Pro sellers skipping eBay strike
The influential PeSA won't be striking, along with some sellers who say they can't afford to boycott.
Nancy Baughman is an eBay PowerSeller dealing mostly in antiques, and the co-author of Buy It, Sell It, Make Money, a guidebook to doing business on eBay. She is also the moderator of the Online Seller Cyber Union, an organization created in the wake of eBay's change announcement to give sellers a central gathering point and information clearinghouse.
"I love eBay. I've touted the glories of eBay, and the last time they raised fees I didn't say anything," Baughman said. "But these changes are just devastating to the small business owner. It's really a slap in the face."
So, despite the $1,500 that she expects to lose in gross profits from the week-long boycott, as well as the wages she will continue to pay one of her two part-time employees, she feels that a strike will be the best way to make sellers' feelings heard.
"We want to work it out with eBay so that our business doesn't founder," she said. She is starting a chain e-mail campaign to spread the word about the boycott.
But not everyone thinks that a five-day halt in sales is the best way to send a message to eBay's management.
The Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PeSA), an influential five-year-old organization whose 400 members report annual grosses of more $400 million, is not supporting the boycott.
"When you're at a size like our sellers are, you're running a business, and trying to make money to pay for employees, rent, warehouses," said Brandon Dupsky, a PeSA member and former board director. "A boycott would only hurt yourself more than it would ever hurt eBay."
Instead, PeSA organized a conference call with eBay executives, so that its members could ask questions and voice their thoughts on the new rules and fee structure.
"I don't think it's a matter of forcing one way or another. It's a matter of discussing," Dupsky said.
On the other end of the eBay spectrum, Terra Tice of Colorado Springs, Colo., who does around $400 a month in gross sales, is despairing about the fee changes. But she will not be participating in the boycott - because she can't afford to.
"If I can make even $5, that's a carton of eggs I can buy," said the single mom, who earns the majority of her income cleaning houses. "I've come to depend on eBay."
Robert Tucker, a Dallas-based eBay member since 2000, said he's watched sellers lashing out on the discussion boards in the last few days - one spoke of giving five of his buyers negative feedback simply to protest the new rules.
"They're angry. There's a lot of aggression going on," Tucker said. While he no longer sells on eBay, he will not be boycotting eBay as a buyer because he doubts that the protest will be effective.
"It's been my experience that these sellers can't stand united long enough to do anything. They're a fractious bunch," he said. "Every year they talk about boycotts. But eBay's still there. I don't think eBay's heard it much."
AuctionBytes' Steiner also thinks the fracas will blow over without dinging eBay.
"I think that the time would be better served for these merchants to look at branding themselves, working on going into other channels to sell, and really strengthening their own core businesses," said Steiner - although he admits that this year, eBay members have been particularly successful in drawing attention to their plight.
Whether that will lead to any changes remains to be seen. Boycott rabble-rouser Lennert is keeping her fingers crossed.
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