Will eBay Survive Its Professionalization?

A new book about eBay is coming out and it makes the argument that in an attempt to make the site and its sellers seem more professional, it's hurting the very same small sellers that made the auction site work. It was those quirky items for sale and the well-timed sale that would periodically deliver a stunningly low price that gave eBay its charm.

But in an attempt to give users a more consistent and professional experience—professional as in free shipping, 24-hour customer service and instant purchases—is eBay abandoning everything that made it work, everything that made it the world's largest and best garage sale? Sure, garage sales might be more efficient if they had self-checkout and kiosks that listed all of the merchandise and networked POS units ringing up orders while they update your CRM card, but that's not likely what you went to a garage sale for.

This comment is not to suggest that free shipping and 24-hour customer service are not good services, but that understanding why customers come to you is much more important. If eBay becomes just like Amazon, why would this be good news for eBay fans?

Customer satisfaction scores at eBay are already starting to take a hit. Clearly, eBay believes it will make more profits by increasing professionalism. But if these changes drive away sellers and their customers, will a better profit margin be of much comfort?