Just about a month before everyone goes crazy with their Halloween costumes. I bet this year we'll see a lot of election-themed costumes, not to mention the horrors on Wall St. or the evils of rising gas prices. Most people might not start scratching their heads about what to do for Halloween until around this time every year, but for a group of eBay sellers, it's Halloween all-year round. Meet the Eclectic Halloween Artists Group or -- as they like to be called (to the sound of sinister thunderclaps) -- EHAG. It's one of our smaller eBay Groups, with only around 71 members, but since it began it has quietly established a great reputation for itself among fans of Halloween art and collectibles on eBay.
As you plan your Halloween deviltry this year, be sure to look for EHAG items on eBay -- just type "EHAG" into the search box to find their wonderful offerings. Here's one of their members, ivas_creations, with more information about the group: -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Second only to Christmas, Halloween is the biggest shopping holiday, generating more than $6 billion in sales, according to some online sources.
Search eBay at any given time in the year, and you'll find hundreds of Halloween items for sale. With so many enthusiasts, it was natural for long-time eBay seller and artist Pat Benedict (woopitydooart) to want to connect with others who love all things Halloween. So in April 2006, she started Eclectic Halloween Artists Group, or EHAG, the first, original Halloween art group of its kind on eBay. "I started EHAG because I found a need for Halloween artists to share their thoughts and love of Halloween," Pat says. The small 71-member group is for professional artists and enthusiasts who share a love for the art that celebrates the magic of All Hallows' Eve.
EHAG members sell Halloween art year around, even outside the typical Halloween season. The group's membership is varied—you’ll find those who make miniature dolls (like Pat), painters, folk artists, doll makers, and collage artists. Some are well-known in the Halloween art world having their work licensed by large distributors, while others are just beginning. The diversity creates a great opportunity for collectors to shop direct from the artists themselves in every medium and find one-of-a-kind works.
Pat, who's been on eBay since November 2003, began selling her Halloween haunted miniatures in May 2004. She formed EHAG almost two years later. Part of her goal was to create a home for artists who created "a less horrific" Halloween. EHAG is not about gore or extreme Goth art. "EHAG is a place for members to give mutual support, nurture, discuss and celebrate their artistic creations," says Pat. All members list their items using the EHAG acronym. And, EHAG has built a reputation of quality art among eBay's Halloween art collectors.
Additionally, collectors turn to EHAG because they are as much a part of the group as the artists they buy from. In fact, EHAG's membership is comprised of both artists and collectors. "Allowing collectors to join was a natural. They provide input on the lively online forum discussions about ideas, trends and general questions put to the group," Pat adds.
Membership is by invitation only, thus making it a private eBay group. Membership guidelines include having a minimum of three months' experience selling Halloween art and having a certain amount of positive Feedback. EHAG group members are expected to be active participants in the group's discussions, which typically include a thread on members' latest creations listed on eBay, what everyone is working on that week, and who in the group has made the eBay Pulse page, which all celebrate. Halloween related topics include sharing pictures of a Halloween collection, talking about what inspires the artists, or sharing a newly made costume, home decorations or favorite Halloween movie. Members also share news about awards, published articles, upcoming art shows open for participation and calls to artists from various publications or online sites. Then there are the topics about fantastic art finds, new art supplies or how to use a specific medium.
To keep artists motivated, the group has regular art challenges. Members come up with suggestions for a theme and then everyone votes on their favorite. These are particularly popular because it encourages the artists to break out of their typical work and expand their offerings.
The group's popularity has grown since its inception. Less than a year after it began, the members started ehaag.com, an informational site. Visitors to this site will find links to EHAG member websites/blogs, an eBay search of current EHAG auctions, a quarterly newsletter, member photographs, several member collectors, artists' past works, upcoming Halloween shows, an EHAG contact and other links.
With Halloween fast becoming the nation's most celebrated "unofficial" holiday, it's no wonder the group has seen much growth. And, as the number of enthusiasts and collectors of all things October 31 grows, so does EHAG's opportunities for artists and collectors on eBay.
To find the latest EHAG offerings, just type EHAG into the eBay search window.
If you missed us in New York, catch us in San Francisco, November 16-19 at Adobe MAX. eBay picked up a couple of coveted MAX Awards last year, and we're looking forward to meeting Flex, Flash, AIR and ColdFusion developers again this year!
