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TAGnotes Fri 1 Mar 2002 Vol 4 Number 16 Issue 398

The Auction Guild Notes for Fri 1 Mar 2002
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This issue brought to you by the preceding subscriber ads,
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The TAGnotes archive is available in a searchable format at     
More info about TAG is on our website at http://www.auctionguild.com
You can find contact info for several sites and services there, along
with editorials, and image hosting directory and other info.
TAG RESEARCH PROJECT. We have received 301 responses, 99 to go! We are
seeking at least 400 responses, so are still collecting information.
Please send the number of User ID's you have on ebaY, active or
inactive. If any of them are no longer registered (NARU) please let us
know that also. Anyone who knows of a deceased person who had an ebaY
ID, please send us that User ID also. Thank you!
The numbering on the new ebaY user agreement is incorrect. We emailed
ebaY about this several times, but they have not corrected the problems.
If they do fix the numbering they might legally need to restart the
clock on the 30 day notice for the agreement to go into effect, since it
will be a "change".

ebaY- on 26 Feb at 05:17:35 PT a small number of users reported they
were getting error messages whilst trying to access ebaY pages. At
08:44:02 PT users started to complain about the new Buy It Now (BIN)
Tab, as items that complete with BIN are not removed from the open item
database, and items that receive a bid that are no longer available for
a BIN also continued to appear in the BIN Tab. Buyers found this a
waste of their time and frustrating. At 08:59:30 PT ebaY posted that
the link to Gallery Images from the listings results pages was not
working. At 09:11:59 PT users reported that BIN items were showing up
twice. The seller lists only showed the item once. At 11:17:12 PT users
reported search was not working. For example, if searching in Dolls,
the user would click on the next page of search results and be in
Glassware.   ebaY announced at 12:11:59 PT that they had fixed the
problem with gallery images. Users reported at 13:01:09 PT that they
could not bid and all attempts to do so yielded a page can't be
displayed message. At 16:09:15 PT when trying to log in or post, users
received a password invalid message and it took several ties to get the
site to accept the users password. At 17:56:54 PT the feedback forum
was intermittently down. The boards were filled with furious sellers
who had paid for a Featured Item, only to have it disappear from view
under the new category listing organization. There were also loud
protests from sellers and buyers alike about all the search changes,
including the removal of the new item icon, the inability to search in
featured items, the hidden gallery only option, the disappearance of
going going gone, items showing the listing rather than the ending date,
and only the BIN price showing in the BIN Tab results rather than the
current bid price if applicable.

On 27 Feb at 15:25:11 PT a seller posted problems with ebaY's Direct Pay
for seller's fees. Though the seller used this system for several months
without a problem this month ebaY claims the account number (checking
acct) is invalid and they charged the seller a $15 fee.   At 20:59:02 PT
users again reported problems with gallery images being gone. The
boards continued to be filled with upset sellers who felt they were
losing large amounts of money due to the removal of their featured
auctions from a paid for place of precedence.

On 28 Feb at 13:54:47 PT users reported that the gallery image
problems, continued to crop up. At 21:45:42 PT sellers were not able to
list items, and attempts to list brought up illegal operation messages.
Vociferous protest continued on the ebaY and other OAI/OTI boards about
the search and featured item changes, despite ebaY's announcement that
ebaY was retracting the plan.

ebaY took their system down for maintenance from approx 01:00 PT until
03:00 PT on Fri 1 Mar including the ebaY Billpoint payments system.
ebaY did not make the promised retraction of its failed site changes in
search and featured items during this maintenance. At 07:43:56 PT ebaY
acknowledged that some BIN items were appearing twice on the BIN tab.
The items were not actually listed twice, but only appeared twice on the
listings results. At 17:14:56 PT, a user posted that their long
established ebaY selling account was now returning messages saying they
needed to establish a selling account. This despite all account info
updated and correct. Complaints continued about the changes to search
and featured items.

ebaY has promised to return the newly listed icon, the featured items
and retract all the other highly unpopular search changes implemented 25
Feb. Though this was promised in a "few" days, users are still waiting.
ebaY also has acknowledged on the boards that they WILL refund all
featured fees to sellers affected by the unannounced changes. To
receive your refund fill out the form with all info such as item number,
user ID, and that you want a full refund, at-

TAG cannot understand why ebaY did not issue these refunds
automatically, rather than fraudulently charging sellers who might not
realize that they have been scammed by ebaY to pay for a feature they
are not getting. There should have been an across the board refunds to
all sellers affected by this unannounced change by ebaY.
ebaY ongoing problems -

