News

Users are upset, but will eBay listen?

Matt Nauman
San Jose Mercury News (MCT)

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Momentum is growing against eBay's changes to the fees it charges to sellers and the way it handles feedback, with word of a "strike" against the San Jose online auction company gaining traction.

"I expect this to be the largest boycott of eBay to date, and I think this year will be very rocky for eBay," said Ina Steiner, editor of AuctionBytes.com, a Massachusetts-based publication for online merchants, and author of a book about selling on eBay.

Steiner said that eBay changes always prompt reactions, and she admits that striking against eBay has been "difficult" in the past, as non-striking sellers see an opportunity when rivals stay away from the service.

Still, she said, "eBay is shifting more of the burden to sellers, and there's no question in my mind that for a certain percentage of sellers, it will be untenable."

In January, John Donahue, who becomes eBay's president and chief executive officer in March, announced changes to the fees eBay charges. The cost to list items will be cut 25 to 50 percent, but the commission that eBay charges for completed sales, what it calls its "final value fee," will increase.

Besides those fee changes, eBay also said it will hold some PayPal payments for up to 21 days on certain transactions and will prevent sellers from leaving negative feedback comments about buyers.

Those changes prompted an immediate reaction that now includes YouTube videos, online petitions and pressure for eBay buyers and sellers to boycott the site from Feb. 18 to 25.

Valerie Lennert, an Anaheim, Calif., woman who sells doll clothes on eBay, has emerged as one of the leading proponents of the strike.

"They're literally gutting the entire system we're familiar with," said Lennert, who quit her job as a social worker in January to become a full-time eBay seller.

Her YouTube video announcing the action, seen by 36,000 in the last week, calls for a worldwide strike by both eBay buyers and sellers. In it, she says, "millions of buyers and sellers already are on board."

She said eBay has banned her - not from buying and selling - but from communicating her opinions, so she turned to YouTube and MySpace to get the word out about the strike. (An eBay spokesman wouldn't comment on her particular situation but said the company has "striven to be lenient" regarding how it monitors discussion boards about its forthcoming changes.)

In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Lennert's voice was scratchy - from talking to so many reporters, she said - and she said she's getting more than 400 e-mails an hour. Most support the strike.

A comment by huge2na, attached to Lennert's video, is typical: "who made ebay rich? sellers by paying fees."

The changes are due to take effect on Feb. 20.

EBay isn't too worried about the possibility of a seller's strike, according to spokesman Usher Lieberman. He said the company isn't considering altering or postponing its policies due to the outcry.

"We've had hundreds of threats in the past, and they don't seem to have had much impact," he said.

Changes to the feedback-rating system - buyers will be able to leave positive or negative comments, but sellers will only be able to leave positive ones - seems to have generated most of the heat, he said. "Feedback draws a lot of passion from our community. It's one of our great innovations, so it's going to elicit a lot of input," Lieberman said.

Lennert's worst fear is that she'll have no recourse if she gets a negative comment from a buyer - or, she said, from a rival posing as a buyer.

"We don't want to damage eBay's bottom line," she said. "All we want to do is to get their attention."

EBay did announce a further price cut Monday for what it calls its media sellers - those offering books, music, video games and movies. Lieberman said that one of the changes it announced last month, allowing sellers to post photos for free, didn't really benefit media sellers.

"We've never had any category-specific pricing before, and we've been looking at it for a while," he said.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.