What do you know about eBay?

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Thu, 06/22/2006 - 12:18.

eBay was probably my first experience with social computing -- if you can really call it that. eBay is a community of buyers and sellers that for the most part control the environment (what the buy and sell). Like Realneo, eBay users have a profile and choose what personal information to reveal, they post pictures, and writing (though in the form of descriptions of things they are selling). After several years of using eBay on and off to buy and sell, I feel like I don't really understand how eBay is working in an economic sense. Maybe you have some insights? Please post them!

Have you used eBay?

What was your experience like?

Has eBay changed the market for anything?

Has eBay enabled people in entrepreneuerial activities? 

Has eBay changed significantly since it started? 

ebay, the good, the bad...

I have been using ebay for many years with varying degrees of appreciation. When ebay was younger it suffered many growing pains to get to where it is now. I have witnessed the assimilation of different companies or products to help them grow. The largest was the purchasing of paypal.com to put ebay in line with financial institutions and to allow them to make monies on both sides of the transactions.

While I am generally pleased with ebay there is one thing you should consider when using ebay.

As a general rule ebay does not care about you, your problems, nor your ideas. They care about the money they make from fees. With that said, they do offer a few avenues of assistance when things go sideways, but it is best to be prepared to go it alone. The old saying "Caveat Emptor" holds true here more than any other large scale purchasing outlet.

In general, the people who sell on ebay are decent. Pay close attention to their feedback rating. While not always correct it does help. If you see somebody with a low percentage (say under 98%) read the feedback. Often times people make mistakes early on (like myself) and the feedback comments will read accordingly.

There are a lot of people who use ebay as the exclusive marketing and sales channel for their business. This can be a real good or bad thing. The state of Ohio was so overwhelmed with calls to the Attorney General's office about ebay fraud that a new law was past requiring an auctioneers license to sell in volume on ebay.

This just goes to show that ebay is not all fun and games.

The entrepreneurial aspect of ebay is very alluring indeed. You can do everything from sell your own wares to selling cheaply made product from China and having them dropped shipped directly to your customers. As an example: my father-in-law sells old tools and products he finds at local estate sales. He has been very successful to date and has even considered retiring early. This does not mean it will work for everybody, but for someone willing to put a lot of time and energy into a business, ebay might be for you.

Now on the purchasing side you can find the product your looking for, no matter how obscure, and seek the best price. There is work involved, but it can be well worth it when you get that new (or refurbished) mp3 player for 75% off the price Best Buy wants. You can also end up paying WAY too much also, because ebayer's are notorious for charging exorbitant shipping and handling fees (mainly because 1: they can and 2: ebay does not charge a fee on the shipping). So you might find a really great gadget for $.01 but the shipping could be $59.99, making the total $60.00 for a product your local wally world sells for $43.97.

There is a lot of subtleties to ebay that one truly needs to understand before making it a regular stop in your shopping experiences. Even more so if your planing on selling.

Anti-consumer view of eBay et al

I've know many people hooked on eBay - some trying to make a living (eek out in all cases I've seen) and some buying, for good and bad. In many cases, it is the only place in the world where you can find things - I need a new remote control for a 1970's B&O receiver and that is the only place I ever see them available... although I won't bother buying one until the lod one gives out completely. Still, I've known boutiques that can buy stuff cheap in NEO but can't sell even cheap stuff in NEO, but they can get top dollar from buyers on eBay. So I know eBay has value. But I am an anti-consumer - buy as little in life as possible, and buy local and reuse as much as possible. I see eBay, and all the shop at home garbage on TV, as one of the most troubling trends in our society... just behind TV evangelists sucking old people into buying timeshares in Jesus themeparks. Not only does the mindless consumer marketplace encourage idiots to waste money on worthless garbage they don't need, and allow bad people to hurt strangers with outlandish fees (and credit card companies and PayPal to charge outlandish fees and interest), but the waste of gas to move all this garbage around the world, and the fact that garbage is garbage and not worth having in the first place, makes eBay ecologically tragic. Live a simple life with as few toys that are as simple as possible and buy them locally from locally owned businesses or sellers as near to home as possible whenever possible.

A waste of time too

I know from personal experience, eBay can also waste a lot of your time.  Though wasting time is not as bad as wasting fossil fuels and generating a market for worhtless garbage, I am very careful about how Ispend my time. Having hundred of products to search through in some catagories is not an advantage -- at least to me. It probably does appeal to those who like to watch shopping TV shows. It seems like professional sellers are the ones overwhelming the market.

Thank you for sharing all

Thank you for sharing all your insight and the example of your father-in-law. I have heard that some people have been able to create profitable businesses using eBay, though I don't know any personally. eBay may offer opportunities to homebound people to start a mini business to help suppliment their income. I have been think of was people in East Cleveland might use eBay.  But I noticed that the Auctioned For You store on Chagrin Blvd. went out of business. I took that as a sign that maybe eBay is in decline. I never went in the store to check out how it worked but I think the costs of selling  is high already, I can't imagine what using the store ads to the cost.