TO REQUEST REFUNDS from ebaY go to
Don't take NO for an answer; keep requesting until you get them.
If you don't get your refunds complain to the BBB Online at
And also file a complaint with the FTC

ebaY Pink Quote of the Day - When asked via email why the search result
was suddenly returning a result widely different (greater) from the
actual items available for view, ebaY appears to have finally admitted
they are inflating their numbers by including the auction counts on
their international sites, despite the fact that those items can not be
viewed on the US site. We have changed the personal info to protect the
ID of the TAG subscriber.
"Subj: Re: certain search pages (KMM8 digit number C0KM)
Date: 2/26/02 4:59:23 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Supp-@ebay.com (eBay Customer Support)
Reply-to: Supp-@ebay.com (eBay Customer Support)
To: some-@aol.com
Hello, Thank you for writing to eBay's Customer Support. I would be
happy to help you. I can understand your frustration with having trouble
seeing the last pages of items for your search. The "items found" number
in search results includes all items that match your search on eBay,
including our international sites. This may include items that are not
available to be shipped to the U.S. However, the list of items that is
displayed will only include items that are available in your area, based
on the seller's shipping terms. This accounts for the discrepancy
between the total items found and the number of items actually listed in
the results. So, there are only about 160 items available to the US in
that search, which is why you can only see 4 pages. You can verify this
by using the "International search" function in our Search section. If
you search for items "Located in Any Country" then you will find that
the discrepancy no longer occurs. This is because this type of
International search does not exclude items that are not available to
your area. You'd want to be careful not to bid on any items that are
not available to be shipped to your area. Please visit our Search Tips
page for more information on how to achieve search results that meet
your needs. You can reach the Search Tips page by clicking on Search in
the Navigation Bar at the top of most eBay pages, then clicking on
"tips" link next to the Search button at the top of the page. Thanks for
being a member of the eBay community and I wish you the best with your
future transactions.   Regards, Scott L. S. eBay Customer Support". TAG
sees this as ebaY's altered reality, and ebaY trying to hide the
stagnant listing numbers on their site - relatively stable at 5.5 to 6
million since Oct 2000.
Users reported that it now appears that Billpoint's has instituted a new
and unannounced policy. This appears to be a violation of their user
agreement and in effect a breach of contract.

Billpoint is now withholding seller payments randomly for an extra 3
days for something called quality review. The seller reporting this
violation to TAG became aware of the change when a buyer of theirs
claimed he had paid for an item, but no payment showed up in the sellers
account, nor was their notice of the payment from Billpoint. When the
seller wrote a demand email to Billpoint for the funds and had their
buyer do the same, Billpoint finally sent a payment notification 2 days
after the buyer had actually made payment. ebaY Billpoint then sent an
email explaining that they are randomly withholding a percentage of all
transactions for a quality review process. When the seller again
demanded the release of their funds and immediate deposited of said
funds, ebaY altered the information on the sellers Billpoint account to
make it appear that they had deposited the funds on the same day that
the buyer made the payment, but in fact no deposit has yet been
initiated. This is possibly completely illegal, and appears to violate
ebaY Billpoint's own user agreement. Personal info changed to protect
user identity.
"Subj:eBay Payments/Billpoint Inquiry
Date:2/27/02 9:37:48 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: some-@aol.com
Sent from the Internet
Hello Someone,
Thank you for contacting eBay Payments/Billpoint.
We understand your concern about the recent Billpoint transaction.
Please allow us to provide a few more details about Billpoint's quality
review process. Each day, Billpoint holds a percentage of transactions
for manual quality review. During this process, we assess certain
aspects of the transaction to ensure optimum handling by Billpoint and
satisfaction by both the buyer and seller.
Our records indicate that payment for your item has been held for the
reasons stated above. It may take up to three business days for the
hold to be released. We apologize for the delay with this transaction
and appreciate your patience. If you have any other questions regarding
our service, please feel free to contact us at
custom-@billpoint.com. Sincerely, Todd Customer Care Specialist
eBay Payments/Billpoint" TAG wonders if the increase of activities of
this type, when put alongside the pull out of Wells Fargo from
Billpoint, the ongoing forced addition of Billpoint on the auctions of
sellers who do not offer it etc, are the actions of a company trying
anything to keep itself afloat. Billpoint has an unsatisfactory Better
Business Bureau rating, and rumors of large amounts of non collectible
debt and other serious problems circulate around the   
ebaY made two posts regarding their reconsideration of the
implementation of featured items. The first was on 26 Feb 02 at
17:24:08 PT It addressed the lack of advance notice and claimed the
featured items were removed to make it easier for buyers to search by
category listing rather than search.   ebaY said search is used by
buyers twice as frequently as category listings to find items. TAG sees
that only ebaY gains an advantage in buyers finding items via category,
and that is so that ebaY can get sellers to list in two categories (last
time TAG checked was at a 5.2% usage rate) , therefore further inflating
the numbers of items on the site, and so that sellers pay ebaY twice for
the same listing. ebaY attempted to frame this as an advantage to
sellers paying for the featured items, but the sellers were not buying
the ebaY line.   ebaY said they were going to evaluate the changes and
if, "the buyers' or sellers' activity is adversely impacted by these
changes, we will take immediate action." On 27 Feb at 16:24:32 PT,
after thousands of demands for refunds for featured items, hundreds of
posts on the OAI/OTI chat boards on and off ebaY, and bad press in the
mainstream media, ebaY completely backtracked on the changes to search
and featured items. ebaY said, "We will return to the way we used to
display Featured Items in Listings and we will provide buyers the
ability to sort by "New Today", "Going, Going, Gone" and "Ending Today".
The new "Buy it Now" tab we announced two weeks ago will remain." ebaY
expects the change to take 2 to 4 days to change the format back, so it
should be in place no later than 1700 PT on 3 March. TAG recommends ALL
SELLERS do not list any items until all the features are restored.

