eBay: No Matter How Hard You Try, You’re Still No Amazon

eBayMy top issues with eBay: Prices aren’t that competitive, service is inconsistent, time is wasted, and the shipping is a wild card. It’s no wonder then that, due to lackluster growth, eBay recently announced changes including “holding sellers to higher customer-service standards.” But I gave up on eBay years ago when I discovered Amazon has all the same stuff at around the same price but with real customer service.

Just for fun, I thought I’d revisit eBay and see what kind of deals I skipped out on by searching for the last few items I ordered on Amazon. Here’s how the process works: you search for your item and get excited when you see an amazing deal! Oh wait, that auction still has 12 hours before it’s over. So you save it to your watch list and waste more time searching for other deals.

Here’s one! And this time it’s a good price with a “Buy It Now” option, no bidding. But shipping is $39.95, for a box the size of a book? Well, considering the original bargain, that’s still not that bad of a deal, so you decide to add it to your watch list. This process goes on and on with each item that you add to your “watch list” having some caveat: no warranty, small defect, only accept X type of payment, shipping from the U.K., required handling charge, etc.

The list goes on; you get the picture. By the end of your day, you’ve added to your eBay watch list two dozen versions of the same product. You watch anxiously as those low price auctions skyrocket in the last five minutes. You then have to weigh in the pros and cons of each of the other items based on the relative annoyance of the aforementioned caveats. You settle on the discounted, used item with the ridiculous shipping. In the mean time, you’ve accomplished next to nothing during your day.

This used to be me a few years back… Until I had a problem with a seller who delayed my shipment by three months. What did eBay do when I called them? Nothing. So I started shopping at Amazon but still held on to the bargain hunting itch of eBay. But then, I noticed Amazon had the following: competitive pricing, 30-day price guarantee, real customer service, and no shipping charges. Suddenly, it hit me. Wasting an entire day to save a few bucks wasn’t worth the time and hassle.

For an example of Amazon customer service, check out this NYTimes piece about how Amazon replaced a customer’s Playstation 3 after it was stolen off his doorstep before he could even touch it. What would have eBay done? Nothing.

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  • Paul Ellis

    Totally agree. I used eBay for a short while a few years back, and it was just a hassle even when the process worked well. The real kicker is that I was only “saving” around $2 or so, but it took 10x as much shopping time. So I pay the extra $2 for the convenience now.

  • cak

    Ebay is more hassle, but as long as you use paypal, you will be covered. If someone doesn’t send you something, you can claim the money back. And unless they can prove that they sent it, you will be ok.

    So Ebay more hassle, but the rewards can be greater. If you have more time, then you will be ok.

  • http://blog.frivolousmotion.com Kevin

    Amen, Bob. Exactly my feelings. My father is an EBay freak, and I could never understand it. I bought a few things from it in college (like a box of 72 shot glasses), but I never really got the hang of it. Dealing with payments in the early days also pretty much sucked (though that’s better now). I guess there are a few odd items that can’t be found anywhere else (like an old French printing of a play by Ionesco I bought last month for my girlfriend), but for 99.5% of things worth purchasing, Amazon is the place to go, for all the reasons you mentioned.

  • http://www.mybsod.com Tyler Reber

    I started using Amazon to buy and sell textbooks just a few weeks ago. I must say that it works quite well. I found some amazing deals and I was also able to sell some of the books I had for a pretty nice chunk of change. Trying to do the same thing on eBay would have been disasterous (I know, I looked into it). Amazon’s way of doing things is just so much more organized and smoother than eBay’s.

  • http://www.techconsumer.com Bob Caswell

    Some great points…

    cak,

    I have and do use PayPal and am not entirely convinced that I’m automatically covered. It’s definitely something, but in my experience, their customer service and coverage still needs work. And the irony is that I don’t even need that kind of coverage if I purchase from a real retailer.

    Tyler,

    Glad you mentioned that. I didn’t get into it much, but it’s true that in a lot of ways Amazon is now beating eBay at its own game of being a place to sell stuff.

  • Bob

    “Ebay is more hassle, but as long as you use paypal, you will be covered. If someone doesn’t send you something, you can claim the money back. And unless they can prove that they sent it, you will be ok”

    COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY FALSE. Ebay and Paypal will SCREW you.

    http://www.pbp.net/~jnichols/scammer.html

  • Paul Ellis

    I know someone who has been screwed by Paypal. She delivered the item, and then Paypal said the credit card used was fraudulent and took the money back. She never got paid and it was an expensive (~$1000) item. Shouldn’t Paypal be the one who is responsible for ensuring the credit card isn’t fraudulent? I guess they somehow expect the seller to magically verify it…

  • http://iphonebundle.com Tatiana V

    I agree to a certain point with this view, and I buy primarily the books from Amazon instead of from eBay. I was also considering ordering a new Canon EOS 40D from Amazon, but guess what! They do not send certain items outside of the US! And there is the big catch my friends, Amazon could be worth while for everything for US citizens ONLY, not so for everyone else…

    And than the paypal payment and being covered, yes you are covered when a seller cheats on you and doesnt send you what you apid for. BUT, the problem is that the cheaters never keep cash in their paypal, nor do they give access to their bankl accounts, so even though Paypal gave me a satisfactory answer, they were not able to get back my money. All in all one can never be sure what and when he gets from an eBay auction or BIN. Still, in the 4 years that I have been using ebay I only got cheated twice out of 700+ transactions, meaning check before you buy, talk with the seller and see if you get a nasty gut feeling. :)

  • spin

    eBay isn’t for buying products from companies, even though many do sell there. For that stuff, fine – go to Amazon. But when I’m looking for specific used items – rare camera equippment, for instance – eBay consstently HAS the items in question periodically, and I can bid on them competitively, whereas Amazon simply NEVER has those items.

