Dealing With eBay Changes 2012
EBay has just announced changes for fall 2012. This article looks at how the changes will effect sellers.
Most of these changes don't have a great effect on sellers who sell used items (Antiques and Collectibles) in auctions. If you sell new mass produced items with fixed price listings, you will be forced to incorporate these new programs into your listings, or your sales will suffer.
Sign up for my free Antiques and eBay Newsletter for articles covering new eBay changes as they are announced.Spring 2012 changes are covered here.
2011 eBay changes are explained here.
eBay Changes In The Fall 2012 Seller UpdateBefore we get started here's a note from a reader:
Terry, "Whatever you are selling on eBay the most important aspect to your success is a thorough understanding of the process and reasons behind each action you take." So many people just do what they see others do without thinking it through or testing the results. I appreciate throughout The Auction Revolution that you took the time to say WHY you chose to do things a certain way. You have encouraged me and affirmed what I already knew. I love your description of why reserves and BIN's are counterproductive. I have observed that they were not wise for collectibles, but would not have been able to describe the reasons why as well as you did. Thanks for all your hard work! Elaine SmithImprove your eBay skills quickly like Elaine did by reading the Auction Revolution.
BUYER COMPLAINTS UNDER EBAY PROTECTION SCHEME
The first change is to force buyers to contact you before opening a complaint with eBay. This gives you a chance to head off complaints before eBay finds out about them. I suggest including your phone number in every package so buyers can call if they are unhappy.
Based on my experience, talking to the buyer on the phone for a few minutes solves almost all of the problems that come up.
Another change is the way eBay counts buyer complaints. Only complaints found in the buyer's favor will effect your performance score. This score is used when factoring Best Match search results and for determining if you qualify for Top Rated Seller and final value fees discount for the month.
AN ASIDE ON HOW EBAY SEARCH WORKS
I have been working on a new eBay book and spent quite a bit of time recently looking at how eBay's search engine works, and how different buyers use the search engine.
Here's a few points that relate to the announced changes:
In the Spring 2012 seller update, eBay changed the requirements for Final Value Fee discounts so only items sold by Top Rated Sellers that have a 1 day handling time, and a 14-day return policy are eligible.
At that time I recommended watching the refund policies other sellers in your niches offered, and just forgetting about going after the discounts unless you are willing to ship daily.
For the items I sell, the majority of sellers are now stating no returns. Since I sell used antiques and collectibles and my buyers don't come from Best Match searches, I've given up on trying to get the discounts and just think of them as a stealth fee increase.
EBay also announced changes to the Top Rated Seller seal.
For now this is just meaningless.
In the future, expect eBay to start show the seal in the search and category results pages beside qualifying listings. My opinion is eBay is not getting the results from sellers they want and will be pushing the Top Rated program harder in upcoming updates.
FAST AND FREE PROGRAM
EBay has a new program called "Fast and Free" designed to highlight listings that offer free shipping and can be expected to be delivered with 4 days of purchase. This will show up in the listings, and as time goes by also in the search results and category listings.
Again for the majority of collectibles dealers this is not an issue. If you sell new stuff this may become an issue if your competitors start offering this. EBay doesn't clearly say Fast and Free listings will get a boost in Best Match searches, but you can be 100% sure this will happen in the future if it's not already happening.
This means that if you sell with Fixed Price listings, you must offer free shipping and fast handling times. If you don't, and there are other sellers who do, your listing never be seen by potential buyers.
NEW PHOTO POLICIES
The requirements for pictures to be included in listings announced in the Spring Update go into effect in Oct. 2012. The prohibitions on stock photos, borders, and using text in pictures has been postponed until 2013.
One new change that will save you some time and might cost you money is you'll be able to send pictures to people who ask for additional images through the eBay system. You'll want to watch this because sometimes the picture you send will show details that add to the value and increase bids.
I've recommended for years that if bidders ask for specific pictures you add the pictures to you listings so all bidders can see them. Don't get so happy to save time that you give one bidder an advantage and loose money.
FINAL VALUE FEES ON CANCELLED AUCTIONS
The last change of note is eBay will now charge final value fees on auctions that are cancelled with bids. This means that if you list an item you expect to sell for $50 that gets few bids and has few people watching it, canceling the listing will result in fees.
This is eBay claiming to be catering to buyers who are upset because listings are cancelled when the truth is they are really closing a loophole us smart sellers were exploiting.
I used to cancel stuff that looked like it would sell for a few dollars. Since I've raised my shipping and handling fees, I now just let the items end.
EBay recommends starting your item at a higher price or using a reserve. As a store operator I don't get free listings so I wait until eBay runs a free listing day and then list expensive items that need higher opening bids.
For cheaper items, I just don't list them on eBay, or I cost average the sales so I feel I'm doing OK. For example I frequently list the odds and ends that come in with items I buy to resell. Sometimes these items get no bids, or sell for a few dollars. Sometimes they sell for surprising amounts.
