Welcome to...

(This site is NOT affiliated with eBay in any way. Just in case the cruddy design didn't already tip you off.)

New here? Get started by reading my chats with eBay customer service.

Why This Site Exists

This site is all about "baiting" eBay support with pointless requests and taking up their time, in a grass-roots effort to get eBay to improve its customer service. Right now there are thousands of people who are angry with eBay for one reason or another, but feel powerless to do anything about it. With eBaiting, you CAN have an impact. I did. They told me so themselves. And I'm just one person.

I believe that eBay's customer service system is fundamentally broken. They rarely if ever enforce their own rules, and they don't do a good job of assisting people who get ripped off. It is nearly impossible to contact a human being who can actually help you. Those people work in eBay's ironically named "Trust and Safety" department and are not reachable by phone or chat, probably because there are so very many users who want to speak with them. Instead, everything must be done through web forms and waiting for a reply, which often never comes. When it does, it generally reads like a copy-and-pasted form letter.

Even eBay's front-line customer service people are unable to contact Trust and Safety directly. Believe me, they would like nothing more than to be able to pass frustrated users along to people who can actually help, but at the moment the best they can do is direct us to the appropriate form page. Thus, this site is also about improving communication between eBay's internal departments.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, things need to get a lot worse before they can eventually start getting better. The means through which this can be accomplished, I have named "eBaiting".

A Brief History of eBaiting

How eBaiting works

eBaiting couldn't be easier. You don't even need an eBay account.

Now, A Few Ground Rules

Tips for Better eBaiting

Not hard-and-fast rules, but these will help you drag your sessions out as long as possible. (Don't feel guilty about this -- the LiveHelp people get paid whether they're helping you or a real user.)

Questions & Answers

Q: Does eBay know about this site?
A: They should, I told them about it.

Q: Why do you hate eBay so much?
A: I don't hate eBay per se. I hate the way eBay is run nowadays. Back in 1998 when I first signed up, eBay was a truly fun site to buy and sell on, and the best-kept secret for collectors of unusual and obscure things. Then they got huge, they got greedy, and it became all about profit. Rules rarely seem to be enforced, and scammers increasingly get away while honest people are left with no recourse. The site had ongoing stability problems for years, and instead of fixing them eBay management introduced new "features" that no one cared about and no one ever asked for. Things people do ask for get ignored for years, and generally only get addressed when the stock prices drop enough that the shareholders complain. (Recall the outcry against the fee increases from a few years ago.)

That's the short version. And really, 99% of the time eBay works just fine despite these annoyances. It's the remaining 1% where they tend to be abysmal. I just had far too many of those unpleasant experiences over the years leading up to my account hijacking. It was a straw and camel's back thing. I'm convinced the majority of people out there do not particularly like eBay. They tolerate eBay, and they stick with eBay because they like getting bargains or selling a rare collectible for maximum profit. No other venue exists that can give them that level of exposure when selling or selection when buying, so they continue to use (and thus validate) a system that could be so much better than it currently is.

Also check out any number of anti-eBay sites for more horror stories, many of them far worse than mine.

Q: I've been using eBay for years, and I've never had a problem with them.
A: Congratulations, I hope your luck holds out.

Q: I got ripped off by someone on eBay, can you help me?
A: Sorry, you're at the wrong site. But try these links:

Also file a claim with eBay/PayPal (must be done within 30-90 days after the close of the auction), and consider reporting the incident to the shipping company (assuming the item was actually shipped), and both state and local law enforcement officials in your area and the scammer's.

Q: Can you give me any advice on how to avoid fraud on eBay?
A: It's impossible to completley avoid fraud. If you use eBay enough (or any online trading venue for that matter) you will encounter it eventually. But I can share one tip that will help ensure you don't lose money: Pay with a credit card. Don't use your existing PayPal balance. Funnel that into a bank account which you use only for PayPal, and empty it out regularly. Then, when you need to send money to someone, change the payment method to be a credit card. PayPal will make you go through "warning" screens and ask if you really want to do this. That's because THEY don't want you to!

