Thursday, August 21, 2008

eBay's last legs?

A couple of months back my mom dipped a tentative toe into the whole Internet thing. I think she's got email pretty much figured out and some people at work have got her set up on Facebook. But I remember at the time she was excited about the idea of being about to cruise around for deals on eBay.

I really didn't have the heart to tell her she's at least five years too late for that. Further proof that eBay is going down the tubes can be read here. The story also has a rarity....most people offering up intelligent comments after the story about how eBay is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Most of my friends are familiar with my near legendary story of needing to make some money so I could buy Cathy and engagement ring. So I sold comics on eBay. One person thought it was very sweet that I sold all my comics to get my girlfriend and engagement ring.

"Oh no," I said. "Not all of them. Just a couple of hundred."

"How many do you have?"

"I'm not sure. Probably around 10,000 or so. I've kind of lost count."

You know, there's only two ways to handle the look you get when you tell someone you have about 10,000 comic books. Either get very depressed that someone is looking at you in a "holy fuck I'm standing next to a crazy person" way, or just get amusement at the reaction.

I tend to go for the later.

Anyway, yeah, I sold about 300 or so comics on eBay and got a very nice engagement ring for Cathy (plus had enough left over for a nice digital camera, but that's besides the point). And really, eBay was the best way to do it. If I sold my comics to the local stores I would have gotten a fraction of the price. The only other option was to go to the Avalon Mall flea market, which can be its own torture test.

So yeah, eBay was great. I used to get a touch annoyed by the shifting fees, the way Canada Post seemed to gouge you and even the increasing Canadian dollar. I remember thinking if only I had started selling a year or two earlier I could have made so much more money. That's when the dollar was trading around 73 cents. A year earlier it had been around 65 cents. So I was losing money.

Yeah, losing money at around 73 cents. Good thing I wasn't trying to sell them now. I would be getting creamed. I like travelling with a high US dollar. I like buying things with a high US dollar. Selling comics with the dollar at par sucks.

Anyway, I haven't had much to do with eBay in ages. Yes, some of it has to do with the Canadian dollar hitting near par and the fact that Canada Post seemed to be really taking advantage of people using eBay (especially in Nunavut). But mostly it was just the absolutely byzantine fee structure that made it almost impossible to make any money selling things. Increasingly it felt like eBay was trying to force out ordinary people just looking to sell a few things and were sucking up stores and bigger companies. And this latest move appears to be, if not the final nail, then certainly one of the last ones.

It's too bad, but maybe this kind of auction site no longer serves a purpose. Or the world is waiting for a better, and easier, auction site to be built and leap to the forefront. I'd like one. If I get home in October (just depends on work now, although a seat sale would be nice as well) I have to deal with a bunch of my comics. It would be nice to be able to throw up a bunch of auctions and sell some of it that way rather than dealing with the local stores or tossing them out.

But I don't know. Looking at that story and eBay, I think trying to deal with them would give me a migraine. Too bad. It was a fun and useful site....while it lasted.

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Karin said...

Its still useful for some things but it has dramatically changed since I started buying and selling Amelia's baby items/clothing 7 years ago. I still recycle her clothing every season but its very "brand specific" on what sells and what doesn't.
Ebay hasn't helped keep its core auction base though. They've made numerous (bad) changes in the past year. The little guy who might be thinking of trying Ebay isn't likely to stand a chance now with the new feedback rules.
The new management at Ebay is driving this business model change so we'll see if the masses follow. I don't see it being around for much longer.

WJM said...

I quit selling books on eBay five years, and many fee increases and idiotic site "improvements" ago. Never looked back.

eBay had a classic case of "if it ain't broke, fix it." They had no understanding of the needs and wants of their buyers and sellers, and managed to take perhaps the perfect interweb concept, and total marketplace domination, and run it into the ground better and faster than the railways made themselves useless half a century ago.

Brilliant. MBA mills are going to be case-studying this one to death for years.

(Next up: ABEbooks.)