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eBay - So Unique - Propagandist Oxymoron
A message by John Donahoe eBay's President & CEO claims to be 'so unique', for believing people are basically good? Obviously needs tuition in logic and English.
On October 5th 2010, we happened to look at the index page of as opposed to It's not because we enjoy looking on eBay, but because we have to waste hours of valuable time protecting our IP rights from dishonest eBay sellers, and eBay is so anal, we cannot rely on finding any particular item on any one national eBay site, so we have to keep switching.
Our first reaction was to laugh at the basic oxymoron committed by eBay's CEO in this naive piece of propaganda.
After 15 years, eBay still believe people are basically good. Obviously a slow learner, and somewhat naive!

eBay.Com Welcome Page Message from John Donahoe eBay's President & CEO
This message was, for some strange reason, published as an image rather than text:

Dear eBay shoppers.
After 15 years, we still believe in our founding philosophy: people are basically good. After all, how else could perfect strangers successfully trade with one another millions of times a day? This is what makes eBay so unique. But we also know things don't always go right. That's why we created eBay Buyer Protection. It's our way of saying, "We've got you covered."

eBay Buyer Protection
Covers your purchase price plus original shipping.

Here's how eBay Buyer Protection works:
Fast - Solve problems quickly with our customer support.
Easy - We'll work with the seller to make it right.
Free - It's included with your eBay purchases.
Click here to see full details for eBay Buyer Protection.
On behalf of our employees and 25 million eBay sellers around the world, thanks for shopping with us!
(signed) John Donahoe President & CEO, eBay Inc.

What's Wrong?
Just about everything!

  • To start with, we mistrust the intellect and intelligence of anybody who can say "so unique". This is a well known oxymoron, a thing is either unique or it is not unique, it cannot be very unique, quite unique, or so unique.

  • The salutation "Dear eBay shoppers". There was only one of me viewing this message, so "shopper" would have been more appropriate than "shoppers". Perhaps I'm being pedantic, or perhaps J.D. is trying to make me feel part of a group or family, rather than one individual. Most people web-surf singly, but perhaps acknowledging this fact might suggest the viewer is a loner (=loser). Is this a subtle aspect of this eBay propaganda piece?

  • Shopper(s). No, I do not shop on eBay. I detest the cynical manipulative way it is run. The original concept was simple but good, using new technology to enable and facilitate peer-to-peer trade, including niche products and services. I mainly view eBay to monitor and control the blatant abuse of our high quality copyright photographs. I resent the exposure to moron-targeted adverts, especially the animated ones. I do like Google,though.

  • "People are basically good". I suppose there is a big clue in the use of the word basically, which appears to be inserted to overturn the meaning. I do not know what religious beliefs Pierre Omidyar and John Donahoe have, but the Christian Bible quotes Christ as saying "There is none good but One, that is, God" (Luke 18:19). I once stated to our Yorkshire Bank manager, Bill Carter an opinion that most people were honest. He disagreed strongly, having learnt in his early banking days that everybody has their price. If eBay really believed that people are basically good, there would have been no need for a feedback system. In any case whether people are basically good or bad is a philosophical argument which has long been debated, but never decided.

  • Perfect strangers? Is he suggesting that all eBayers are not only good, but perfect? Does he mean complete strangers? Is this another subtle piece of persuasion and propaganda?

  • After all, how else could perfect strangers successfully trade with one another...
    Who says all these trades are successful? Read the eBay and other forums where millions of people complain about being ripped off on or by eBay.
    This rhetorical question infers the correctness of its own pre-stated answer. The true answer is, by having a feedback system, complaints systems, fraud reporting systems, etc.
  • This is what makes eBay so unique. No, it's because eBay bought out all of its major competitors, and probably indulged in some unethical anti-competitive pricing along the way. If eBay is in a unique position, it is because it has the biggest piece of market share. For any auction house, this is very important.

  • But we also know things don't always go right.
    Is this an admission that many people are bad? Surely good people can sort things out between themselves if it's just a simple case of something not quite going right.

  • That's why we created eBay Buyer Protection.
    No, its probably so eBay could stay in business, it needed some way to handle all the complaints it would not get if most people really were good.

  • It's our way of saying, "We've got you covered."
    What, like in a Wild West Shoot-Out, you mean? eBay will keep shooting at the baddies while the innocent passers-by get to safety.