See, if you pay with a credit card and something goes wrong, you can dispute the charge through the credit card company and completely bypass PayPal (who, like eBay, are just dandy to deal with until something goes wrong... visit PayPalSucks.com for more warnings about PayPal). Credit card companies are much more willing to erase fraudulent charges, especially if you maintain a good credit score and pay your bills on time. Oh, but when you do this? Send back any items you did receive. Otherwise you're stealing.

Q: Why is it eBay's fault you were stupid enough to let your account get hijacked?
A: First off, I'm not blaming eBay for my account getting hijacked. I'm blaming them for the series of monumental screw-ups that occurred afterwards, when I needed their help the most. And second, please don't assume that stupidity is a prerequisite for an account hijacking. I did all the obvious things -- not sharing passwords, always being very careful about phishing e-mails, using anti-spyware and personal firewall software. Miscreants run "haxxor" scripts against eBay all the time, and some of them get through. (eBay hacks are actually far more common than they'd like you to know.) The point is, eBay's incompetence and poor communication made fixing the problem twenty times harder than it had to be.

Q: eBay's customer service people aren't in any position to change anything. They aren't the ones you should be going after.
A: That may be true, but unfortunately they're the only ones we can actually reach. If I could speak with Pierre Omidyar or Meg Whitman I would, but of course that's never going to happen. eBay has chosen to hide their policymakers and their "Trust and Safety" team away from us, so we have to get a foot in the door at the lowest level and work our way up from there. (And yes, there is a "suggestion box" link on their site, but emails are very easy to ignore, especially when they're getting thousands of them a day.)

Q: Isn't eBaiting a form of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack?
A: No, it is nothing of the sort. A DDoS attack involves making a computer resource unavailable, usually by flooding it with bad data packets in order to overwhelm it and prevent legitimate traffic from getting through. These attacks are coordinated and malicious, intended solely to disrupt an Internet site's functionality.

By contrast, eBaiting is more of a protest designed to call attention to the problem of eBay's deeply flawed customer service system. It does not block access to any core eBay functions such as bidding, selling, search, payment, etc. This site does not schedule or coordinate mass usages of the LiveHelp system. All it does is present the concept to individual eBaiters.

Q: But you do realize that, by bothering the support people, you're preventing people who really need help from getting it?
A: Yes, and that's what I meant when I said things will have to get a lot worse before they get better. We need to make it so bad that normal users get fed up with asking for help, and enough of them stop using eBay that it gets the higher-ups' attention.

Another important thing to note is that anything the LiveHelp support reps can tell you is already buried somewhere in eBay's online help pages. More often than not the difficulty is finding it, and understanding where you need to go and what forms to fill out depending on your particular situation. Most of the really critical problems people need help with are things that can't be resolved through LiveHelp anyway (which is a problem in and of itself).

Q: Okay, smart guy, so how do YOU propose to fix eBay?
A: eBay needs to completely overhaul their support process to incorporate better communication between departments, and between users and eBay staff. When a user has a problem that cannot be fixed in one session, there must be a method of assigning a single support person to see their case through to the end. That case manager should be reachable by phone and be available to respond to emails quickly during the day (none of this 24-hours garbage). This would prevent the buildup of frustration that comes from having to re-explain your case in detail with every new person you talk to. For this to work, eBay would have to bite the bullet and spend some money to hire a much bigger support staff.

Under the new support system, your case manager would have to be in a position to actually help you, or at the very least able to directly contact (via phone, chat, or in person) the people who could. If that department is overwhelmed too, it's time to hire more. Right now eBay is trying to run the biggest buying/selling site in the world with the smallest possible staff, and it's just not working.

When a user opens a case, there should be a checklist for the case manager to follow, including steps to notify any other appropriate departments after action has been taken. For instance, in my case there would be a step to notify VeRO that the copyright-infringing listings were the work of an account hijacker other than myself. This will help avoid compounding problems that would otherwise be an easy fix.

Addressing more of my specific gripes with eBay:

Q: Your little protest isn't going to change anything you know.
A: Well certainly not with that attitude.

Q: This site is immature and stupid, and you're an idiot.
A: Yeah, and you're talking to me. What does that say about you?

Q: Aren't there more constructive ways you could be using your time?
A: Undoubtedly.

Got a comment, or a question that isn't answered here? Email me (but delete the C@PS anti-spam message from my address).

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