I had a lot of connectivity issues at the hotel in Miami, plus my laptop battery chose this day to give up the ghost, so I wasn't able to blog live from yesterday's eBay In Person. However I took a lot of notes and will be back with more information from the event over the next few days. Meanwhile here are some high-level details:
We had a decent turnout -- about 175- 200 people, mostly local sellers from the Miami area, attended. Some people have criticized eBay on the Chatter discussion board for not advertising eBay In Person Miami enough. To be quite frank, we kinda wanted it that way because it was the very first full-day eBay In Person (our previous events, for example San Francisco, were only for a couple of hours). So it was a test run for us and we figured that a more low-key event would help us refine the format for future eBay In Person meets.
A lot of the attendees were relatively new sellers, although we had a large proportion of experienced/veteran sellers as well. A few people didn't seem to know the details of the recent changes (in fact about a dozen or so people said they hadn't even heard of DSRs!) but for most attendees the focus was finding out more about the recent changes as well as understanding how best they could adapt their individual businesses on eBay. We did get a lot of questions (and from a few people criticism) about the changes. However it was also very heartening to note that many sellers are feeling positive about the changes, especially the new "35 cents for 30 days" model.
The day began with opening remarks from Griff, followed by people breaking out into one of three educational sessions:
Become an Overnight "Star" Seller; Boost Your Customer Service, DSRs, and Feedback
Catching Customers: Improve Your Visibility in Search Results
The sessions rotated throughout the day so everyone could get a chance to attend all three. I felt the sessions were a good mix of eBay going into more details into strategies sellers can use to adapt to changes on eBay and to online selling overall, and people asking questions about eBay's rationale for the changes and sharing their perceptions about how they themselves were affected.
I'd say the overall mood was very pragmatic. Most sellers seem to agree that bad buyer experiences caused by a minority of bad sellers on eBay, combined with buyers having many other shopping destination choices have led to the changes that were introduced recently. Most were also concerned about the state of the U.S. economy and were worried that it could hurt their businesses even more. Of course there was some criticism of eBay as well (I would be disappointed if our usually vocal Community chose to stay quiet during one of these events), but there were also many positive stories. Several sellers walked up to the microphones to let us (and their fellow-sellers) know how their DSRs had improved or how the fixed price format was working for them. (Watch out for a cool video story soon).
I'll be back with more details in the next few days. Meanwhile here are some pictures from eBay In Person Miami.
Since 2002, the biggest event that brings together eBay (the company) with eBay (the Community) has been eBay Live!, with thousands of attendees. But in June, at eBay Live! 08 in Chicago, eBay announced a change to the way we meet our customers face-to-face. Instead of one massive annual event like eBay Live! in 2009, we would have more smaller, regional events called "eBay In Person" where customers and staff can interact in a more effective way (the next eBay Live! is in 2010). We've been experimenting this format since last year (for example, we held an eBay In Person in San Francisco in November 2007).
This week, on Thursday, September 25th, eBay In Person is visiting Miami, Florida. In an all-day event (9:00 am - 5:00 pm Eastern Time), eBay staff from various teams will meet about 200-300 sellers at the Hyatt Regency Miami (400 South East Second Avenue, Miami, Florida, 33131) to listen and learn. We encourage participation, so if you're an eBay member in the Miami area, walk-ins are welcome! (There's a $25 charge.)
Besides discussions about eBay's recent policy changes and future direction, the eBay team will also conduct informative sessions on how sellers can improve their businesses on eBay, such as "Boosting Your Customer Service, DSR, and Feedback" and "Improving Your Visibility in Search Results." They'll also have a session on Shipping Best Practices, including the importance of specified shipping, using the Shipping Calculator, and how to save time and money with label printing solutions.
We'll be covering much of the event here on the Chatter, so please stay tuned.
If you ever need a reminder of the inherent goodness of people on eBay, look no further than the Hurricane Buddies on the Clothing, Shoes & Accessories board. With this year's hurricane season being among the most intense in recent years, they've taken it upon themselves to take care of each other.
Essentially, sellers living in hurricane zones "buddy up" with another seller. In the event that a hurricane (or really any disaster) strikes the first seller, the second has a pre-set email ready to go that they send to their buddy's buyers, informing them of the situation and a possible delay in shipment. They even offer to answer any questions that they can. For example, here's an example letter one buddy posted for others to use if they wished:
I am contacting you on behalf of the seller of the (enter item title here) you purchased last night, (enter seller User ID here).
