SELLERS' SPOT: A Perfect Marketplace For People Who Don't Actually Want to Sell Anything: An In-Depth Look at eBid (Marketplace)

NOTE: This was originally posted to a now-defunct blog of mine back in 2019. Since it fits in with the general theme of this blog a lot more now that it has widened its focus to money-saving apps and programs, it is being re-posted here, along with updated notes in red.

eBid Logo
Hate making money? Well then, you've come to the right place...

In the interest of full disclosure, you can take this review with a grain of salt if you want to, because I haven’t tried selling on this site since 2016 (and that was the third time, after giving it a go back in 2010, and again in 2014), but this is one of those marketplaces where nothing seems to change all that much—and all available evidence seems to corroborate that statement for 2019.


SITE/NAVIGATION 

eBid's landing page.

The site’s design is pretty decent and straightforward, though it still feels pretty antiquated. It was no doubt created to steal some of the success from eBay, but you have to give it credit for being one of the first (eBid launched in the UK way back in 1998, before coming to the U.S. in the early 2000s); how is it, then, that no one has heard of it? That’s just one of the myriad of problems affecting this site, but we’ll have plenty of time to get more in-depth with its problems later on.

The front page is loaded with information touting all the benefits of selling on eBid--I'm surprised it doesn't show you listings that have recently sold. The bottom just seems to be randomly-generated listings that follow a random theme (in this case, business and office listings). The design clearly hasn’t had much change for a long time, but the real pet peeve of mine are the vague “victories” this site clings to: For many years, it has linked to a “TopTenReviews” comparison between eBid and eBay, updated every year, in which eBay barely ekes out a win in a head-to-head match. They also like to flaunt the number of listings, and merchandise value, of all the items listed on the site.

An example of what eBid considers a "win".

The problem is, neither of these metrics mean anything at all to sellers, because both of them leave out one very crucial piece to the puzzle: sales. The TTR review only looks at the selling process of every marketplace, and weighs traffic based on views and other generalized criteria, but actual sales are not one of them. Ditto for the listing stats eBid loves to throw around every chance they get: Sure, there are billions of dollars in inventory sitting on the site, but how long have many of those items been sitting there, collecting dust, because no one buys them? The short answer: For most, it’s been a very long time. 

It even provides a snapshot of future failed listings.

From the buyer's perspective, reading listings is actually pretty confusing compared to other auction sites, thanks to a very backward layout and color scheme. For example, sold listings look exactly the same as active listings, making it very hard to tell if something actually sold or not. Ditto for active auctions, which have starting prices in green, a color typically used to denote items that will sell, or that have sold. They really should take a look at their use of colors, if not the entire layout, to bring it up to the modern era, and to make things a little clearer for not just sellers, but buyers as well. I know they don't have a lot of money to sink into the operation, but sometimes even the smallest, simplest changes can have a huge impact; at the very least, it would give the appearance that they care, and are trying to make things better.

Listing is pretty straightforward, and can be a fun way to re-experience the eBay of old, with the ability to add additional pictures, highlight your title, add a subtitle, and add an additional category available, all for nominal fees, and all featured more prominently than on eBay. When listing, I will say the interface is pretty clean and inviting, and all of the listing process is pretty clear and relatively concise. It does support bulk listing, via their Ninja Lister tool, which allows you to pull all your products from better marketplaces, and leave them to collect dust here. Hey, at least it saves you some time so that you can be disappointed that much quicker! I have not used this, but more than likely will when I finally decide to pull the trigger on purchasing a Seller+ lifetime membership (which against all logic, I still plan to do), so I will update this with my experience at that time.

TRAFFIC 

I guess "Come shop on the 52,000th most popular site in America" just doesn't send out positive vibes.

This is where the site fails miserably: it has to be the least-trafficked marketplace in history. Honestly, I keep expecting to hear news that it has finally shut down, because nothing ever seems to be going on here. It was that way when I started in 2010, and again when I gave it another go a few years later. And as much as I want to try again here in 2019, all research (their own community message forum) indicates that it’s the exact same way now, with complaints about a lack of traffic one of the very few topics constantly discussed. (Along with features that the user community have been begging for for years that apparently have still never made the “to-do” list.) 

Seriously, I’m pretty patient when it comes to trying out new places (at least moreso than the eBayers who jump ship, list all their items on a new site, then angrily give up when there are no sales after two weeks), but no matter what I did, nothing ever panned out. I even put items up, as an auction, for way less than I originally wanted to get, just to see if maybe I could price it so low that I could trick people into buying it…and that didn't even work. I tried items across various prices and categories, and no matter what I did, it never translated to a single sale. 

