Ebay boycott starts Monday, February 18th – will you participate?

ebaystrike.jpg

This ought to be interesting. Recently we blogged about Ebay’s new fee changes which sparked lots of comments from our readers, many of whom buy and sell designer jeans on Ebay. Check out the following article from CNN.com about the big Ebay strike planned to begin Monday, February 18th. It should be noted that this is not just a strike of sellers not listing – the organizers are asking that people not buy or sell on Ebay during this week, and that they frequent other online marketplaces instead to send Ebay a message about their new unfair policies. We suggest that for sellers who sell designer denim and other designer goods – list your items on the HonestMall instead – a division of HonestForum.com. The mall costs $10 initially to post in, and this is to keep scammers away. But after that, it is fee-free. Many people who love designer goods are aware of the mall and frequent it often – so it is a great alternative to Ebay.

(FORTUNE Small Business) — Activists opposed to eBay’s upcoming fee and policy changes are readying for a weeklong site boycott starting on Monday, with buyers and sellers waiting to see if this strike will succeed where past protests have failed.

The boycott, planned to run Feb. 19 – 25, is scheduled to overlap eBay’s Feb. 20 rollout of significant changes announced last month. (Editor’s Note: The Ebay forums say the strike is Feb. 18-25 so if you plan to participate, you may want to start Feb. 18th.)

Sellers say eBay’s new policies are likely to cost them more money, but what’s really inspired an outpouring of wrath is an adjustment to eBay’s feedback system: sellers will no longer be able to leave negative commentary about their buyers. Critics say that will leave sellers vulnerable to negligent bidders and scammers.

“You get bad buyers as often as you get bad sellers,” said M. Owens, a Severn, Md.-based seller of high-end dolls that typical go for several hundred dollars each. On such an expensive transaction, having a buyer cause trouble – by, for example, disputing the transaction and requesting a credit-card chargeback after they’ve already received their merchandise – can be financially devastating, she said.

Owens, who plans to participate in the boycott and avoid buying or selling on eBay next week, is also worried about the impact of a change to eBay’s “best match” search algorithm, one of the least-publicized aspects of the upcoming changes. That search method, which will become eBay’s default next month, favors sellers with high and detailed customer-satisfaction ratings. Low-volume sellers, like Owens, say this puts them at a disadvantage by burying their listings.

EBay spokesman Usher Lieberman said the company is taking a wait-and-see approach to the boycott talk.

“At this point it’s still premature for us to speculate,” Lieberman said. “We’re empathetic with our sellers and understand that they’re concerned, and that some of them object to some of the changes we’re implementing. On the other hand, we think we have very good reasons for what we’re doing.”

EBay has no plans for listing-fee discounts or other special promotions next week to combat a potential boycott-related drop in listings, Lieberman said. This week, eBay ran a one-day discounted listing fee special offer on Wednesday, a move that increased listings on the site that day from around 12 million to 16 million.

That special offer was not prompted by the groundswell of seller discontent about the upcoming changes, according to Lieberman.

“We shouldn’t be reading anything into that,” he said. “We’re always testing the price elasticity of our market.”

Whether or not the planned boycott will be successful in affecting eBay’s bottom line remains to be seen, but auction veterans say this degree of seller backlash to eBay fee hikes and other changes is unprecedented.

“I’ve been getting about 400 e-mails an hour,” said Valerie Lennert, an Anaheim, Calif., doll-clothing merchant who became an unofficial spokeswoman for the boycott after posting a call-to-arms video on Google (GOOG, Fortune 500)’s YouTube.

Past eBay boycott attempts have fizzled, and this one may too, Lennert acknowledged. With millions of individuals selling on eBay, gaining critical mass for any organized action is extremely challenging. But simply getting eBay’s attention is a worthy accomplishment, she said.

“There are a lot of people who are really upset, and if we choose to go somewhere else as a group, there won’t be an eBay anymore,” she said. “We don’t think eBay understands that. They think they’re invincible, and they don’t seem to listen to what we need. Even if listings don’t go down, we’re reached the main goal: to let them know how upset we are. I’m pretty sure they know that at this point.”

There’s even an interesting YouTube video on the Ebay boycott and Ebay’s recent changes, not to mention a bunch of MySpace page’s about the boycott.

We somewhat think that if you are going to boycott Ebay as a seller, it’s going to have to be longer than a week to see a change. If you already have an Ebay Store and you just don’t list during that one week, but have prior auctions ending that were listed before the strike or Store Inventory that sells during the strike week, it really doesn’t seem like it will affect Ebay’s bottom line much. Ebay sellers and buyers are going to have to really commit to stand against Ebay for a longer time period to really make a change and to get Ebay’s attention.

More links on the Ebay strike:

Do you think the strike will cause change on Ebay’s end, and do you plan to participate in the strike either as a buyer or seller?

11 Comments

  1. I think this will be as effective as all of those gasoline “boycotts” where we are told not to buy Exxon, Shell, etc. You just shift the seller listings to the week prior or after. It only works if enough Ebay sellers leave the system and start selling elsewhere.

  2. sailornep5 ~ We are working on it, believe me, we are working on it. The moves cannot all happen overnight, some are too dependent on eBay for their income to up and walk away outright, but they are checking other venues, moving stock slowly to competitor sites, etc. The exodus began weeks ago with the original announcement of the new policy changes, the boycott is another step but it is not the whole picture. We do not have one leader, we do not have one speaker, we are not officially organized, but we are legion, and we are not taking it any more.

  3. Yeah well, lol, maybe the legion part was a little melodramatic. But the rest is spot on. One poll found 86% of eBay sellers who responded are very unhappy and believe the new policies will harm their business. I along with several hundred others (416 at last count) in one small cyber meeting place have already left and closed out stores and accounts. We know of many who are waiting for the boycott to do so. There are forums and message boards popping up everywhere to help eBay refugees find new venues. It is hard to know just how many of us there are, we are not only from different cities and states, but different countries. I doubt the boycott will change eBay’s mind on the new policies, but I support it nonetheless. They called us ‘noise’, I for one am going to make some.

  4. Thank you so much for the link! This is one that I had not heard of, but will add to our small message board for others. This coming week will find many of us looking at other options to see where we might fit in. Some sellers are item specific and others not. I hope that life is being kind. 🙂

  5. dlila, I hope that you find a home for your buisness! You are quite tough to close and I think you are quite….well…brave! (feeling like a 1st grader but hey whet ev..lol)