eBay has undergone a lot of change over the last decade or so, with that change accelerating over the last several years as eBay began to face stiffer competition from the likes of Amazon.com.
For some eBayers, lost somewhere amidst all of the changes are some of the things that made eBay a great online buying and selling venue in the first place.
Here are some of the most prominent formerly "good things about eBay" that ultimately didn't last or that have been phased out as eBay has reshaped its identity in recent years.
- Seller-controlled terms. Early in eBay's life cycle, the
description was king. Payment, shipping, and return terms were all set by
the seller in print, and those terms, as spelled out, were gospel. Sellers
that didn't make their terms clear were setting themselves up for trouble
and negative feedback, but buyers also had the responsibility to carefully
read terms and be amenable to them. Allowing sellers such latitude in
detailing terms enabled diversity to thrive early on eBay. Some
items just aren't worth selling unless you can sell them in a certain way,
under certain terms. This also enabled buyers willing to agree to
unusual terms to find
deals that would otherwise not have existed.
- Links and contact information in listings. When the
on eBay wasn't so draconian, listings were much more interesting and
informative, and eBay was useful not just as a place to buy and sell but
also as a kind of directory of people selling things and as an ad-hoc search
engine for product information. With links removed from listings, the
browsing value and information value of listings has been significantly
reduced, and a major seller incentive for remaining with eBaybranding and
exposure of their own websites and contact informationcatastrophically
- Payment by check. Once upon a time (long before eBay's
PayPal), eBay was agnostic about the payment methods that a
seller chose to accept. This meant access to online shopping for a whole
host of buyers (many in the older generation and some that simply weren't or
aren't technically savvy) that were willing to pay only by check, as well as
a place for sellers that only wanted to receive checks to do business. Both
of those demographics are now long gone from eBay, relegated to classified
ads and Craigslist where the pickings are much slimmer and nowhere near as
fun (or accessible).
- Customer service by eBay. Yes, eBay says they have customer
service in place now, but there was
a time when eBay had publicly listed customer service email accounts on
their website. There was another brief moment during which eBay had a 1-800
number that was easy to find and use. Both of these were eliminated or
presumably in order to reduce costs or overhead. But what was also lost was
the sense of security that came with knowing that eBay was a marketplace
moderated by real people with a real investment in the eBay community who
would hear both parties in a transaction out and attempt to "rule"
judiciously. It also helped those new to eBay to avoid problem transactions
and/or just to get stuff (like making a basic purchase) done. Also lost for
most was the simple ability to
contact eBay directly. These days
beginners are largely on their own on eBay, left to wander the maze of eBay
customer service documents.
- A real and accessible SafeHarbor team. This group deserves a special mention
because they were once an actual group tasked with keeping eBay a safe, courteous, and
professional environment. They had an email address and would reply to it. The
knowledge that there was a team dedicated to keeping eBay
clean and fair helped to offset the "flea market" nature of eBay's
marketplace. These days the structure of eBay's market remains light years
away from the classic ecommerce format of Amazon, but there is no clearly
public and communicative "group" tasked with advocating for the community,
meaning that rumors about eBay and
and a general "we don't care" attitude about crime are much harder to
dispel, even if they are untrue or exaggerated.