still makes it the venue of choice for developing my online presence. I do not use it exclusively, but to pull away and refuse to participate would be like breaking both knees and elbows,just to prove a point.

Hopefully, comments like yours will be heard, even though eBay replies with canned answers that seems quite strange at times. I too have had the last response you quoted, but I know that eBay personnel monitor the discussion boards and this feedback DOES get to them.

Best of fortune with your quest.

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Mar 15, 2008, at 9:24 AM

Steve Mills,

Your points are of course all valid.

As predominantly a buyer, my problem with eBay is twofold:

one, the blatantly disingenuous and patently absurd statements they make from time to time (which, if they made to the stock exchange or to shareholders, would surely invite sanction); and

two, absolute anonymity ("Bidder N"): there is simply no excuse for the application of this absolute anonymity and it is interesting to note that although it has been more recently introduced to the UK also - in place of the bidder-specific alias ("a***b (N)") - in the US they have retreated from such absolute anonymity and replaced it with the same bidder-specific anonymity that they have just replaced in the UK with absolute anonymity

Why do I get the feeling I am going around in circles?

The interesting question then is: Why was absolute anonymity subsequently replaced by bidder-specific anonymity on the US site? User pressure? Government pressure?

That I can see, absolute anonymity serves no other purposed than to deceive the buyer.

eBay have heard my comments: with monotonous regularity they keep pulling them and I have spent several stints on the eBay "naughty chair" for posting even mentions of (let alone links to) my primary comments on auctionbytes.com.

-- Posted by PhilipCohen on Sun, Jul 27, 2008, at 5:37 PM

Phillip,

I agree that "total anonymity" and even the partial alias makes it hard for us the consumer to catch shill bidding. Just thinking out loud, but how difficult would it be for eBay to assign an internal ID number that scammers ca no nothing with, but consumers could match up with repeat, shill bidding?

In other words my public eBay ID becomes E184930ZZ and and only eBay knows who that number applies to, but each time I bid, it shows, so others can see that the same "pseudo-ID" is bidding on the same sellers items. Thus, a pattern evolves that the eBay community can see.

Would it help? Can it be done without costing millions?

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Jul 28, 2008, at 8:09 AM

By the way, can we keep our conversation to one blog entry so I don't get too confused? I ended up having to read all entries again to bring me back up to speed.

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Jul 28, 2008, at 8:10 AM

Steve,

I thought that if any increase in anonymity was desirable (and I would question that any was needed now that eBay has blocked access to underbidders' direct email addresses) the obvious lesser of the evils was the bidder-specific anonymous alias now in use in the US (a***b (N)"). When viewed in conjunction with the accompanying feedback count it is, at that moment in time, bidder specific and can be used to watch for suspicious patterns of bidding by that bidder on a seller's other auctions, whereas with "Bidder N" genuine bidders are totally in the dark.

What I can't figure out, as I mentioned before, is why we had "Bidder N" and then "a***b(N)" in the US and the reverse in the UK; in Australia we have never seen anything but "Bidder N", and I don't like it and I suspect that many other don't either.

Are they trying to sabotage the auction platform? If that is the case they are doing a good job of it. I enjoy eBay for the "hunt" for collectibles that do not have a known "retail" price and therefore I like the auction format; if I was looking for a "retail" experience I certainly would not confine myself to eBay.

As a matter of interest I am back on the eBay forums trying to debate the matter with people who apparently believe everything that eBay says; or in some cases are sellers who are going to take advantage of the situation. The following is my lastest post on eBay.co.uk:

[b]angler*forever[/b],

The point I am trying to make is that with an internet auction the auctioneer (eBay) has all the "black and white" records of bidders (IP address, email address, street address, bank account, credit card account, etc) and bidding details necessary to effectively minimise the practice of shill bidding if they choose to do so. (You may have noticed that eBay are now sensing IP addresses.)

But, instead, eBay has chosen to increase the level of bidder anonymity in the UK from that of [i]bidder-specific[/i] (ie, "a***b ([i]N[/i])") to [i]absolute[/i] (ie,"Bidder [i]N[/i]") which, that I can see, serves no other purpose than to deceive the buyer by removing the buyer's ability to watch for suspicious patterns of bidding on a sellers auctions and thereby protect themselves from the most blatantly obvious shill bidding.

This absolutely anonymous bidding structure effectively "aids and abets" shill bidders to cheat buyers, with little fear of detection. For eBay the additional advantage of making such shill bidding "disappear", is that eBay no longer has to waste any of their valuable resources doing anything about it.

You may not have noticed but at the same time eBay was increasing the level of anonymity in the UK they were decreasing it in the US, [i]from[/i] absolute anonymity (Bidder N) [i]to[/i] bidder-specific (a***b(N)). Ask yourself why. Probably because either the users or the government regulator would not tolerate it: who knows?

