Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ebay, World's Biggest Promoter of Fraud Continues to Do Nothing Real to Stop It

EBay, the world's number one online auction venue, has also been called other things. At one point in their colorful history, some said that they were also the world's leader in trafficking non-electronic "physical" pornography, including child porn, snuff films and the like, third-world versions beyond description, and they even got credit at one time for helping many gay men meet other like-minded persons through their oh-so-gay-friendly site. Well, they may also be the all-time biggest promoter of fraud as well, but with a resume like theirs, what's the big deal?

BUT WAIT! Let's be fair to eBay, they are now (finally) trying to stamp out fraud, under the visionary leadership of CEO John Donahoe, so they appropriately have a new policy. No, you won't find mention of it on their site because it's one of a legion of "secret" policies that now go far beyond merely governing eBay. Due mainly to their CEO's legendary lack of wisdom, as well as his knack for over-micro-managing EVERYTHING, each long day in the eBay Empire brings a host of new and (naturally) unanticipated problems. As they attempt to violate every last vestige of common sense and human nature even, the frustration only increases on all fronts. Myriad details beyond anyone's comprehension now befuddle their mostly inept reps, as they atempt each day to navigate through a mine-field of insanity. This insanity comes right from the top, and manages to twist-up everyone all the way down.

In fact, all the way down to their SELLERS. No, this is not a joke, in fact, one couldn't make this up if they tried (Donahoe doesn't have to try, delusional thinking is completely natural to him). You see, the cumulative weight of what is now several years of continuous disregard for human nature, coupled with what seems to be an Ivory Tower, Utopian (Socialist) agenda, has created a Monster that constantly demands more attention. No longer a largely self-regulating "community", eBay has become a "State", and the state of affairs is truly appalling. Each day, the pathetic eBay employee drags him/herself to work to face yet more insanity. Micro-managed to the point where all that is left is something like a hostile robot. As for the demoralized employees whose job it is to interact with the loathsome Seller, their job is the hardest of all. They sit in between two diametrically opposed worlds. On one side is the famously entrepreneurial and fiercely independent full-time eBay Seller, and on the other, Satan himself! Of course, the poor robot obediently repeats his master's mantra, "Freedom is Slavery!" But somehow, the job must get done.

If you're still with me, here's Satan's (aka John Donahoe) latest marching orders. "Thou shalt saddle the loathsome Seller with yet another heavy fetter..." "But Master, these sellers already have such a heavy burden from all the other horrible stuff you've thrown at them!" "Silence, DOG! My agenda is far beyond your feeble ability to comprehend. The miserable Seller must now help shoulder the incredible burden of controlling fraud in our corrupt company!" "But Master, how can THEY do anything, since compared to us, they are mere ants, who deserve to be crushed?" "Apparently you haven't been paying attention! The media is on to us, they know we promote porno, prostitution, deviance, hatred AND fraud! We've blamed perverts, pushed aside the silly Nazi's, but ALWAYS we get mileage out of everyone! This time, it's fraud. The miserable Seller will step up to the plate, and soon, you will see, eBay shall have no liability! We will even begin to accumulate data on these worthless beasts! Before you know it, we will be completely prepared for the next scandal. The authorities will come to us, and we will hand them their Victim! The miserable Seller will not last long. Soon, they will all finally get the Message." "Ah Master, you are SO wise! But if I may be so bold...what will happen to eBay when we finally kill off all the Seller-Vermin?" "Good question, but I don't plan on being around when that happens. Perhaps you are ambitious, perhaps you would like a promotion? Just keep the faith my little fool, all will go as planned...So Mote It Be!"

