Once upon a time, it was my custom to join millions of other wallet-heavy shoppers in the mad rush known …
Since the stores around here began replacing useful items on their shelves with the bright, shiny money-makers aimed at Christmas …
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!
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
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.
Doesn’t this look like a good thing? Guess again. From what I can read in the little blurbs they’ve been sending me, it amounts to a noticeable change in the way they do business. Somehow, though,it doesn’t appear that I, the customer, will be the one to benefit. The basic elements seem to be these:
- The Rewards Card will no longer accrue points to be redeemed later for grocery purchases. Now you’ll be able to use them only at Ralph’s and Shell fuel stations. In essence, you spend $100 on groceries, gaining 100 points which you can then redeem for a 10-cent discount per gallon on their gas. Let’s see: for a 20-gallon fill-up, that’s a whole $2.00 off their price. Considering that Shell prices around here range from 20 to 30 cents more per gallon than Arco (and others), it doesn’t feel like much of a bargain.
- If I wish to continue receiving Ralphs Reward Certificates (the food-redeemable points mentioned above), I must make my purchases using their own Ralphs rewards plus Visa card. I choose not to have another card, thank you. If I do decide I want one, it won’t be one I’m coerced into buying. As a side note, Ralphs isn’t the first to offer less-inflated prices for house credit card users; many retailers do it (think Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCP) but it hits home when it applies to food.
- They will accept manufacturer’s coupons at face value only. Back in the day, Ralphs (and several others) gave you double value for your coupons. The last few years, they’ve already changed the policy from TRUE DOUBLE VALUE to DOUBLE VALUE UP TO $1.00 (face value) to DOUBLE VALUE UP TO $1.00 (total value); a $1.50 coupon that was worth $3.00 a few years ago is now worth half that. On top of the face value the retailer gets a handling fee of (usually) 8 to 10 cents per coupon.
Of course, it’s been a game for quite a while. All the markets offer “Sale” prices if you have a club card. (They simply increased the “regular” prices to account for the difference.) The card gives them a fair amount of personal information about you and allows them to tailor ads to suit your buying preferences.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against goods and services providers making a profit. If I had an idea to make a profit myselft I’d certainly go for it. But I would never try to trick people into thinking they’re getting a bargain when it’s really a matter of paying what they should have in the first place.
The solution, as I see it, is just to grow all the veggies I can and laugh all the way home from the market. Their plastic tomatoes can’t match the flavor of the ones outside my back door anyway!
As for the real LOW PRICES! they are announcing, we’ll wait and see. I’ll give you a report in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.
I’ll see you again, after the commercial.