She lives in the Gulf Coast region of Texas and was required to evacuate due to Hurricane Ike.
Emergency officials will allow her to return home tomorrow. She will be shipping your item within the next few days.
Thank you for your patience.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.
You can read more about it on this thread on the Clothing, Shoes and Accessories board (just set aside a few minutes - there are a ton of posts). It really shows what makes eBay a truly great community.
Grab a sandwich and join us for a lunchtime (at least on the West Coast) Town Hall event tomorrow, September 19th, from 11:30am to 1pm PT. Senior Vice President and GM of eBay's North America Marketplaces Stephanie Tilenius, several people on her executive team, and Griff will be taking your questions about anything going on around eBay.
Never attended a Town Hall? They're broadcast via online radio, and you can email (firstname.lastname@example.org) your questions for the panel. You can also call in your question live on the air (1-877-474-3302). Just make sure you've finished chewing that sandwich first.
Update on September 19th 12:00 noon. Here are a few pictures from a few minutes before the Town Hall began.
Stephanie Tilenius, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, eBay's North America Marketplaces, with Griff, our friendly emcee:
Stephanie and Griff with Lynda Talgo from our Trust and Safety team:
Stephanie answers a question as the rest of the Town Hall panel listens:
While preparing for this week's eBay Radio show, I went through my inbox to see what's been on listeners' minds lately. Here are a few emails, and my responses:
From: Brian Sent: Thursday, August 28, 2008 5:16 PM To: Griffith, Griff Subject: eBay auction/Buy It Now moral dilemma Griff!
I love the show! I listen every week through the podcasts while I work my non-eBay job. I thought I'd ask for your take on a situation that has come up several times for me.
I have had auctions up (for CDs mostly) where the auction has been going for 5-6 days. I'll get an email from a potential buyer asking if they can buy the item 'now'. They are not asking to complete the transaction outside of eBay, but rather for me to add a Buy It Now price to the auction.
Sometimes these items have bids, and I will not (and probably cannot) change those, of course. Sometimes they don't, but they might have several watchers on them. I always respond to the potential buyer with something like “Sorry, I've had the auction up for a few days and don't feel right adding a Buy It Now to the listing. Feel free to put a bid up and see what happens. You may win the item for less than I'd have charged through Buy It Now.”
Now, I know that I can add a Buy It Now to a listing if there aren't any bids on it, but is this really fair? I know that if I can immediately get a profit on it by adding a Buy It Now it would be nice, but on the other hand it takes away from the bidder's fun and hope of getting a good deal and feeling good about it. Not to mention if they've been watching the item for several days at an opening bid of 99 cents with no action, and then the next time they check it's been sold (maybe for $4.99 or whatever). For some reason that just doesn't sit right with me.
It's a moral dilemma. Maybe a good discussion for the show. Would you let me know your thoughts if you get a chance?
We discussed your email on a recent Ask Griff show. My recommendation (and the consensus among sellers) is that you should never agree to sell an item to a bidder before the listing closes. In nearly every case I have monitored, the item has ended up bringing more than the bidder's offer. It only makes sense that if they are interested enough (and concerned enough about other bidders raising the price), that it is worth the chance of letting it go till the end when ALL bidders will have had a chance to post a bid.
In my experience, bidders on a listing which is subsequently ended to sell the item to one of the bidders or another party altogether, are invariably unhappy and will usually hesitate to bid on that seller's items in the future.
From: Gary Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2008 3:42 PM To: Griffith, Griff Subject: Re: Return Policy Revisions
Really appreciate you getting back to me on this. On all of my new listings I am putting "All Returns are Considered on an Individual Basis" in the Return Policy Details box. Is this OK? You can see what I mean buy going to one of my listings item # XYZ. Since I sell low-cost items it is usually not cost productive for a buyer to return the item so I usually offer them a credit if they are willing to keep it. Since I do this I have only had 1 shirt returned in the last 3 years. I hesitate to put this in the details box because I am afraid some buyers make take advantage of it
Again, thanks for getting back to me on this. It really helps explain something I have been very confused about.