Can this nightmare be true? Back to reality. In fact, Ebay really is asking a lot of the Seller. Here's what they're demanding of late, or else, face suspension. Sellers (unless they hail from China) will not list items that are too "cheap". Without getting into how ridiculous the notion of "cheap" is, let's look at eBay's rationale. They say (for example) that if a person sells an item for under a dollar, that Seller is PROMOTING fraud, because fraudsters always build feedback using "cheap" purchases, before launching as a seller, who will then promptly defraud the public. Imagine being a part of that! And that strong language might come back to get the poor seller who doesn't quite see what may be really going on, as insane as it is. eBay further classifies this monstrous crime as "feedback manipulation/abuse" (since even a legit seller's own feedback can become skewed with "non-representative" transactions), and on and on it goes.

So, you could theoretically sell an item for 99 cents, and immediately be guilty of two crimes. Of course, they threaten suspension, and they might well love to have good records of the many poor sellers they shut down, in case anything happens. And it may not be that a seller would be turned in as a "suspect" of some kind, that might be a stretch, but rather, eBay would like to point to "something" (anything!) that they're doing that supposedly combats the rampant fraud on their site. There is the motive.

But can any rational person accept eBay's stated reasoning for their actions, especially in consideration of the alternatives?

Alternatives? Yes. But more on that below. To begin with, is it even "wise" to have the Seller worrying about selling an item too "cheap"? This leads to another problem (on eBay, every problem they create leads to more problems): Is the "true auction" now history? It can be argued that the Seller who dares to start his auction at a penny, and is OK with whatever the final outcome is, would now risk SUSPENSION due to his inability to predict the final outcome of the auction! Another dimension to this hasn't been mentioned yet, but eBay actually refuses to state an official dollar "threshold" for what might be allowable, or can we say, "not too cheap". This goes along perfectly with the fact that this diabolical policy is secret, and selectively applied to begin with! How can they tell you what "too cheap" is, when the whole purpose is to arbitrarily control Sellers who don't fit into their future vision, of the New and Better Amazon, that eBay has been desperate to become?

At a minimum, from the standpoint of simple justice, this is an unfair burden to place upon the seller.

Objection! "Why can't you just tow the line? Do you have to sell something for a buck? Can't you see, you're promoting fraud!" Well, let's just say for the sake of argument that "cheap" items do help promote fraud, since the potential fraudster intentionally goes looking for "cheap" items to build feedback on, which will be abused shortly, as they begin to sell items with no intent to deliver. This is where the "alternative" comes in. Rather than asking sellers to turn their worlds up-side-down, shouldn't eBay actually DO something that really makes sense instead?

Ebay enjoys a tremendous amount of data, at their finger-tips, about most of what goes on in the world of eBay. They already have solid "profile" info on real-world fraudsters that they have accumulated, and likely defines 99% of the problem. One of their programmers can easily put together a "net" that identifies potential fraudsters before they can act. Further, other behaviors of potentially fraudulent sellers that have been identified can be used to continually monitor any changes in the behavior of those on te suspect list, as generated by the "net" mentioned above. Too "theoretical"? No, it's common sense, which is probably why it isn't done over at the Evil Empire of Ebay. They would rather screw over honest long-time sellers, while allowing overseas sellers carte blanc.

Real examples. If for example, eBay already knows that potential fraudsters utilize "cheap" feedback, then "cheap" item buyers are automatically on a suspect list. If for example, eBay has data suggesting that the fraudster generally wants "x" number of feedbacks in order to appear legit, then the cheap item buyer list from above is used to "watch" the suspects as they approach the known feedback target. If then the identified suspects begin to list items, as sellers, then you would think they would be well on their way to being stopped dead in their tracks. An obvious example here: The suspect who just turned seller suddenly begins selling higher-dollar items. Clearly, a risk. Or, is the seller operating from a known fraud haven? Add that to the risk level, etc.

In short, it is not only eBay's JOB to do "real" fraud deterrence, but they are also wonderfully equipped to do just that. Certainly, they can do a better job of it than their poor sellers! And that's so obvious, it begs the question, "What is REALLY going on with these corrupt eBay corporate criminals?"

Ah, let us keep thinking about that, because if we can crack that code, we might even be able to see what else is coming.

I'd enjoy your comments!

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