    I’ve bought and sold on eBay almost since its inception. It’s not MEANT to be a direct competitor to Amazon. They serve fundamentally different niches, in spite of the fact that both offer new and used items for sale.

  • Moe

    I love Amazon and never use Ebay. Totally agree with the point made in the article that it’s not worth it to save a few dollars. Same reason I don’t shop at Walmart.

  • Bill

    I think you don’t completely understand where the benefit to ebay lies. There are 10,000 hucksters out there it is true, but try to buy 300 pieces of gently used Thomas the Tank Engine toys for $150 from Amazon (to set up your son for life, for example). Cost new? $1,000 or more. Of course, if you buy from an antique dealer you will probably pay more, have the shipping cost problem, whatever, but you need to see through the chaff to the prize – there are many sellers using it as a high-class garage sale. That’s where the benefit is.

  • Josh McCormick

    Amazon does not have used arcade games (the big ones like in arcaes), or their components. :(

  • http://www.dontfearthetruth.com zorn

    eBay’s one benefit is that they have items there that you will not find on Amazon. I just sold a machine on eBay that rolls and separates pizza dough for $8000. Could not do this on Amazon.

    Amazon is great for simple things like electronics toys, books, dvds, etc. But if you want to sell a 115′ long governor’s yacht (I did) for $175,000 and sell it in one week, eBay is the place to go.

  • Paul Ellis

    You can buy a fair number of things used on Amazon.com these days actually. Sure, it would be hard to find an authentic one of Napoleon’s hats on Amazon.com, but probably 90-95% of the stuff on eBay is on Amazon too. And while 2 out of 700 doesn’t sound too bad, I have never been screwed by Amazon, and I never have to “check before [I] buy, talk with the seller and see if [I] get a nasty gut feeling.” That is the hassle Bob is talking about avoiding.

  • http://www.mybsod.com Tyler Reber

    Yeah, I don’t know, there’s just something about Amazon that feels safer. That’s why I didn’t mind buying and selling my books on it.

  • George

    The main reason I use eBay is because I live outside of the US (Canada). eBay sellers obviously have much more freedom when it comes to selling products across borders. Amazon on the other hand must respect regulations set forth buy the suppliers. For example, it’s quite common for electronics equipment to not be permitted for cross border sales.

    For example, I recently tried to purchase a Canon TX1 from amazon.com (it isn’t sold on amazon.ca and was about $200 at local retail stores). During the checkout process I recieved a message telling me that the supplier doesn’t allow buyers from outside the US to purchase the product. So my option was to get it from Best Buy for $649 or get it from eBay for ~$360.

  • Arse

    Hello. Anybody home?

    Ebay and Amazon are different. Only a fool would by anything on ebay that could be bought on amazon. But if you’re looking for specialty, oddball, collector stuff ebay is a source, amazon is not. You have to be smart and careful, but there are deals, great deals, to be had on ebay. It’s just not a place to buy your next camera or ipod or game player.

  • http://www.techconsumer.com Bob Caswell

    Yeah, Arse, but again, that’s kind of the point:

    If eBay only works for “specialty, oddball, collector stuff” and is for “smart and careful” people only… Well then, that means eBay is screwing a lot of people by default due to its sheer size and the majority of what it offers.

    I like retailers were the default position isn’t getting screwed. And Amazon fits that description better than any other online retailer I know.

  • Paul Ellis

    The point is, most eBay users aren’t buying specialty stuff. Just look at how many cameras (~29,000), iPods (~12,000), game players (~3,200 PS3/360/Wii/PSP/DS) are being sold on eBay right now. That is a lot of auctions for stuff you could buy at Amazon (or somewhere else).

  • tom vermeersch

    quote tatiana v
    [...]They do not send certain items outside of the US! [...]
    false
    I can order from amazon, and it will be shipped to me from germany or the UK cheap.

    [...]And than the paypal payment and being covered, yes you are covered when a seller cheats on you and doesnt send you what you apid for. BUT, the problem is that the cheaters never keep cash in their paypal, nor do they give access to their bankl accounts, so even though Paypal gave me a satisfactory answer, they were not able to get back my money.[...]
    Talk about a false sense of security then.
    Paypal as a system is devised to serve as “bank” between users, similar to visa – with the difference that when you prove to visa money is missing, they go and harass the culprit, not simply ignore the victim.

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  • http://xtremax.com Web Design

    I had a personal shipping experience from both sites. With Amazon my stuff reached but a bit late from scheduled time. Now eBay, there was nothing on my disposal unless I emailed the customer support twice to track down my stuff.

  • http://xtremax.com Web Design

    I had a personal shipping experience from both sites. With Amazon my stuff reached but a bit late from scheduled time. Now eBay, there was nothing on my disposal unless I emailed the customer support twice to track down my stuff.