Don’t panic–eBay is still around. It just isn’t as friendly as it used to be.

Back in the dinosaur days of eBay (I think it was about 1999) the auction site was FUN! Buyers and sellers both could spend hours at the keyboard, playing the What if? game and hoping for the miracle deal.

We started, as everybody did, as buyers, making those first tentative purchases using money orders or “the check’s in the mail” and buying from sellers who offered one item at a time. After a little while we felt pretty darn secure with the eBay stuff and offered an item for sale. We punched the buttons to activate the listing and began a week of checking the computer every 10 or 15 minutes to see if anyone had upped the bid. What a ball!

One of our sales–a six-foot tall figure!

The item sold. We were happy, the buyer was happy, we both posted glowing feedback. We were hooked, and over the next few years we bought and sold a lot of things. We always got good feedback (well, we’re good people!) and on our end, had to post negatives only a couple of times, for truly egregious faults such as  bounced checks or misleading ads. You could count on feedback to be a good indicator of which people you wanted to deal with.

But somewhere along the way, things changed. It all comes down to money, I suppose. It seems that eBay decided it could change the rules to benefit the SuperSellers and in the process, themselves. A little at a time, the guy who wanted to simply sell an old book and the lady who crocheted doll dresses to pick up an extra few bucks found that new fees made it unlikely that they’d see much profit.

The big loser was the feedback system. When eBay started putting limits on negative feedback, all the trust went out the window. The feedback demise wasn’t sudden. Over time, people started playing their own games with the system. Instead of posting an Oh, Boy! note once they received payment, some sellers decided to hold back until the buyer give them positive feedback first. This wasn’t a matter of logic; this was a matter of extortion. Trivial, you say? Of course it is, except that the whole basic premise of the feedback system was being eroded. An opinion is not worth a whole lot if it can be manipulated into GOOD or BAD.

Now there’s not a true indicator of who is trustworthy, buyer or seller. They’ve even taken to hiding the names of bidders so (heaven forbid!) someone might make a deal without paying eBay’s commission. If anyone’s interested, I’ll tell you the tale of our item that dropped something like 80% in price in the last minute of the auction. At least in those days, we could see what was happening and filed a complaint.

You know, I’m usually a very calm person. I don’t rant easily or without cause. So, I apologize to anyone I might have offended or who disagrees with me. If you happen to be a one-at-a-time buyer or seller and eBay is treating you right, congratulations! I wish you only good luck and enjoyment with your deals. Just enjoy it while you can. There’s no telling what the next changes will bring.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.