Undoubtedly, some of you sellers on eBay will welcome this absolute anonymity; from the buyers' point of view I consider its introduction to be reprehensible.

-- Posted by PhilipCohen on Tue, Jul 29, 2008, at 1:54 AM

By the way I am in a constant state of confusion trying to figure out just what eBay are trying to do. Regretably, they have managed to destroy the confidence that I thought I had in the auction platform. I am very careful these days and I tend to avoid auctions with any amount of nibble bidding; not that I ever nibbled bid myself; very early on I recognised the value of the last few seconds "snipe". Now, sniping would appear to be the only way to get any protection from the possibility of being (further) shilled.

-- Posted by PhilipCohen on Tue, Jul 29, 2008, at 2:05 AM

In the past, I never watched what was being done in other country platforms but lately I have done more, such as the attempt at PayPal only in Australia. I truly did not agree with that move and was glad to see it (apparently) fail.

As for complete anonymity, I also do not see a value, but what I think they are doing is experimenting to find the right solution to some problems they have. As with most changes, I find that they will change again for the same reason. I have seen some pretty ingenious and legitimate appearing e-mails coming from scammers using my eBay I.D.

You realize that I am much more pro eBay than against, so it will not come as a surprise that I look at it with in optimistic light. I think that their reasons are for trying to improve, not to deceive or cheat the community.

I have been disappointed before in life, so I take off my "rosy glasses" at times to see the glaring light of reality, but I have not seen anything yet to convince me to leave them off. Yes, on a case by case basis, I can see why you have your doubts about some actions.

The "anonymity" and the "PayPal only" are two of those that I do not like, but again, I think they are trying to find a solution that works for 200 million+ members and that has to be challenging.

I did not like the feedback changes, but they are changing again, so I take a wait and see approach. I don't put all my hopes on one platform and even in my classes, I discuss other options for internet sales. More than one source or outlet is prudent in any business.

I wish we were closer Phillip. I would like to meet you and chat more freely. I believe we think more alike than we appear, except for "is the glass half empty or full". For the time, this will have to do.

Best regards.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Jul 29, 2008, at 7:13 AM

I thought I was disgruntled. I forgot what the original topic was about....Oh well. Shill bidding is going to happen at any auction. It is immoral, and in some place illegal. The sellers really should add a reserve or start it at the level they are willing to sell. That being said, I do not see how it would be a problem if you decide what the item is worth to you and bid that. If you win, great. If someone else gets it, no problem for you anyway, find another. The seller who is using shill bids will have to pay fees if he gets stuck. That can be quite expensive.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Wed, Jul 30, 2008, at 12:42 AM

Steve,

Indeed that is the very reason I have become so "politically active" with regard to eBay: I enjoy the "hunt" on the auction platform; otherwise one would just walk away, as I suspect many have.

I see some quite absurd decisions being made and can't understand why; and indeed some of them, particularly the application of "absolute anonymity" (that we are still suffering in Australia) was never going to be a good idea and it will not be accepted by other that the naive occasional buyer I suspect. If only they could give a logical, ingenuous, reason for its application; but, that's what troubles me most, I don't think they can.

And it's not as though I have not had an ongoing communication with someone in the office of the eBay president; but got nowhere with my form of logic: almost boiler-plate responses; very disappointing.

As you say, at least they have heard the roar from the sellers about the "new" feedback; but frankly how could they have not realised that there are a lot more unscrupulous ratbag buyers out there than there are even unscrupulous sellers?

Unfortunately, eBay's decision-making process seems to be seriously flawed: I can only presume that the "monopoly" situation has gone to someone's head.

I suspect that we have not heard the last of the PayPal fiasco yet either; the naive attempt at "exclusive dealing" has made people here so mad that they are also kicking up a fuss about the way eBay is effectively "back-door" enforcing PayPal on sellers for all sales.

-- Posted by PhilipCohen on Wed, Jul 30, 2008, at 1:08 AM

I have to agree that from the outside, some of their recent decisions seem obviously flawed. Maybe your thought about a monopoly DID go to swell some heads. I hope they have recovered from their affliction.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jul 30, 2008, at 8:24 PM

As amatter of interest the "Comments RSS feed" on the page does not seem to work.

-- Posted by PhilipCohen on Thu, Jul 31, 2008, at 1:19 AM

Phillip, The RSS feed seems to be working on this side. I checked with the blogmaster. Sorry I could not help.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jul 31, 2008, at 3:21 PM


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Steve Mills and his wife have one daughter and live on a farm outside of Bell Buckle. They previously owned two coffee/ice cream shops, currently operate an internet sales company and teach classes, but his primary job involves the paper industry worldwide. Hobbies and interests lie in gardening, photography, recorded music and of course, their pets.