ebaY IS issuing refunds for all sellers who used the featured item who
requests a refund. To request a refund go to -
Though katy@ebay said at 12:32PT on 26 Feb, " ...There may, in fact, be
automatic credits given, but to be certain, I would suggest that you
request credits for the featured fee since you were not aware of the
proposed changes at the time you selected featured. Regards, Katy"
there does not appear to be any movement on ebaY's part to do the RIGHT
thing and issue automatic refunds.   Another ebaY pink said, "... I do
also want to mention that if you'll send us a list of all of your
featured auctions listed before the change and still running, we will
refund the featured auction fee on each. It has been determined that you
do not need to end the listings to get credit. Please don't worry about
ending the auctions; you can allow them to run to completion while
requesting credit for each. We do apologize for this inconvenience to
you, but we appreciate that you are a part of eBay and want to reiterate
that your input (especially as a PowerSeller) is much appreciated.
Regards, Gary C. L. eBay PowerSeller Support"
To expand on the caution about the ebaY Trading Assistant program. (and
it is TRADING Assistant not Technical Assistant as we said in the last
issue - where IS that editor when we need her!) The database is at -

Let's say the NY State taxman wants to know who is doing commercial
sales on ebaY in NY. They do a search on NY and come up with -

Now they have a list of 168 sellers and the dates they started selling
on ebaY. How easy would it be them to schedule audits of both sales tax
and income tax of those sellers to see if they have filed for all the
years they have been selling on ebaY? They can even get an idea of how
many sales the seller made based on feedback numbers. Name, address,
phone number - all there. They could even use the list to request ebaY
give them more detailed information. Of course the IRS could do the

Now picture the scenario if licenses are required to sell for others on
commission. And if the state considers this selling at auction for
others, this opens up a whole other danger list for sellers.

TAG sure hopes the sellers participating in this program are conducting
their businesses legitimately and in accordance with all state and
federal tax laws, and licensing laws. TAG
strongly recommends seller who register for TA, investigate all the
legal issues involved with selling for others.   The fines for
violations are usually NOT cheap.

Here is a State by State contact guide to Auction Boards
The ebaY Privacy Agreement
FAQ - http://pages.ebay.com/help/basics/pprevision1-faq.html
Privacy Central - http://pages.ebay.com/help/privacycentral1.html

Though we have some serious reservations about the changes in the
privacy policy, we do really like the Privacy Central page. It contains
good information in a well organized format and with straight talking
information in areas such as Spam, Cookies etc. Unfortunately, ebaY has
a credibility gap, so you have to decide if you can believe what they
say, especially in the face of known past egregious violations.

Though TAG plans a line by line review in a future issue, the biggest
issue of concern is the new clause in section 4 that says,
"Additionally, eBay reserves the right (and you authorize eBay) to
communicate any information about you (including, but not limited to
your policy violations, ended items, and item status) to other users,
law enforcement and VeRO members as we in our sole discretion determine
necessary or appropriate to maintain a level of trust and safety in our
community and to enforce our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and any
posted policies or rules applicable to services you use through our
site." TAG believes this is WAY too broad and must be specifically
defined in a FAQ or other policy document, at a minimum, if not removed
altogether. This pretty much negates the validity of the privacy
agreement altogether, as it gives ebaY the right to disclose your
information to anyone at any time for any reason ebaY wants.

