eBay and Auctions: Synonymous No More. Sniff.

By  |  Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at 12:12 am

“Don’t just shop–win!” That’s been eBay’s slogan for quite awhile now. But it looks like it might be appropriate to flop it around into “Don’t just win–shop!”

The New York Times is reporting that the world’s biggest auction site is tired of being the world’s biggest auction site. Starting in September, it plans to change its fee structure to encourage sellers to use “Buy It Now” pricing, which lets buyers grab a product at a fixed price rather than bidding. It’s a reaction to general sluggishness in the company’s auction business (which, the Times says, accounts for 57 percent of eBay revenues–the majority, but far from an overwhelming majority).

“We love the auction model,” the Times quotes eBay Marketplace Laurie Norrington as saying. “It’s still a great model for certain types of sales.” For eBay, that sounds like less than a truly ringing endorsement; it’s as if the president of Coca-Cola was reduced to assuring people that the company loved cola and thought it was a great drink for some occasions.

My instinct is to bristle at this news. I’ve been an eBay bidder for almost eleven years, and a seller (from time to time) for almost as long. eBay auctions are fun and I’ve bought into the philosophy that–as long as you’re not in a hurry–an auction is a near-perfect form of commerce that lets customers determine what a product is really worth. Besides, I’m a traditionalist, and the notion of eBay being anything less than deeply into auctions is jarring.

If I understand the news, though, eBay’s not taking anything away or trying to prevent anyone who wants to put a product up for auction from doing so; it’s just making “Buy It Now” more attractive, by lowering the initial listing cost for this option (while raising its final commission). If the auction option is still available, I guess I can’t squawk too loudly–the folks who sell on eBay will ultimately decide how they want to sell.

I’m sure I’ll still buy stuff on eBay; I’m sure I’ll still find rare collectibles (such as vintage Scrappy merchandise) that I’d never find anywhere else. It’s just that my heart may be less likely to race a bit as an auction reaches its final seconds and I’m still in the lead, praying that nobody jumps in and takes what’s rightly mine away from me.

AuctionBytes has more details on eBay changes, including its plans to ban checks and money orders, supposedly to help curtail fraud, though the move will surely also increase business for PayPal and thereby boost eBay’s profits. Funny–I’ve done nearly as many eBay transactions via checks and money orders as with PayPal over the years, and I’ve never been ripped off. I pay by PayPal whenever the option’s there, but I know there are such people as eBay sellers who despite PayPal and refuse to take it; it’ll be interesting to see if they gulp and begin accepting it, or decamp.


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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Mackey Says:

    I’d hate to see the auctions get swept under the rug. Auctions are the fun of eBay, the thrill of the chase. I haven’t done a lot of eBay of late – last thing I bought was a non-working pinball machine for $200, which is now a working pinball machine, thanks to my mad skillz in that area. Such a bargain!

    I’ll be happiest when eBay decides to ban sales of “band director approved” cheap band instruments that fall apart once the kids start playing them.

  2. billy giang Says:


    Try ahhge.com – auction site w. no insertion fee and no store fee.


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  7. Mr Dobalina Says:

    I noticed the severe lack of auctions recently on eBay. I'm only a spotty buyer and seller there so I'm not always on top of these things. What's really caught my attention recently is eBay offering big INCENTIVES to list as an auction rather than use Buy It Now. What's up with that?? I have read several eCommerce forum posts indicating sellers on eBay are experiencing an all-time low in buyer interest through eBay and I believe the lack of auctions is what's killing their business. I decided to test this theory and put up 5 items for a penny auction that should have been caused immediate snipe wars so they could be re-sold for ridiculously inflated Buy It Now listings. Only 2 sold and I only had a total of 8 bids between the two. That's SCARY. Over the past two years I've watched eBay make one catastrophic decision after another. First the completely anonymous bidding that tossed transparent auctioning out the window. Don't like the auction bids your getting? Just make a fake profile and start bidding till the price is where you want it! Although eBay claims they watch for that behavior it is IMPOSSIBLE to watch for and I have personally seen it happen on numerous occasions. Perhaps their new move towards Buy It Now is their admission that they simply can't make an honest auction process work? Yes…that's it. Lastly, the new PayPal fee increases on top of the fee increases on eBay itself have made a sale there far from profitable. I foresee the decline, sale and death of eBay in its present form coming in the near future. It will be taken over by a re-seller farm and all you'll be getting there is WAY overpriced hard to find items you can't get anywhere else. Very sad. The only way to reverse the eCommerce Zombie they've got now is to reverse the anonymous auction policy (which is just insane), knock the fees back down and ENCOURAGE more auctions. MORE MORE MORE! Bring the FUN back to "I bought on eBay!"

  8. Penny auction Says:

    Has anyone bought anything from http://www.gozila.co.uk penny auction?

    Whats the deal, is it like ebay?


  9. Libby Murray Says:

    I love to attend and buy some stuffs during Auctions, you can really get some nice stuffs in there.~*’

  10. Roger T. Hat Says:

    Has anyone heard about this new Penny Auction site, http://www.pulseauction.com ? They are claiming they will use a no "per-bid fee" concept. For me, I can't wait to try this one.

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  12. Bob Says:

    I am an Ebay seller. I made little or no money selling cowboy boots on Ebay for 5 years. Now I have cut down my inventory, not buying those expensive auction ads and using 20 cent ads now with the hope I will make more money,. Besides with my product auctions will drive you insane! If fixed price listings will work, I will stay. If not: "Bye Bye Ebay".

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