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EBay apologizes over search, billing issues

The online auction site apologized to users Friday for billing system glitches and a change in search technology that hit some sellers hard.
/ Source: Reuters

Online marketplace operator eBay Inc. on Friday apologized to users for billing system glitches and a change in its search technology that have hit some sellers in the pocketbook.

EBay sellers have been most vocal about the billing snafus that struck an undisclosed subset of eBay users when the company switched to a new system in April.

While eBay has fixed the original double-billing problem, it is still working to clear out remaining issues as some sellers continue to wait for credits and complain that their monthly invoices carry incorrect totals, an executive said.

"We let you down and we're sorry. We're working feverishly to get this right, and we will get this right," Jeff Jordan, eBay's general manager of U.S. operations, said during the keynote address at eBay Live, the company's annual seller conference.

Jordan also said the company was slowing down its transition to a new browsing technology aimed at helping eBay shoppers more quickly zone in on listings. While it has been successful in the apparel and tickets categories, he said it had been "controversial" among sellers of such items as books.

The comments came as some 10,000 eBay sellers gathered in New Orleans for the company's conference, an annual gathering that features marketing seminars and other events.

Leslie and Ken Linzer, who run Pro-Traders and do about $30,000 in annual business, said the Ebay change caused bids on listings for their art books and vintage art catalogs to dry up, but had no impact on their vintage postcard sales.

"The average consumer doesn't know what to call things sometimes," said Leslie Linzer, adding that when sellers and buyers define things differently under the new search system, auctions do not come up readily for viewing.

Denis Burger, of Portland, Oregon-based Bid Brothers, said he heard users complain about the search changes and billing errors, but had experienced none first hand.

"People seem to be finding our auctions just fine. We list in all kinds of categories," said Burger, who operates a drop-off store that does eBay selling for a fee.

“The changes at eBay are coming fast and furious. Ultimately buyers and sellers decide if they can live with them or not. If they can’t, eBay will know,” said Ina Steiner, editor and publisher of

EBay -- which also launched its redesigned My eBay section in May to mixed, but mostly positive reviews -- also unveiled a new program called PayPal Buyer Credit.

Through an agreement with GE Consumer Finance. a unit of General Electric Co., PayPal Buyer Credit offers U.S. PayPal customers the option to open a line of credit to fund purchases on eBay or any other Web site that accepts PayPal.

Despite the glitches, eBay sellers interviewed said they were mostly satisfied with the Silicon Valley-based company and its ability to connect buyers and sellers on the Internet.

Many are lured by the dream of leaving their day jobs and joining the roughly 430,000 U.S. sellers who make their living on eBay. "It's a hobby we make money at," said Ken Linzer, who added that eBay selling is a "very-item specific business" with some areas more prone to growth.

"But it's not giving up the day job just yet," added Leslie Linzer, his wife and eBay business partner. Sellers said that many newcomers fail to realize how quickly costs -- from listing and payment transaction fees to shipping, storage and incidentals -- can erode profits.

“It’s the little holes in your purse that can make you broke,” said shoe and accessory seller Shannon Wright, who trades under the name “onedivascloset” on eBay.