Spanked by eBay

July 28th, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

A few hours ago, eBay removed my listing for a 60-minute phone consultation. The last time I checked, that auction had received dozens of bids and was up to $1000. There were still 2-1/2 days left in the auction, so I suspect the final price would have gone much higher.

I checked my email and saw that I’d received an automated message from eBay about it. Here’s the relevant snippet:

You recently listed the following listing:

120599874589 – 60-minute consultation with Steve Pavlina

Unfortunately, we had to remove your listing because the following information violates our policy:

60-minute phone consultation

The purpose of the eBay Web site is to enable members to buy and sell items from each other. Listings that do not offer an item for sale through the site, or that are designed for any other purpose, are not permitted. For example, listings for invisible or intangible items are not permitted. Buyers should be able to verify the existence of an item they bought when they receive it.

For more information on this eBay policy, please visit:

http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/listing-no-item.html

You may need to take a tutorial. The next time you sell, you may be asked to take the tutorial, if it’s required. Once you’ve completed the tutorial successfully, please review your account status for any other possible concerns. If there are no other issues, you should be able to sell again.

I read that policy, but it didn’t seem to apply to what I was listing. There was mention of trying to sell intangibles like a “soul” and other crazy stuff that of course wouldn’t make sense.

So I contacted eBay to find out why they delisted it and to see what my options were.

The first person I connected with there wasn’t very helpful. I got nothing but stock replies, and then I was disconnected before I could get very far.

I tried again right away, and the next agent was much more helpful. He looked into it and explained that they don’t allow such listings. I gave him links to several similar listings on eBay, but he simply asked me to report them through their public flagging system if I felt they violated eBay’s terms. I’m not an eBay cop, so I’m not going to do that.

I also suggested other options like including an MP3 recording of the call and/or an autographed copy of my book, but apparently that wasn’t good enough.

If you go to eBay and do a search on “consultation,” you’ll find hundreds of results, including listings for phone consultations with no tangible products — the exact same form of service I was offering. One of my Facebook friends pointed out that eBay is inconsistent in enforcing this policy. The agent who was helping me also admitted as much.

I’m disappointed by this outcome, not because of the money but because eBay pulled the plug on my experiment. I was really curious about the outcome. A lot of other people were curious about it too. I would have preferred if they nuked it after the final bid, so we could have seen where it ended up. I think that would have been a cool piece of data to share with everyone.

This doesn’t seem like a good deal for eBay either. Other top bloggers were following my experiment, and in fact someone else already listed a similar consultation there, crediting me for the idea (his auction is still live). I imagine that if this experiment was a success — if they hadn’t delisted it, it’s fair to say that it already was a success — it could easily have resulted in thousands of dollars in extra revenue for eBay this year. (I think that’s a pretty modest estimate.)

On the other hand, I can understand why they may not want to list such items. It’s hard to verify the delivery of a phone or video consultation, and maybe they had problems with scammers in that category in the past.

The only real option they could offer me was to purchase classified advertising there, but I’m not interested in buying traditional advertising. I was using eBay for their auction service — I was obviously able to refer plenty of bidders to them.

So for all practical purposes, eBay appears to be a dead end for this sort of thing, at least for me.

I don’t see a need to assign this event any particular meaning. I’ll simply let it go and await the next wave of inspiration. As the saying goes… when one door closes, another door opens.

So where’s the open door now?


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