These items have two common features:
There are also changes relating to categories and item conditions. Categories aren't interesting to most of you readers unless you sell in those categories so I'll ignore them, but for one note.
If you're selling used items to collectors in a category that has changes, the buyers might not find your listings in the new categories for a while. You'll want to consider running in two categories, or staying with the old category until most other sellers have migrated to the new categories. Or, if you run many similar items cross promote in your listings and run listings in both categories.
NEW CONDITION STATEMENTS AT THE TOP OF LISTINGS
Condition statements are dangerous. I've been moving away from making condition statements on eBay for years. I point out defects and damage, but unless the item is brand new, or nearly new, I just let the buyer judge the condition with my photos.
I started doing this years ago because I had a buyer complain because I'd sold an item as "Like New" when it was really "Mint."
In my mind "mint" is better than "like new." Mint means brand new absolutely no signs of use in the original packaging. Like New means slight signs of use with no damage and doesn't require original packaging.
Another reason for not including condition statements is they are used by eBay to decide buyer complaints of "Item Not As Described." If a buyer and seller can't agree on what a condition statement means, do you think someone in the eBay service center in India will understand?
On one of the eBay discussion boards an eBay representative recommends putting condition statements for antiques and collectibles in the description rather than in this new condition statement area.
If you put "see description" in the condition area eBay will consider it abuse of the system and may find against you during disputes, or cancel your listing, so just leave the condition statement area blank when listing.
COMBINING LISTINGS WITH VARIATIONS HELPS BEST MATCH
One last point that will help some sellers. Ebay will soon allow you to combine variations of an item into one listing. Their example is different sizes of T-shirts. If you sell items that can be combined with Fixed Price listings, you should use this tool when it becomes available later this year.
I mentioned earlier that sell through rates are important in best match searches. Combining listings with variations is an easy way to increase the sell through rate and get better exposure in best match searches. You'll also save money on listing fees. Also, if you run these listings with the "Good Til Cancelled" feature eBay will even keep track of your inventory for you.
A warning here. . . It looks like eBay will show the most expensive option in search results so you should combine your listings based on price.
I'll have more information about these changes as they are
PS I am constantly amazed at the number of people who complain
about an eBay fee increase while making costly mistakes and wasting
their profits. If you haven't already taken the eBay seller's quiz,
you should do so now.
Return Policy Changes Under The 2012 Spring Seller Update
Effective in May, 2012 if you offer returns, return periods must be 14 days, 30 days, or 60 days, and you must offer the buyer his money back as an option. You can still offer to exchange the item, but must also offer money back.
For most of you readers exchange was never an option because we sell used items and rarely have quantities of them.
The big thing here is the additional length of time the buyer has to decide on a return. For most antiques and collectibles (used items) the time period should have little impact.
I've always offered money back returns, and even pay the return shipping if it was my mistake. For most of the items I sell offering a buyer a 14 day return period will not effect me.
But there are cases where a longer return period can be damaging to a seller. For example, I've heard stories from coin dealers who have sold gold coins on eBay based on the value of gold only to have buyers return them when the value of gold declined.
The big problem with standardizing return policies is it removes the seller's ability to deal with different buyers based on the situation. During the past year, I've allowed 2 people to return items and paid shipping both ways.
I also had one buyer call me (my phone number is included in every package I mail) because the item he got wasn't as described. The buyer thought the item was original when it had been repainted. The description clearly said the item was repainted in the first sentence. I offered to take the item back, but refused to refund shipping either way because I hadn't made a mistake. He decided to keep the item.
But now with the standardized return policy I either always have to pay return shipping, or tell all bidders that they'll pay return shipping. EBay says I can later tell some unhappy buyers I'll pay return shipping, but this changes the way prospective buyers see me.
My recommendation here is to include the 14 day refund period in most of your eBay listings with the selection of buyer pays return shipping. Watch for problems, and then reassess.
While it's not mentioned clearly, eBay is going to give an increase in exposure for best match searches for items with 14 day or longer return periods and 1 day handling listed by top rated sellers.
In the future we'll probably see eBay force sellers to pay return shipping in addition to refunding purchase price and initial shipping costs.
New Handling Requirements In The 2012 Spring Seller Update
When I first read these changes I thought I'd loose my discount on final value fees. Currently eBay gives me a 20% discount for being a top rated seller in most months. Effective June 1st only listings with 1 day handling and at least 14 day returns qualify for discounts.
I end my auctions late on Wednesday nights, and ship on Friday afternoons. This is longer than 1 day, but from reading eBay's detailed explanations, it seems like I have until midnight Friday to upload tracking information for buyers who pay late on Wednesday night or on Thursday.
I still might not be able to qualify for the discounts because some of my buyers pay later.
Last week I sold 8 items. One buyer is mailing a check so his transaction will never show up in my handling statistics. 4 buyers paid after the auctions ended and their items were shipped. The other 3 buyers paid this week, and I'll ship their items on Friday. (I'm writing this on Wednesday.)