TAG wrote to ebaY specifically addressing this. We asked them if they
would reveal your information to someone you reported for a violation.
ebaY said, "eBay does not ever reveal the identity of reporting members
when taking action on another member's account. If you were to report a
member, we would not reveal your User ID or any other information to
them, whether or not they were found to be in violation. Please rest
assured that if you report a member or a listing, your identity will
remain anonymous", which sounds firm and reassuring. BUT, in a follow
up email asking under what circumstances information would be revealed,
and answered by another ebaY rep, they said, " To my knowledge, there
are no current plans to notify members of who reported their
infractions." Much less reassuring with the strong possibility of a
chilling effect on reporting the infractions of others. This on a site
that states they rely on users to report infractions because ebaY does
not police the site!

The rest of the response was vague to the point of worthlessness,
saying, "Although there is no specific definition associated with this
statement, it is intended to allow us to maintain a safe service. It
may apply to contacting members in case of fraudulent activity or other
actions endangering member's accounts. To my knowledge, there are no
current plans to notify members of who reported their infractions."
ebaY needs to specify under what specific conditions this clause will be
used. Either make it specific or remove it.

One site, JunkBusters.Com, has said that they have filed an FTC
complaint against ebaY for this user agreement, particularly in light of
the clause discussed here. This agreement further reinforces TAG's
disdain for TrustE, because if they bought off on this Privacy Agreement
without protest, what are they doing to protect privacy?
As predicted ebaY is throwing in the towel on ebaY Japan.
Frank Barnako - TOKYO (CBS.MW) - Ebay (EBAY) plans to withdraw from the
Japanese market, according to the vice president for Ebay's
international operations. Stephanie Tilenius, in an interview with CNBC
Asia, said "We have decided to exit the Japanese market for now." The
Japanese business has
disappointed EBay, which trails behind the auction site of Yahoo Japan,
MarketWatch Tokyo bureau chief Bill Clifford reported. Tilenius said if
"the conditions and the competitive nature of the market improve, then
we may reenter at a later date."
ebaY is adding the Item Specifics feature in the Travel and Real Estate
categories. This allows sellers to provide additional item details
during the selling process. Buyers can then search using these item
details, in addition to regular Title search and Description Search.
This feature has not functioned too well in the current category -
tickets, and has been down frequently. This will be available on the 7-9
page Sell Your Item 2.0, rather than the current Sell Your Item form.
The existing Sell Your Item form will not support Item Specifics. For
more info go to -
Selling with Item Specifics
Searching with Item Specifics
ebaY is changing the End of Item (EOI) Email. ebaY says the changes
will have/be
*Greater promotion of individual sellers in that it will display the
seller's User ID and a link to all seller's items.
*More relevant Seller's Other Items Listings showing items that more
similar to the ended item.
These changes may not be available on all EOI emails until they are
fully released. TAG would rather just see ebaY make these notices more
reliable, as they are currently completely unreliable. It would also be
a good thing if ebaY removed all the SPAM in the EOI, and stopped
including links to Billpoint and Checkout in situations where the seller
offers neither.
And on the lighter side - this one had us ROFLOL at TAG-
* * * * *
Yahoo Auction/Warehouse/Classifieds (YA)

TAG notes with interest the Neilsen NetRating report that shows that
Yahoo, as a destination site, gets approx 35.2 million visitors a week
from home. They reach approx 19.4 million at work. This makes it
number 2 of the 5 top web properties for at-home and number 1 for
at-work users. During the week ending 24 Feb the top 5 for at-home
users were AOL Time Warner (AOL) (41.1 million people), Yahoo (YHOO)
(35.2 million), Microsoft's (MSFT) MSN (32.7 million), Microsoft.com
(16.1 million) and Google (9.8 million). For comparison, ebaY got
approx 9.2 million visitors at-home and 5.8 at-work. As Yahoo
Auction/Warehouse/Classifieds gets marketed to that 35 mil already on
the Yahoo site, the potential for growth is spectacular. Now all YA has
to do is do that internal marketing. Unfortunately it is a chicken and
egg problem. YA has to prove to their bosses at Yahoo that they deserve
some of the valuable advertising real estate, such as the Yahoo front
page ads, by showing growth of listings, sales and revenue, yet without
that advertising, sellers don't get the traffic they need to allow them
to continue to list on YA. Once again this becomes an area where
sellers can take charge of their future, and sacrifice short term sales
for long term benefits, and list on YA despite the slow sales.
Unfortunately YA has not done the things it needs to do to show it's
sellers that it is committed and serious about providing those sellers
with the solutions to YA's site problems, and a commitment to the seller
community. YA needs to give sellers a reason to list at YA despite low
sell through, and so far they have failed to achieve this.