If listings like this can barely muster any attention, there's really no hope.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I never signed up for their Seller+ system, which gives increased exposure (among other benefits) to your listings for a one-time upfront payment. But I did list most, if not all, of the items as a “Platinum” listing, which supposedly gives you all of the benefits of a Seller+ listing, but for a small listing fee instead. In theory, it's a great way to test out the site, but given my results (where I was lucky to even hit double-digit views for the listing before it expired), I wouldn't exactly be all that eager to fork any money over to them.

And lest you believe that it’s just me, take a look around the Internet, where you can find many sellers, both old and new, who complain about the lack of traffic and features. Many have even requested the eBay-like ability to search sold listings for comp purposes—a feature many say will never be implemented, simply because it would prove what everyone already knows. Ouch.

On the other hand, listings are submitted to Google Shopping, assuming they meet the criteria (all involve having a “BuyNow” price available, with at least three days remaining in the listing duration) which can at least open up the possibility of outside traffic finding your product. However, just how high your results will be in Google, and whether or not someone would visit a site they probably know little about to purchase your product, are entirely different matters.

FEES 

You are going to see this peddled everywhere. Hurry, it expires in 24 hours! Only it doesn't*, so take your time. Oh, and the price has since increased to $69.99.

This is the area where everyone gets suckered in, because fees on eBid are much, much cheaper than they are on other auction sites...though again, you have to actually sell things in order to save on fees. The company also takes advantage of some good ol’ fashioned psychology to maximize their own profits: Immediately upon signing up, you are given the option to become a SELLER+ member for a one-time fee of just $49.99 ($69.99), which is supposedly half off the normal price of $99.98 ($139.98). That entitles you to FREE final value fees for the rest of your life, but you have to act fast, because it expires within 24 hours of signing up!

Great deal, huh? In theory, sure, but a breakdown of online feedback (culled from reviews and forum posts; one of the few times I’m using a method other than direct experience on here), as well as a dose of good ol’ fashioned common sense, reveals that it might not be the deal that it’s made out to be.

By forcing you to sign up for the deal within 24 hours (or at least, making you think that; there is no reason to ever pay the $99.98 ($139.98) regular price*) they are hoping that you are too busy to do any sort of research into the deal, because it does come with a couple caveats. Further playing into eBid’s favor is that you are probably coming over from eBay, a site known for its draconian seller rules and exorbitant final value fees. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance for no fees when you are used to so many fees elsewhere? I have absolutely no concrete figures, but I’d be willing to bet that a good chunk of first-time sellers take this deal: probably around 15%, maybe more (it has to be a decent figure; how else could you explain this site staying open for 20+ years?)

However, if you stop to think about it, some red flags start to creep in: if even half of the sellers that recouped that initial investment made their money back, why would eBid continue to run it? They have to make money, too, and ultimately they would start losing money if they were giving away free fees for life on large quantities of sales. Put it in another perspective: Would a successful site ever use this fee structure? Maybe at first, to suck people in, but they would be forced to raise it as there were more and more transactions. 

A comparison of the various account types.
Then, just as you're thinking you've made a great deal, you learn there are a couple of catches: The fee-free option is for normal listings (both auction and “Buy It Now”) only. Okay, sounds fair enough...what's so weird about that? Normal listings on eBid do not even have a thumbnail image in the results. Remember what eBay looked like circa 2000, and you have an idea of what your free listing will look like. In order to add a thumbnail to your result—something that’s pretty much required to sell anything in this day and age, but especially on a struggling auction site—you have to use a “Gallery” listing, which is going to run you 2% of your final sale, even with your paid SELLER+ status.

If you don't want to spring for a SELLER+ account right off the bat, you can actually get all the same results of being a SELLER+ member, but without the upfront costs, by upgrading to a “Platinum” listing: For a listing fee of just $.05, and a final value fee of 3%, you get the gallery thumbnail in search results, and every other perk that lifetime Seller+ members have. That 3% fee is only 1% more than the FVF that SELLER+ members have to pay, arguably making it a better deal for sellers with a smaller inventory (you would have to post 1,000 items at the nickel rate to hit the $50 Lifetime SELLER+ cost, and I doubt many people make it that far).

Making this a rather convoluted mess, there are also weekly, monthly, and annual installment plans for SELLER+ accounts, should you decide that you want to test it out first before fully committing, or if you failed to make the lifetime upgrade within 24 hours of signing up. But here's a little tip: You can still get the discounted $69.99 lifetime rate after the 24-hour window expires, and doing so is very easy.