This means that of 7 traceable transactions, only 4 were shipped within eBay's 1 day time frame. EBay says I have to get 90% of my tracking information uploaded with 1 day of receiving payment to qualify for Top Rated Seller discounts. Last week I only would have hit 57%.
Additionally, what will be the effect of telling buyers I ship in 1 day and then continuing to ship only on Friday afternoons? Will a buyer that pays 5 days after the auction ends complain when I ship the item 4 days later?
Digging further, I looked at the past discounts I got under the Top Rated Seller program. My average discount is about $20 a month.Note: Over the years my eBay fees have declined as I've moved more of my sales off eBay. Here's a free interview that explains how to escape the eBay volume trap.
Based on these discounts and the low likelihood that I'll ever be able to upload tracking information within the time allowed for at least 90% of my transactions, I'm going to consider this a fee increase and not even try to get the discounts.
My fear is that by trying for the discount I'll end up with buyers who pay on Monday complaining when I ship on Friday. I don't want to raise buyer expectations when I know I am not going to make repeated trips to the post office.
I also fear that by setting unrealistic buyer expectations my Detailed Seller Ratings will decline to the point where I am no longer eligible for free listing specials and risk having my auctions lowered in search results.
Here's eBay's information on what happens with sellers who get more than three 1 or 2 ratings for shipping time in any one month:
My recommendation to you is to look at your discounts. You can do this by going to My eBay > My Account > Seller Account > Account Activity. If your current discounts are low like mine, and you're unwilling to ship daily, don't try.
Otherwise, spend the next few months trying to get the discounts. If trying effects your feedback, stop and assume the program change is just a hidden fee increase.
One note here. I sell mostly packages. Boxes. If you sell small items that you mail in envelopes, the cost of adding tracking with delivery confirmation can eat through any discount you might get.
An example would be selling an old Indian Head penny. You can mail the penny for about 70 cents, but cannot get delivery confirmation on a flat envelope. If you packed it in a padded envelope so you can get delivery confirmation, your cost will run $2.80. I did this last week so that's an accurate number.
I sold the penny for $25 with free shipping. The final value fee was $1.95. A 20% discount would be 39 cents, but I paid $2.10 extra to mail the penny with tracking. (The tracking also prevents the buyer from claiming he didn't get it and getting an automatic refund.)Added Note: Don Hoppe suggests ending auctions on Thursday evenings and shipping on Monday. This gives slow paying buyers the whole weekend to pay. If you try this, run a 7 day listing started on Thursday night rather than a 5 day listing. A 5 day listing would start on Saturday night, meaning you'll miss half the weekend shoppers.
Photos Changed In 2012 Spring Seller Update
This is a minor change. I don't use anything but the single gallery image in my listings and won't be making any changes. One of my friends thinks the new photos will result in more bad pictures on eBay so his listings will stand out better.
One change with the photos is you can no longer add sales messages to your photos. You can have copyright or ownership overlays, but cannot add words to peak buyer interest. This doesn't effect me either because I don't waste my time on these distractions.
It looks like eBay is making the photo changes to capture more shoppers using mobile phones. My buyers aren't using phones to search eBay. If you sell antiques and collectibles, your buyers probably aren't using cell phones either.
I still recommend you host your own photos. Use an eBay hosted gallery image so you get more visitors to you listing, but otherwise no changes are needed. Adding Free Pictures to your Auctions explains hosting your own images.
A Hidden Fee Increase In The 2012 Spring Seller Update
I spent a few days tracking comments by other writers and examining the 2012 eBay changes, and missed something. When I was looking at the photo information, I found this statement:
If you don't have a store and sell items for more than $1,111 this is an issue. Store listings don't have a upper limit on final value fees, but the fees decrease as the amount goes up. For eBay sellers without stores, the current fee is 9% up to a total of $100.Does An eBay Store Make Sense For You? will help you decide if a store will lower your fees.
This change seems to be an attempt by eBay to force more users to open stores. I know many people who opened stores and don't list enough items to make it worthwhile. This means eBay gets $15.95 a month from them in minimum fees.
One note here: While looking at discussion boards and comments about these changes I saw statements ranging from my "I'll do nothing and eat the extra fees," to "I'm done selling on eBay," along with the expected "let's boycott eBay." My expectation is the majority of eBay sellers will do nothing differently as a result of these changes other than paying more in fees.
If you're in a niche where the sellers do respond with longer return periods and quicker handling times, and you do nothing, your sales amounts could be negatively effected. This means it's important to pay attention to what's happening in the categories you regularly list.
PS Rather than worrying about eBay's changes, you'd be better served to improve your selling skills. My Auction Revolution manual has helped thousands of eBay sellers get higher prices while avoiding expensive mistakes that increase fees.
Understanding eBay Changes 2011
In 2011 eBay implemented 5 changes that effect sellers. . .
Many of the articles and free reports here on IWantCollectibles were originally sent to readers of my Antiques and eBay Newsletter. Not all articles make it onto the website, and readers also get notices of free reports and special offers.