Monday, January 7, 2013

eBay's New Search Uncovers a Shady Seller

On January 3, I had the misfortune to be opted in to eBay's latest new search.  eBay has placed me in test searches in the past, and I have never enjoyed the experience.  As before, I cannot opt out, so I am stuck until they release me from the test search or make it work properly.

Apparently only a small percent of eBay's users were opted in on January 3.  Let's say that one-tenth of one percent of eBay's users were opted in.  Assuming that eBay has 100 million users, that would be 100,000 people.  100,000 people is enough to get a good many people to go to eBay's Search message board to complain.  The Search message board normally has a low amount of activity, but that has not been the case since January 3.

Remember that you can click on images to see larger versions, and you will need to do so on most of the images presented here today.

Buttons that used to be on the search results page are now missing for no good reason.  I guess the eBay programmers thought that we didn't need a search box at the top of the screen and that we would rather hit the back button and start over.  They thought it would be nice to make it harder to toggle between "title only" and "title and description" by removing the option and making us click several times to find it in a hidden menu.

I was quite upset at first, especially during the hours that the search box was completely missing from the top of the page, as seen below. 

By January 4, the search box had returned.  I really think eBay opts some of us in knowing that we will alert them to what is wrong by complaining on the message board.  They read the complaints and slowly begin fixing what doesn't work right.  I would prefer not to be one of the guinea pigs, but perhaps someone at eBay is trying to help me write good content for this blog.

My main problem now is that the new search hangs and crashes my browser.  We have figured out that is the only site that has the new search.  A number of us have begun running searches on eBay Canada.  I change the currency to U.S. dollars, make sure the box for worldwide is checked, and run searches that load properly in the old familiar fashion.  Not only that, but I get to see all of the items that has been hiding from me.  I had forgotten that eBay changed several years back to where sellers on the international sites have to pay extra for exposure on I have been missing out!

While I pretty much hate the new search, it does have one very nifty feature.  We can click on sold items, and the results page shows all auctions and all fixed-price listings that have sold with no unsold items mixed in.  That part is awesome!

I ran a sold items search on the entire Books category and narrowed it down to children's books.  I sorted by highest price first and scrolled down the list.  I paused when I recognized a faded Nancy Drew book with dust jacket that had sold.  I had seen that book before.  I noted that the seller was located in a certain state.  Hmm....  Had I just spotted the selling ID of a certain buyer who has purchased hundreds of Nancy Drew books since summer?

I was intrigued and wanted to know the answer just to satisfy my curiosity.  I do have a little Nancy Drew in me, after all.  I brought up the buyer's feedback page and also looked at the seller's feedback page.  I began checking the books that this seller had sold up against the buyer's purchases.  I found a match, which proved that both the buyer and the seller are the same person.  While I was excited to prove a match, I was quite disturbed to see how the jacket had been touched up.

I created the following image that shows the dust jacket that the seller purchased alongside the same dust jacket that he sold.  The image at the left is the jacket as purchased, and the image at the right is the seller's image from when he sold the book.

I believe that the seller used pink marker to make the area of color lift near the center right look less noticeable.  The seller may have used blue marker in other locations, such as in the upper right corner, but he may have just edited the image to remove the flaws from the image.  So, I believe two different techniques were used to make the jacket appear to be nicer than what it actually was.

I have seen some shady behavior by different eBay sellers over the years, but this ranks as one of the worst.  I am actually a bit shocked that the seller is so blatantly editing images and touching up flaws with marker.  I spent quite a lot of time looking at this seller's listings.  I found a few cases of marker being used to cover flaws and other cases where the images were edited to make the books appear nicer.

I was able to match another book that the seller purchased to a book that he had sold.  In the below image, the jacket seen at the left is the one he sold.  The jacket to the right is a composite of two images of the book that he purchased.

Somehow, the spine crease disappeared in the seller's image of the jacket as did the tear that runs through "The" on the front panel.  The chip to the lower spine and rubbed area at the top spine are the same in both listings, proving that the images are of the same jacket.

The bottom line is to be careful when purchasing books on eBay.  Look for edited photographs and look for areas that have been touched up.  Make sure you use the "zoom" feature that eBay provides.  The touched up areas can only be seen by zooming in.

I have been given information that suggests that this seller has touched up even excellent condition dust jackets.  Those alterations will not be visible in the listings.  The jacket will have to be in hand and examined under a bright light in order to spot any touch-ups.  I also have reason to believe that this seller could be touching up the flaws of hardcover books that do not have dust jackets.

Always check the feedback of all sellers before you commit to a purchase.  eBay has a feature on the feedback page where you can click to see any negative and neutral feedback comments that have been left in the last 12 months.  A very useful site is  You can enter an eBay user's ID and have Toolhaus bring up all negative and neutral feedback comments received in the entire time the user has been on eBay. 

Also important is to leave a seller appropriate feedback should you ever fall victim to this type of situation.  That way, future potential buyers are forewarned. 

1 comment:

Homeschool Mom said...

Jen, I appreciate what you do for the book buyer community. I collect Nancy Drew and Dana Girls, but am in no way a sophisticated shopper. I just want a clean book from a non-smoking home. I would be a perfect victim of someone like you mention here. Thanks for looking out for us.