Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

"Whatever 'it' is...."

... you can probably find a fake one on eBay.

Counterfeit, or if you prefer 'fake,' merchandise has been a problem for eBay for a long time. Whether it's clothing, jewelry, videogames, autographs, movies, and more, eBay has long been a breeding ground for fakes.

And why not? The whole reason people use eBay is so they can make money (usually with the idea of making a bunch of money). With that mindset, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that people are going to try to peddle fakes; they cost a lot less to acquire than the real thing, making profit margins exponentially bigger!

eBay has been having lots of problems recently. From this NYT article to the Xbox 360 fakes, eBay has shown recently that they certainly aren't putting any of the profits from their way-too-high seller fees to use on policing the site. And why should they? People are still listing on eBay, and people are still buying on eBay. Nevermind the fact that sellers outnumber buyers by something like an 8:1 ratio, eBay is still making money (lots of it), and that's all they care about. Nevermind that eBay and Paypal's dispute policies are set up to prevent people from making claims on low dollar purchases (below $50, probably over 50% of eBay's sales), people are still throwing their money at eBay, and they love to take it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Google needs to start their own auction service. They could learn from the mistakes that eBay has made (and is making), and they could add auction listings into their own search results. I think it's a great idea.

There was a time when I enjoyed selling on eBay. It was fun to see how your auction was progressing. Now there's so many sellers out there that the value of almost anything isn't as high as it used to be, and the fees are so high that it's tough to make back your cost, much less make a profit, on eBay sales. Plus there's the increase in credit card fraud via Paypal, a system which should be set up so it's nigh-impossible to make fraudulent charges. Then again, eBay would make less money that way.

The NYT article, focusing on the upcoming fight between Tiffany vs. eBay, brings up an interesting point. What happens if Tiffany wins? Investors are going to crap bricks, that much is for sure. I don't know how eBay would approach the counterfeit problem, I think they'd do their best to just ignore the issue. It would be massively expensive for them to start REALLY policing auctions, but maybe that's what they need to be doing. I'm sure that they'd have a big increase in fees, which would probably drive away business.

The perfect opportunity for Google?

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