I used to love eBay. I bought stuff for cheap and I sold crap I didn’t need. No longer…
Before explaining why I am abandoning the internet’s largest auction site, I want to stress the positive experience I used to enjoy on eBay.
I have been an eBay member since 1999 (post-IPO, but pre-profit), and built up a 100% feedback rating over nearly 100 transactions. Small potatoes for anybody trading on eBay for a living, but not-too-shabby for a casual user.
Though I frequently found gifts and gizmos on the site, I enjoyed selling the most. I found eBay made it much easier to clear out my clutter every couple of months.
I was able to unload stuff I didn’t need anymore must faster than I could if I had to list it in the classifieds or hold a yard sale (there wasn’t even Craigslist yet!)
I also fetched a better price than I could by selling locally.
There were only two downsides to the whole eBay gig: paying for and coordinating shipping, and the potential for fraud.
And it is the potential for fraud that has me leaving eBay. But not how you might guess.
I have never been a victim of eBay fraud.
Of course, I have never defrauded another eBay user, either.
Unfortunately, all of a sudden I cannot convince eBay of that fact! Here’s what happened:
The last time I used eBay was almost a year ago. Most likely around the holidays, and I cannot even remember what my last trade was for, but it went well. No problems.
Since that last transaction I moved. When I moved, of course I updated my address with all the important people – my bank, my employer, etc. Unfortunately, I did not do so with eBay. I’m a casual user. Why would it even cross my mind?
Come about a month ago I was surfing around and stumbled across something I wanted to bid on. I logged into my eBay account and clicked bid.
That’s when I got an error message saying my account had been flagged as having been used for fraudulent purposes, and I would not be able to bid or list an item for sale until I talked to eBay’s security specialists.
Fine. If there had been some breach of my account, I would want to know about it. Nothing seemed irrational yet.
Then I learned that eBay’s preferred method of communicating with me about the possible breach of my account was with a canned online chat:
eBay: Thank you so much for contacting eBay support this evening, ebayusername, what seems to be the problem?
Me: You won’t let me use my account, you tell me what the problem is!
eBay: I’m sorry to hear that, ebayusername. I understand…
As far as I was concerned this is strike number one. I can promise you I dislike unnecessary human interaction just as much as eBay employees, but when there is something serious to take care of, whether in my personal life or at work, you can be damned sure I am going to pick up the phone. It’s faster, it’s more personal, and it’s more efficient.
So the e-conversation continued, and for security purposes they asked me to verify the address I had on file. This is where the trouble started. I gave them my new address, and they said no, that’s not right.
Then I gave them my former address and they said, no, that’s not right either. Well I have had eBay for so long I have had about six addresses with them, and apparently they were thinking of a different address than I was.
So then they started asking me questions about whether my family members had eBay accounts and what their usernames were. I had no idea.
After over an hour of this ridiculous back and forth all they could tell me to do was to fax or mail a copy of my driver’s license to them.
They never offered to call me.
Now, the story doesn’t end.
I faxed in my driver’s license and they write back weeks later. We’re sorry, since the driver’s license you provided does not match the address associated with your eBay account…
Basically, they’re telling me I need to produce a document with my old address on it to prove my identity. I don’t have one.
My driver’s license now shows my new address! I didn’t save old utility bills. Really, I can’t prove that I lived where I lived to eBay’s satisfaction, and because of that my account cannot be used.
One would think they would provide other ways to verify my identify, but they haven’t.
If eBay was a more critical part of my life, or if this happened with my bank or something, obviously I would make the effort to track down their phone number and figure out how to resolve this, but frankly, I’ve already wasted over an hour on this and don’t feel like it’s worth much more of my time.
I know eBay isn’t going to cry over the lost $50 or so of revenue I give them a year, but I sure as hell am not going to jump through hoops just to prove to them I own my account.