Jeff Sexton

Monday, October 09, 2006

Memo to eBay, Part One

It's Not Macy's

One thing I have always loved about eBay is that it's like the world's largest garage sale. It's wonderful to see so many individuals buying and selling, well, just anything. eBay proves beyond any doubt that one seller's junk is another buyer's treasure.

Recently, eBay's front page is plastered with colorful ads that look straight out of fashion magazines. These are obviously the wares of on-line mass-retailers. However there are already a very large number of sites on the internet available to purchase goods from ordinary retailers, and a large number of sites available for comparison shopping (not to mention physical storefronts).

The vast majority of these sellers use reserve prices or buy-it-now prices set a few dollars above the opening bid. Clearly there's not going to be any super deals to be found here. In reality, they are simply selling goods at a fixed price. So what's the point? eBay has entered into an extremely crowded space, to which it brings nothing new, at the expense of what is unique to eBay's business.

I can imagine a response to this; eBay is an open market and the money coming into eBay from the sales of full-blown retailers is as good as anyone else's. I hope eBay will be cautious about this. An email inbox is open to whomever sends email to that address, but that doesn't mean we don't object to spam.

Major retailers spoil eBay. They do not offer real bargains, they do not fit their payment and checkout systems into eBay's framework, and they are frequently unresponsive to email.

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