Yahoo contact Information

As of 23Jan02 Yahoo Auctions had 313,102 listings on their site
As of 25Jan02 Yahoo Auctions had 620,132 listings on their site
As of 8Feb02 Yahoo Auctions had 333,846 listings on their site
As of 21Feb02 Yahoo Auctions had 329,387 listings on their site
* * * * *
Sell Your Item - On February 28, Sellyouritem.com (SYI) announced that
the site has been selected to host Animal Fair Media's "Paws For Style"
auctions to benefit, this year's chosen organization, The Humane Society
of New York. For this event, Animal Fair Media receives donations from
the fashion world of one of kind outfits for celebrities and their pets.
They hold a fashion show featuring the celebrities and their pets, and
auction the items to benefit various organizations involved in helping

Some of this year's designers include Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Todd
Oldham, Coach, Oleg Cassini, and Joe Boxer. Celebrity models for the
event include Cindy Adams of the New York Post and rapper Lil' Kim. All
the outfits featured will be auctioned at SYI. The auctions are
scheduled to begin on or around 17 Mar. For more details go to

In the last 30 days 798 auctions sold for prices ranging from $.01 to
$200, with an average price of $3.86 for all items sold in that period.
This represents a 5 percent sell through rate based on total listings
for that period of time, which more than doubles the previous sell
through rate on the site. Of that number, 1 percent had more than one

Currently the site stats show .4 percent of active auctions have bids.
BuyNow! bids are not reflected in active totals, but are included in the
percent sold figures indicated above.

The listathon sponsored by SYI during Feb 02 increased the listings to
25587 auctions. All sellers who participated and had active listings at
the end of the listathon will receive a free featured front page auction
of their choice. Support staff indicated they would send sellers an
email with instructions on how to claim this participation reward.

Support at SYI has requested that members submit their comments and
suggestions for enhancements they would like to see at the site to
sugges-@sellyouritem.com Send category requests to
categ-@sellyouritem.com Direct questions about the site to
* * * * *
The Savvy Bidder is a new bidder centric site, geared towards buyers in
the OAI/OTI. The sites goal, " This web site seeks to raise the
awareness and the skills of bidders in on-line auctions". The site will
publish a newsletter they are calling the Savvy Bidder Periodical, and
there is a sample issue on the site. Members can subscribe or read the
issue on the website. The site has articles, chat, tools, information
resources and much more. The site index will give you a quick view of
what is there and what is still in the planning stage. This is a very
attractive site that we found very fast and easy to navigate. The
lights are on, the place smells of fresh paint and only awaits an
interested active participating buyer community.

This may work out to be a great resource for sellers to share with their
buyers!   http://www.savvybidder.com/
* * * * *
PayPal.Com to comply with credit card association regulations that
prohibit a surcharge on cardholders, is changing the fee structure for
international transactions. Beginning 21 Mar 02, PayPal will not charge
international buyers a 2.6% fee to send a payment. Instead, PayPal will
charge a 1% fee to Premier and Business account holders when they
receive a cross-border payment. The 1% cross-border fee applies to any
payment in which the buyer and seller reside in different countries.

PayPal has added a free (currently) bill paying feature. The have a
list of many companies that will now accept payment through PayPal, and
also have a preformatted email you can send to any company you pay bills
to that asks the company to join the PayPal system.

PayPal has added an easy refund feature The refund link is available on
the payment's Transaction Details page for the first five days after a
payment is sent. If the transaction is refunded, all transaction fees
are refunded and the payment is reversed.

Effective 29 Mar 02, PayPal is raising the Sending Limit for Unverified
accounts from $1,000 to $2,000. Members will need to become Verified by
adding and confirming a bank account in order to send money over this

PayPal is being sued in a class action suit for freezing accounts. The
suit was filed on 20 Feb 02 by Jacoby and Meyers as a nationwide class
action lawsuit against PayPal alleging improper restriction and
administration of customer accounts. Contact Jacoby&Meyers, New York,
Gail Koff, 212-445-7000 or 916-924-1109

* * * * *
USPS has a free resource page for sellers. The Shipping Assistant
program is claimed to provides access to shipping information - package
track/confirm, rates, and shipping labels.   
* * * * *
Online Auction Users Association
PLEASE NOTE: Many long links we post in TAGnotes must be
copy/pasted into your browsers URL/Address box in pieces, with
no extra spaces, to get them to work due to HTML limitations
Have any information for us? email us at
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TAGnotes. Visit their auctions or websites.
TAGassist Contributors

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