    Covers your purchase price plus original shipping.
    But only if you adhere strictly to all the rules and procedures, at the right time, in the right order. Terms and Conditions apply. Read the small print carefully.

  • Here's how eBay Buyer Protection works:
    Followed by three "selling points", without any actual explanation of how it works.

  • Covers your purchase price plus original shipping.
    Perhaps, if you are lucky, but what does it exclude, return shipping costs, legal fees, personal time?

  • Fast - Solve problems quickly with our customer support.
    From what we have read in forums, people have to persist and wait to get anything done.

  • Easy - We'll work with the seller to make it right.
    No, they simply copy the seller into correspondence, and ask them to respond, and in any case, this in itself does not make it easy.

  • Free - It's included with your eBay purchases.
    A self-contradictory statement. It is not free, you are having to pay for it, because sellers have to include eBay fees, "free" shipping, mandatory PayPal fees, in their prices, but yes, the cost of this protection is included in the price you have to pay.

  • Click here to see full details for eBay Buyer Protection.
    Find out how much small print there is. In addition to reading the eBay Buyer Protection page, you need to read the "contact the seller first" page, then the "item hasn't arrived" page, then the (or) isn't as described page, then the "Terms and Conditions of eBay Buyer Protection/Full Details" page, which includes "Introducing eBay Buyer Protection eBay Buyer Protection Policy Conditions under which a case can be filed Exclusions from eBay Buyer Protection Buyer eligibility and other restrictions Fraudulent charges not covered Resolution of cases How sellers may be protected from losing a case Appeals Reimbursements from sellers Holds Correcting mistakes in payments to buyers or sellers Relationship between eBay Buyer Protection and other resolution methods PayPal Buyer Protection Chargebacks What happens if a buyer believes an item is not authentic? Additional information" (Please read this policy carefully, because it governs how we resolve transaction disputes between buyers and sellers.), then the "eligible payment methods" page.
    After all that, it's probably different if you are not using resident in the USA, etc.

We Rest Our Case
But only because it's getting late...

And One Last Thing...
We just started one sentence with "But" and another next with "And". having been taught from a very early age to avoid starting sentences with and or but, but we noticed that John Donahoe's fourth sentence started with "But", and couldn't resist commenting on it. Of course, it is not necessarily wrong, but it's not good style either, and reveals a certain weakness in logical connectivity.

How eBay Surrendered Its 'Religion'
As we were researching this page, we noticed this article on

Here's an extraordinary video of eBay CEO John Donahoe bragging about how the company has sidelined what was once a core competency: Online auctions. Why solve a hard business problem when you can run away from it?
"We thought auctions were a religion," Donahoe says in the video excerpt above. "Auctions are nothing more than a format." Writes Ina Steiner of AuctionBytes, where you can find the full video: "This is a rather amazing statement for the head of eBay to say, given that auctions are such an important differentiator" for the company.
Indeed, but they're also a pain in the neck: eBay's auctions are famously a favorite playground for fraudsters and scammers and occasions for heated disputes between even legitimate buyers and sellers. Multiply those headaches across millions of users, and you can understand why the company's MBA CEOs first Meg Whitman, now Donahoe have decided to shift the company's focus elsewhere. Whitman pushed eBay into sales of new goods while jacking up auction fees; Donahoe has emphasized the growth potential of PayPal, as well as bulk sales from partners like
But solving tough problems is, ultimately, the best way for a business to protect its profits from competitors. Take, for example, PayPal, the acquisition that has become eBay's crown jewel. The company beat back rival startups as well as huge competitors like Citibank above all else on the strength of its relentless approach to combatting fraud, co-founder Max Levchin explained in the book Founders at Work:
The financial industry people understood the risk, but they weren't willing to do the sort of stuff we did... I remember all these companies announcing that they were going out of business and they expected PayPal to go out of business soon too, because the fraud numbers were so staggering they could not see anyone handling this sort of thing.
Levchin ultimately solved the fraud problem with a combination of human investigators, and computer algorithms to funnel select cases to those investigators. He eventually decided PayPal was a "security company pretending to be a financial services company." It's possible Donahoe realizes that eBay is, likewise, a security company pretending to be a retail services company; he has talked about revitalizing the core of the company and focusing on small sellers. But when he brags to a retail conference about taking auctions to 25 percent of eBay business from 80 percent, it sends the signal that eBay is retreating from his company's central lucrative challenge rather than attacking it. And who wants to bet on a quitter?

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