eBay Says: Share on Facebook, But Don’t Let ‘Em Buy

eBay Makes New Rule For Facebook Sharing

eBay Makes New Rule For Facebook Sharing

eBay has added a new feature for sellers: A seller can choose to have their listed items shared on their Facebook newsfeed. There's no charge for this service, and once a seller opts in to sharing, all of their listings from that point forward will be shared automatically.

There's a "gotcha," though. eBay says that your Facebook friends aren't allowed to bid on your auction-style listings; they're only allowed to use Buy-It-Now (BIN). Here's the quote from eBay's help page on sharing:

All selling formats are supported for sharing listings. However, if you want your online friends to buy your shared items, you'll need to offer the items at a fixed price you could try these out.

Important: It's still OK to offer auction-style bidding on your items. But your online friends aren't allowed to bid.

eBay goes on to say:

We recommend that you block bids from their eBay accounts. They can buy your items through methods that don't involve bidding, such as Buy It Now.

This rule is in place because "because eBay's shill bidding policy doesn't allow anyone who has more access to your item information than the general eBay community to place bids," according to the help page explanation.

There are so many things wrong with this picture that it's hard to know where to start.

Apparently, sellers should share their listings on Facebook, but then block all their Facebook friends from bidding or BINing on their items. That's such a ridiculous situation on its face that we could stop here and fall on the floor laughing.

The advice to "block bids from their eBay accounts" in combination with "they can buy your items through methods that don't involve bidding" reflects a serious lack of understanding of how eBay works. If a seller blocks bids from a person's eBay account, that person cannot bid or buy; there's no mechanism by which a seller can block bids but allow BINs from a particular user.

That advice assumes that sellers even know the eBay usernames of all their Facebook friends.

Heck, it assumes that sellers even know their Facebook friends! Lots of people on Facebook end up with hundreds (or even thousands) of "friends" whom they've never met and probably never will meet. Is eBay seriously worried that these Facebook "non-friends" are going to break laws and shill for the seller?

The rule as a whole doesn't take into account that many sellers have business pages on Facebook; business pages don't have friends, they just have people who "like" them.

One seller on eBay's Seller Central forum put it this way:

I know MANY sellers who promote to their customers through a Facebook account. Been going to do one myself BUT if any customer who 'friends' me bids I break eBay shill bidder policy and can be suspended. So the choice is to alienate regular customers by rejecting 'friend' requests, sell ONLY fixed price, or block their ID's.

A seller cannot, in fact, block anyone from bidding on their items unless they know the person's eBay user ID. Are sellers expected to require that anyone who wants to friend them on Facebook must provide their eBay ID before the seller approves the friend request?

And, of course, there's the tiny little fact that this rule is, as a practical matter, completely unenforceable. eBay has no way of knowing if someone who bids on your item is a Facebook friend. Sure, eBay can track referring pages.... eBay can tell if someone who bid on your item came from Facebook. But eBay has no way of knowing if that bidder is a Facebook friend of the seller, because eBay doesn't know the eBay user IDs of the Facebook users. And that's even if eBay can see who the seller's Facebook friends are, which I think is only possible if the seller makes that public. But even if eBay knows who all your Facebook friends are, eBay has no way of connecting those friends to their eBay user IDs.

It's often amusing when the clueless get put in charge of making rules for things about which they're clueless. It's not so amusing when the rules they make threaten people's livelihoods, though, with nonsensical, unenforceable rules. But there's no need for sellers to panic over this. There's no way for eBay to catch any Facebook-friend bidding.

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