As a statement, it's OK (i.e., it is in compliance with return policy) but, as a marketing strategy, it's not ideal. It sends a message to potential buyers that a return might not be forthcoming should the buyer not be happy.
I recommend to all sellers that want to compete and succeed in this marketplace, that they adopt a flat out "100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back or item replacement - buyer choice)” return policy.
Yes, it’s always possible that a buyer might take advantage of the offer. In the end, what matters is your gross sales for a period. If a generous, unambiguous return policy generates more business for you, the risk of a one-off sale where a buyer “takes advantage” of the policy (how does a seller ever know if this is the case?) is well worth absorbing.
This is the reason that every single major retail business has a reasonable –- and in some cases like Nordstroms, outrageously reasonable -– return policy. A good customer-focused business strategy works for any business, big retailer or small eBay seller. Even the person who only sells once or twice a year on eBay will benefit from employing the same business practices a big retailer uses.
From: Alex Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2008 3:42 PM To: Griffith, Griff Subject: Unfair negatives
I recently received 2 negatives from overseas customers. The first was for an ivory chess set. It clearly stated in my listing that ivory cannot be exported. This buyer purchased anyway and calculated his own shipping and paid by PayPal. As soon as I saw the address I contacted the buyer and refunded the entire amount thru PayPal. I still got a negative.
The second negative was from a buyer of 2 vacuum tubes. They were shipped to France and were at his Post Office and he was notified that they were there. He refused to go to the Post Office and pay the duty and wanted them delivered to his home. They were never picked up and they are supposed to be on their way back to me. This was in June. He decided to leave me a negative as well.
All my explanations to eBay have done no good. I seem to be talking to the wall that can only give "canned" answers that are in the book. As you can see by my other Feedback I try to run my eBay business as any good business should be run and bend over backwards to satisfy my customers. I hope that you can help.
Thank you in advance Alex
For the first listing, did you use Buyer Requirements to block bidders or buyers registered in countries to which you will not ship and along with that, did you provide ONLY domestic shipping options? If not, you should do so for future listings of items that you cannot ship overseas.
For more on Buyer Requirements, click the Help link on the top of any eBay page, enter the words, “Buyer Requirements” in the Search help box and click the Search Help button.
When you list an item, indicate there are only options for Domestic shipping by unchecking any options for International Shipping.
Since you stated in your listing that the item cannot be exported, you may have a case for Feedback removal based on the current policy. Go to the Report a Problem page and select the option for Feedback Abuse.
As for the second transaction, this is less likely for removal since the buyer paid and didn't receive the item (even for the reason that they didn't pick it up at their local post office). I suspect the buyer doesn't understand English. If you are emailing the person in France using English, they may not be able to understand your emails! If you are not doing so already, try using an online translating service like Babelfish.
Finally, I checked your entire Feedback history and it is excellent. So good in fact, that even these two unfortunate negatives won't affect your online reputation on eBay.
And now here's a light-hearted beginning to the blogging week. Someone should have told those scientists who switched on the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland last week. This gigantic machine, the world's biggest physics experiment, is looking for the Higgs boson, a tiny sub-atomic particle that has been eluding physicists for decades. Well, they didn't have to spend billions of dollars and years of their time to build this behemoth -- they could have looked for it on eBay, where you can find great deals even at the sub-atomic level.
I found not one, but two listings for the Higgs boson, including one that boasts super-fast shipping, promising to ship the item "directly at light speed from Switzerland." The other seller, perhaps thinking of those people who felt that the LHC could have resulted in the creation of mini black holes, warns that "packing also presents problems as there is the possibility that the package may disappear into the particle itself." (Always a good idea to set buyer expectations).
Jokes aside, if last week's news has sparked (or rekindled) your interest in science, look no further than eBay for smart deals on understanding our universe. I wholeheartedly recommend two excellent books by Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos, and pretty much anything written by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
OK, it's not as much fun as smashing atoms against each other after racing them at near light speeds inside a vast 17 mile underground doughnut, but it's a start.
Over the past few days, there’s been some buzz on our discussion forums and within the blogosphere about an issue with our Best Match sort. As one member put it, “why when searching using Best Match, do the results show as the newly listed first? If I hit refresh, they go to regular Best Match? Just asking because I have a few ending today (of course!), and it looks as though they are showing up on the last page instead of first?”
