What Killed EBAY (& the Internet Auction)?

In this morning’s reads, I mentioned an interesting  James Surowiecki piece in Wired, titled Going, Going, Gone: Who Killed the Internet Auction?.

Surowiecki got many of the major issues correct — the auction’s novelty wore off, bargains were arbitraged away, last minute bid sniping, and the power of Google search to locate items that were previously only found on eBay.

While those factors are reasonable, there are two other elements that can also help explain why I haven’t bought anything on eBay in years: Paypal, and Counterfeiting.

Counterfeiting: For a time, there was a robust trade in higher priced, name brand goods. Then the counterfeiters came along, and whether it was 1000 count Egyptian Cotton sheets or Tommy Bahama swim trunks, buying on eBay became an exercise in uncertainty.

Paypal: My personal experiences with Paypal were godawful. Whether it was as a Buyer or a Merchant, I have found Paypal to be infuriating to use. It is easily gamed by unscrupulous buyers, there is (or at least was when I used it) de minimis customer support. The service — and I use that term quite loosely — was a steaming pile of cow fertilizer. No humans were ever available. Their leverage  and to some degree, their profitability, was simply a huge burden shift to the user of Paypal versus what traditional credit card service offered.

My experiences with Paypal were such that I simply stopped bidding on items that were Paypal exclusive.

I don’t know what other experiences people have had with eBay. Perhaps like all new technologies — MySpace, anyone? — it has simply ran its course . . .

UPDATE: June 13, 2011 7:29pm

I thought of mentioning Craigslist, but skipped it — I wasn’t sure how much of a dent they had made into eBay’s markets. Numerous emailers and a few commentors made it clear that you found the free listings/classifieds site to be easier to navigate, localized in ways eBay is not, and generally less headaches.


Going, Going, Gone: Who Killed the Internet Auction?
James Surowiecki
Wired, May 17, 2011  

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