*Simply upgrade your membership from a basic Seller membership to a weekly Seller+ account. Once the 7 day membership expires, you will be given the chance to upgrade to a lifetime membership at the discounted rate: even better, the $1.99 you paid for the weekly membership goes toward the $69.99! That's something that isn't mentioned on the sign-up page (though it's mentioned frequently in the forums), and that allows you to explore the site at your own pace to see if it's a good fit for you, before making the $50 commitment. 

APP
Much to my surprise, I learned that there is an app for both Android, and iOS, but reviews are pretty abysmal, with a 2.9 score on the Google Play Store. Even more worrisome: it hasn't been updated since March, 2015, which is yet further proof of their consistency in abandoning ideas and, by extension, its entire user base.

COMMUNITY/SUPPORT 

The community forums.
If a site’s going to be a total bust, at least it should have a helpful community! This is one of those areas where eBid actually succeeds pretty well, with a number of active people willing to help you with any questions you may have in the forums.

Some of them are eBid sympathizers, who constantly go through great lengths to let you know that any problems you are having are solely your own, because eBid is a great place to sell, but I'd say most of them are people who enjoy the community and just want to help out.

As for eBid support, I have never had to contact them directly for anything, so I can't speak to their timeliness or urgency in responding to matters. I can, however, comment on their unwillingness (and/or inability) to perform any meaningful work on the site. I understand upgrades cost money, and I'm not even suggesting they completely reinvent the wheel (although it could definitely use it), but simply ignoring user requests and rarely adding features isn't the way to go about generating any kind of positive morale for its increasingly-defeated user base. 

Even minor tweaks and upgrades (like updating the long-defunct app) could go a long way toward restoring faith in the site, and would let sellers--both current and potential--know that their opinions matter, or are at least heard. If they're not willing to do any of those things, then why continue to merely let it float, especially when there's so much potential being squandered? It's confusing at best, and maddening at worst, for virtually everyone involved, and not at all a great look for the future of the site.

OVERALL

PROS (+):
+Simple enough interface for listing
+Bulk lister to quickly transfer listings from other major marketplaces
+Some of the lowest fees in the business
+Relevant listings (BuyItNow with three or more days remaining) submitted to Google Shopping
+Support forum that offers quick help for basic questions.
+Fewer products in many categories means the potential for less cutthroat competition among sellers
+It’s somehow still in business, year after year.

NEUTRAL (+/-)
*Can upgrade to SELLER+ for a one-time fee, rather than monthly payments (but is the upgrade even worth it?)

CONS (-):
-Miserable lack of traffic.
-Miserable lack of sales.
-SELLER+ free listings don’t include gallery listings (thumbnail in listing); these still carry a 2% FVF.
-Antiquated interface that feels like it's stuck in the late '90s (there was a minor visual "refresh" a couple years back, making it slightly better).
-Very few tools for sellers, beyond the very basics.
-New features for sellers are rarely added, making you wonder why anyone stays at all.
-Terribly-rated mobile app hasn't been updated since 2015.

As much as I want to see a small marketplace rise up to be a solid alternative to the big dogs, eBid ain’t it. If this were an up-and-coming Internet startup, we could attribute it to “growing pains” and give it the benefit of the doubt, but considering the UK-based company has been around for twenty years (though only fourteen in the U.S.), that means that it has more-than-likely already hit its peak. Traffic does seem to spike around the times eBay announces sweeping changes, as sellers try to flock somewhere else, but once they realize no success awaits them here, they pack up and move on.

Comparison of "Gallery" (top) and "Normal" (bottom) listings.

On the plus side, this does mean potentially less competition for listed products, as there are only one or two other sellers (if any at all) selling all but the most popular of items, which can help your items stand out should a potential buyer stumble upon them. Results are also submitted to Google Shopping provided they meet the criteria (BuyItNow option with at least three days remaining in listing duration), but eBid results generally don't seem to get preferred placement over other sites.

Unfortunately, their apparent unwillingness to change the status quo seems to be a big reason for its stagnancy: popular feature requests in the message forums are frequently ignored, while the antiquated interface (think eBay in the '90s) has remained largely unchanged for years. I really do hate dragging small marketplaces through the mud, and try to find a silver-lining in all of them, but there really aren't many reasons to waste your time on eBid, unless you're planning on using it as a secondary marketplace where you can just leave stuff up until it sells and not stress about the results.

RATING: 2/10.

NOTE: For reasons unknown even to me (and mainly for the sake of completeness), I am planning on giving the lifetime upgrade to SELLER+ a shot in the near future; once I do and am able to spend a few months with it, I will update this review accordingly.

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