As someone who fell victim to shill bidding on eBay, I was happy to see this issue getting the attention that it deserves. This past Sunday’s Times of London ran a story that detailed how sellers fix prices.
In my case, eBay recognized that shill bidding had occurred; but they essentially did nothing about it. I wasn’t able to recoup any of my loss (more than $300 I am embarrassed to admit); and nor was the seller punished in any meaningful way (he was back selling only a few weeks after I’d been told that he would be sanctioned).
People talk about the great community tools that exist on eBay and about the buyer and seller rating systems; but the fact of the matter is that these tools are easily jobbed and don’t really tell you anything about the person with whom you are dealing.
I recently was looking for a digital SLR and decided to bypass eBay all together opting for Craig’s List instead. The buyer and I met and he had also gone off eBay. Too much fraud and too many buyers trying to play games. He said, and I agree, that he wanted to sell to local people that he could meet with in person.
It all comes back to the issues of identity and transparency. When those things don’t exist – or can be easily manipulated – communities aren’t going to succeed. eBay managed to create a community; but over time they have allowed it to by hijacked by unscrupulous buyers and sellers.
Until eBay finds a way to clean up this mess (and why should they since inflated prices only means more revenue for them), more and more people are going to find alternative ways to buy and sell online; and that’s probably a good thing.
[tags]eBay, shill bigging, fraud, Craig’s List, identity, transparency[/tags]
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