To find out what happened, we went to Jeff King, who heads up our Finding team. Here’s what he said:
“We had a very unusual software bug that we unfortunately didn’t catch during our testing process. Essentially, it caused Best Match to sometimes sort items incorrectly over roughly the past 3 days, which is why the member mentioned in this post saw what they did. The members who did see these strange results were able to fix it by refreshing, but of course that’s not an acceptable solution to either us or them. We had teams working 24 by 7 to get this fixed as soon as we discovered it.”
So is the issue now fixed?
“Yes, we’ve fixed the problem, and Best Match is working properly again for all searches.”
What are we doing to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
“We of course don’t want things like this to happen, and we apologize to all the members who saw this strange Best Match sort order. We’ve already changed our testing process to make sure that this won’t occur again.”
Every week I get tons of email from listeners to my eBay Radio show. I've decided to share some of them, along with my responses, on the Chatter blog -- hopefully each week.
Here's a recent sampling:
On 8/30/08 9:32 AM, Chris wrote:
I've been listening to your show via podcast and I really enjoy it. I'm emailing to ask your advice with a situation I have.
I sold some Packer football tickets [Chris mentioned the item number here - Griff]. The high bidder almost immediately backed out claiming an error on their part. I did the 2nd chance offer but that wasn't accepted. I then had to relist the tickets and pay the listing fee again $5. They didnt sell at all so I had to relist again this time at $600 starting price and for some reason pay another $5 listing fee. This time they sold and I have shipped them.
I have now filed an unpaid item dispute. The buyer who cost me between $200 and $400 wants me to just say mutual agreement so I can get me fees back right away he says. To me this doesnt seem right. I am fearful though of some negative feedback and then trying to go through eBay to get it removed. It's been 10 years and almost 1500 feedback for me with zero negatives so I really dont want to start one now. I am also worried about my DSRs because I am at 4.9 4.9 4.9 4.8 lifetime and 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.9 for 30 days which is going to get me a nice discount.
What do I do? Do I agree or just press on. Another thing is I don't have those tickets any more even if they were to say offer to pay for them. Unlike other items they are very time and date sensitive.
This buyer "sniped" the listing at the last minute. They knew full well what they were doing. I would not let them get away with it (if it were me in your position). Since this was an auction format and not a fixed price listing, I would file the UPI and state the reason as "buyer backed out." I would not agree to the mutual option.
Yes, the buyer could leave you a negative. However, under the circumstances, you could expect the feedback to be removed (along with any DSRs they might leave as well).
Here's the reason: We need seller reports in order to remove from the site those buyers who continually back out of their purchase obligations. The only way to do so is to file UPIs and to state reasons honestly. The risk of course, is a negative but, if the buyer doesn't respond to the UPI dispute (or responds with something insufficient to explain a good, legit reason for not paying), any negative feedback the buyer leaves you will be removed.
The very nature of the items would make any attempt on the buyer's part to reply, "I am willing to pay for them now" an invalid excuse since the tickets were time-sensitive and you have, rightfully so, resold them.
Just a quick question, you had stated on the show about multi print labels with PayPal and that it would let you print a scan form at the end. I have read and tried to get that dang scan form but there is nowhere to print it with PayPal. Please let me know I am confused on how to get this form. I have read all the help files and still nothing.
In order to actually do this, you have to go through the PayPal Multi Item Shipping tool. Click the link Start Shipping button on the MultiOrder Shipping on PayPal page and follow the steps from there.
You won't like this, but I'm telling a lot of sellers to email you. That's because they're getting emails from buyers to whom they have made 100% refunds saying, "I'm going to give you all 1s on your DSRs just to teach you a lesson."
Sorry. But you're the only email address I have on eBay so I'm just going to keep herding them all in your direction.
Although this activity is always a possibility, our overall data shows it is extremely unlikely (and in the rare case it does happen, it will have a negligible effect on a seller's ratings, especially if the seller is a full time seller).
If there is evidence that the buyer has attempted to extort the seller, then the reports must be made by the actual seller through the Report a problem page.
Unfortunately, sending these to me will not result in any action on the part of eBay. I am always willing to assist any seller with a specific issue or case regarding Feedback abuse on the part of a buyer but in cases where a buyer has left a rating for which the seller does not agree and that does not violate policy or was not the result of an attempt to extort the seller, I cannot provide any redress.