Live Help – Communication at eBay – Cornerstone of the Buyer Experience

This is a very long article, the subject is important and it involves my client, my business and eBay.

The crux of the situation is communications at eBay, how eBay strives to inspire the customers of eBay, (the sellers) to provide excellent customer service and communications. And why it is difficult for the customer (sellers) of eBay to take this request seriously when eBay itself can not seem to provide even basic communications to its customers.

As many of you know I run an eBay and blog/website design and consulting company –… In the course of events we work with many clients on eBay related issues, our clients look to us for answers, especially in the current state of ever present flux for eBay sellers.

Cornerstone LogoYesterday one of our clients, Cornerstone Commercial Supply, called to ask me why they could not list anything on eBay?

The rest of this story will be detailing my efforts to find an answer as to why they had been blocked from listing…

To tell the truth we still do not know, so first let me give you some background.

iBusinessLogic designed an eBay Store powered by Frooition for this established brick and mortar commercial flooring and hard surface care distributor. The are very pleased with our work. The folks at Cornerstone love the design and they really like the exposure this eBay store powered by Frooition and designed here in the USA has brought them from within the commercial carpet cleaning industry.

Cornerstone’s primary business is selling and servicing large truck mount carpet cleaning machines meant for commercial applications. In addition, they offer all of the cleaning agents, tools, fittings, hoses, mops and janitorial supplies needed for any independent or franchise carpet cleaning or janitorial service in Florida. Cornerstone services clients like Serv-Pro, Carpet Master and the like.

This is no mom & pop working out of a garage…

Cornerstone Commercial Supply

Cornerstone is exactly the kind of new seller eBay wants to attract. Cornerstone Supply sells branded merchandise from the finest suppliers in the industry and they have their own line of cleaning agents and supplies sold under the Cornerstone name.

The biggest drawback for them has been in trying to understand all of eBay’s road blocks in relation to bringing a new business into eBay. One of the biggest pain points for Cornerstone has been the limitations placed on their account due to feedback. Not poor feedback, but as a new seller, no feedback.

Without feedback an eBay Stores owner like Cornerstone Commercial Supply is limited to only offering Stores listings or auction listings, even though they have a confirmed PayPal account, they have a verified business address and they have been doing business in the same location for over 20 years. This company has financial references and supplier accounts all over the country, the owner and founder of Cornerstone Commercial Supply, Richard Carpenter is one of the leading figures in the commercial carpet cleaning industry and has been known for his expertise in the field for over 35 years.

It is difficult for Richard and his daughter Connie Carpenter (who runs the eBay business side) to understand why theyConnie of Cornerstone Commercial Supply must be limited by feedback, when Cornerstone Supply has given all buyers on and off eBay great service. They do not understand why they have not received many feedback to reflect that service even though they always leave positive feedback upon payment.

The system as it stands is a barrier to further sales for the company and when a company has invested in branding themselves with the eBay system by custom designing an eBay Store and filling it with good products that sell. Why should they be limited by feedback when the system for feedback is so controversial and when buyers simply just are hesitant to bother with the whole feedback concept?

In any case, lets get to the heart of the reason why Connie Carpenter first called me and then came to my office yesterday….

In addition to our eBay Store design, Connie and Richard decided to use our branded web based eBay listing management software to manage the eBay listings, re-listings and all of the online inventory for Cornerstone Commercial Supply.

Connie was attempting to list a few items and the software was returning an error code:

eBay Error: The item cannot be listed or modified. The title and/or description may contain improper words, or the listing or seller may be in violation of eBay policy.

Our first call was to my software developer, and while being very helpful, they had no indication as to why the Cornerstone eBay listings would return such an error. The best suggestion was to contact eBay to find out if a block had been placed on the account. We tried to reach eBay…

Skype or Phone

If Cornerstone had become a Powerseller by now we could have picked up the phone, but in this case we were left with eBay “Live Help”, the chat based help service. While “Live Help” is convenient and the people who man it are exceedingly polite, I have never gotten any meaningful help from the service.

This experience was no different.

Live Help Start Screen

online answers

A couple of tips… The Skype link on the contact us page leads back to a page selling Skype and has no visible way to contact anyone at eBay via Skype, either by chat or voice.

The online answers and email will be discussed later but lets just say it is a maze of inaccurate and out of date information, some of which will never relate to any question you may pose.

Forget the phone number unless you are a PowerSeller. Our only choice was to try “Live Chat”.

Live Chat

Excerpt from our “Live Chat”:

14:18:22 AgentVirginia W.
Hello, thanks for waiting and welcome to eBay Live Help! My name is Virginia. How may I help you?
14:18:37 AgentVirginia W.
Hi there. How may I help you today?
14:18:41 Customercornerstoneclean
We need to know if this account is blocked for selling and why?
14:19:08 Customercornerstoneclean
The selling account is cornerstoneclean
14:19:39 AgentVirginia W.
I can understand your concern in this situation. Let me check your account.
14:19:43 Customercornerstoneclean
We use a third party listing solutions provider – Auction Logic
14:20:11 Customercornerstoneclean
and are getting this error on our attempts to list items since yesterday:
14:20:13 Customercornerstoneclean
eBay Error: The item cannot be listed or modified. The title and/or description may contain improper words, or the listing or seller may be in violation of eBay policy.
14:20:29 Customercornerstoneclean
There is no keyword spam
14:20:40 Customercornerstoneclean
No linking in the listing
14:20:49 Customercornerstoneclean
No VERO issues
14:22:59 AgentVirginia W.
Thanks for waiting. I appreciate your patience in this matter.
14:23:14 AgentVirginia W.

