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Mon, Nov 05, 2001 - Page 21 News List

Complaints arise regarding eBay's `Checkout' feature

BLOOMBERG , SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

EBay Inc, the largest Internet auctioneer, is working to address complaints about a new feature that has some sellers saying they're going to start using other auction Web sites.

EBay this week made modifications to its "Checkout" feature, which was added to its site last week and so far has drawn criticism from more than 2,000 sellers. EBay will make other changes to the feature, which was implemented to give buyers and sellers a standard way to exchange information about payments and shipping, spokesman Kevin Pursglove said.

Sellers have started a petition drive against the feature, saying the function is confusing buyers and is being forced upon them. Yahoo Inc's auction site and BidBay.com Inc and Epier Inc, said they've experienced listing gains since Checkout was implemented Oct. 23.

"They've jerked my chain one too many times and this dog just isn't into it anymore," said Dot Gruber, a 36-year-old New Jersey resident who placed as many as 140 items up for auction a week on eBay and paid the San Jose, California-based company an average of US$200 a month in fees. She said she has moved those listings over to Yahoo's site.

EBay releases listing statistics on a quarterly basis and wouldn't say if sellers are departing for other sites. Pursglove said the company has a good track record of working with users to modify heavily criticized features, including the introduction of its automobile sales site and its fixed-price sealing function.

"We do not want any eBay user to feel so frustrated that they would take their business elsewhere," Pursglove said.

"Overall the checkout process is a good idea and in the end it is going to benefit buyers and sellers. But clearly we needed to make some changes."

EBay, which gets most of its revenue from listing and other fees it charges sellers, said Checkout grew out of feedback from buyers who said the closing process was sometimes confusing and inconsistent.

Prior to Checkout's implementation, buyers and sellers would handle settlement arrangements by e-mail, including information on payments, shipping costs and addresses. EBay designed a page that can pop up when the auction ends, querying buyers on shipping information and providing payment and seller data.

Sellers can opt to use Checkout or continue to settle transactions through their previous e-mail routine. Sellers say some problems occur because a large link to Checkout appears at the close of auctions, even if sellers aren't using the feature.

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