Saturday, August 23, 2008

The reasonable person, does this include eBay buyers?

The current consensus around eBay circles is that eBay is trying to shed its "flea market" image. Current management has indicated that they don't really enjoy the tag as the world's largest garage sale and current changes to the fixed price format are moving eBay towards an type marketplace.

Can eBay pull this off this drastic image transformation?

Recently I was able to secure a wholesale order of New factory sealed Apple iPods. This is not an item that can be easily sourced, but the price was right and the product was good so I decided to purchase and sell them on eBay.

Here's an example of an email I recieved from a buyer regarding their 'expectations':

"if I pay for overnight fees can you ship quicker? I am leaving on vacation and would like to take it with me. I have about 50.00 max to spend on product and shipping."

The item this buyer was bidding on was a brand new factory sealed Apple iPod Touch 8GB. Normal retail for this item is about 299.99 from Apple. You can find it a little cheaper online, but clearly this buyer's expectations are unrealistic, IMHO.

I emailed the buyer and politely pointed out to her the retail value of the item and asked her to make a reasonable offer. She replied with the following:

" win I guess I win, if not then I didn't neet it. Thought the point of eBay and bidding was to be able to find things you want but not pay full price. If I had 350.00 I would not be on eBay. :O)"

You might say, sure this is just one buyer, but I get many buyers such as this who expect brand new hard to get, indemand items for 50%-75% off. Can anyone sell at these prices? Probably not unless they plan on filing chapter 11.

How can eBay management change this type of perception and still allow sellers to profit? In this scenario, I doubt even Steve Jobs himself could manufacture and sell a device and sell it (not even factoring overnight shipping!) at this price.

Many of eBay's changes are based on "what buyers told us they think is reasonable." Is this a good example of what is reasonable? Is eBay going down the wrong street by listening to buyers such as this? Many of the new policies such as maximum shipping were determined by buyers such as this. Would reasonable sellers sell at these types of prices? Most likely not.

In law school we learn that most issues are decided upon the 'reasonable person' standard. A reasonable person is defined as a person with ordianry degree of reason, prudence, care, foresight or intelligence and judment that society requires of its members for the protection of their own interests and interests of others."

Is eBay management making the flawed assumption that eBay buyers fall into the category of a "reasonable person"?

Food for thought.

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