eBay

The other day, I was shopping for a laptop stand and I did my usual price comparison on sites like Amazon, TigerDirect, and NewEgg. For the first time in a long time, I checked eBay, and remembered why I don’t use the site anymore.

eBay is without a doubt one of the biggest global internet brands. They survived the web bubble burst and built a massive fortune on a totally new approach to and ancient business, the auction. But lately, the online auction site has been sliding faster and faster toward obsolescence.

One bad sign is the recent furor over eBay altering its pricing structure and denying sellers the ability to leave negative feedback! This massive departure from their traditional system of checks and balances goes against the core value of the brand: regular folks like you and me keeping one another in line by using the honour system to complete transactions. Luckily, I don’t sell too many items.

Another bad sign is how eBay has become flooded with professional retailers, dodgy second-handers, and hawkish fanboys trying to turn a profit on the latest gadget. The regular Joes can’t compete with the wholesale flood of listings. Plus there’s the looming risk of getting ripped off, which I have been at least twice in as many years. And the prices aren’t even cheaper than retail!

The overall experience has become a hassle rather than a pleasure; the site design is horribly out of date (blue links are so web 1.0) and the poor tagging and photography of auction items leaves us worrying more than hoping. The site can no longer compete with the ever-increasing speed, efficiency, reliability and product selection of online retailers. Don’t let me forget the awesomeness of sites like Craig’s List and Freecycle which rely on local exchanges and face-to-face transactions to hook people up.

If eBay wants to save its brand and its business, they need to adopt a better and more modern system of user feedback, a more reliable way to track auctions perhaps using RSS, AJAX widgets to track end-of-auctions in real time, and more openness in contacting eBay to sort out conflicts. And perhaps most urgently, kill the “Buy it Now” feature which defeats the very nature of auctions and invites the professional sellers to conduct business in an impersonal and robotic manner.

A new logo wouldn’t hurt as those primary colours have all but been purchased outright by the Google folks.