I’ve checked your account and found that there is a restriction placed on your account by our Trust and Safety department.

eBay Help Pages

14:23:24 AgentVirginia W.
I won’t be able to explain the details of the restriction on your account but I’m sure our Trust and Safety team can address your concern. In this situation, what you can do is, please contact our Trust and Safety team. I’d be glad to provide you the link to contact them.
14:23:41 Customercornerstoneclean
Your kidding
14:24:12 Customercornerstoneclean

You cant tell us what we can do to resolve the problem?

14:25:59 AgentVirginia W.
I would love you, however we won’t able to check into this as currently such issues are handled by our Trust & Safety team.
14:26:19 AgentVirginia W.
I apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused you.
14:26:31 Customercornerstoneclean
And how long will it take for T&S to respond?
14:26:34 AgentVirginia W.
Would you like the link to contact them?
14:26:51 Customercornerstoneclean
and why did they not notify this eBay member directly of any concerns?
14:27:03 Customercornerstoneclean
14:27:24 AgentVirginia W.
Usually it takes 24 -72 hrs to respond.
14:27:29 AgentVirginia W.
14:28:01 AgentVirginia W.
To contact Trust and Safety department, please visit the link below and Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Email us” link:

Now, I have been around the block a few times, so I wisely checked the link provided by our friendly “Live Chat” representative Virginia… if anyone would like to follow it, you will clearly find there is no “Email Us” link at the bottom of the page. A “contact us” link simply leads back to the “Live Help” (image above) or standard email links which have nothing to do with Trust & Safety.

More Chat:

14:31:05 Customercornerstoneclean
Can you at least tell us if this is a serious violation?
14:31:28 Customercornerstoneclean
What can I tell my client to make them feel better about eBay now?
14:31:34 AgentVirginia W.
I know how you’re feeling right now.

14:32:34 AgentVirginia W.
No this is not serious violation. As once you contact the Trust & Safety team they will help you lift the restriction.
14:32:50 Customercornerstoneclean
That is helpful

Not a Serious violation – Yet they shut down the seller account without notifying the seller or offering any assistance as to how to get the restriction lifted.

14:33:24 AgentVirginia W.
I mean they will direct you to lift the restriction, be rest assured about the same.
14:34:04 AgentVirginia W.
Please do not worry, as this is important for us as well as member’s like you are an asset to eBay and we do not want to lose you.
14:34:05 Customercornerstoneclean
OK, they should allow you to tell us what it is, we could save 24 – 72 hours and make money on eBay in the process

14:34:53 Customercornerstonecleanom
We need the link again
14:35:03 AgentVirginia W.
I know however, we have different department to handle different types of issues.
14:35:04 Customercornerstonecleanom
the contact form only leads to live chat again
14:35:29 AgentVirginia W.
I’ll give the link again.
14:35:44 Customercornerstonecleanom

Here’s the link:
14:37:19 AgentVirginia W.
14:37:49 AgentVirginia W.
Please click on the Email Us link to email them.
14:38:27 Customercornerstonecleanom
Virginia, this link does not lead to trust & safety
14:39:20 AgentVirginia W.
All you need to do is click on “Email Us” link to email them.
14:39:44 Customercornerstonecleanom
The title of the page “Knowing the Rules for sellers?
14:40:28 Customercornerstonecleanom
Contact Us? not email us
14:40:54 Customercornerstonecleanom
Contact us, leads back to Skype, Chat Online, or online answers
14:41:10 Customercornerstonecleanom
Click start here for online answers or email
14:41:30 AgentVirginia W.
Yes. The Email path will lead to Trust & Safety. You need to click on Email Us at the bottom of the page.
14:41:35 Customercornerstonecleanom
and you get a email form for PayPal
14:42:20 AgentVirginia W.
In the above link please click on “Email Us” link at the bottom of the page.
14:42:45 AgentVirginia W.
I suggest you to visit the link from start. Please do not get confused.
14:42:49 Customercornerstonecleanom
14:43:07 Customercornerstonecleanom
How can anyone avoid gettying confused?
14:43:24 Customercornerstonecleanom
I have been dealing with eBay for over 10 years and I am constantly confused
14:43:35 Customercornerstonecleanom
And I am considered an expert in the field
14:44:15 Customercornerstonecleanom
There is no link at the bottom of the page which reads email us
14:44:25 AgentVirginia W.
I am resending the link please on Email Us link only at the bottom of the page.
14:44:45 AgentVirginia W.
14:45:20 AgentVirginia W.
The link is under the heading Contact Customer Support heading…
14:45:30 AgentVirginia W.
at the bottom of the page.
14:45:46 Customercornerstonecleanom

entirely different link, but thanks

14:46:05 AgentVirginia W.
You’re welcome.
14:46:25 AgentVirginia W.
Is there anything else I can help you with today?
14:47:23 Customercornerstonecleanom
Yes, tell someone what a silly deal this is, but hey, you guys know that

This is the page we needed to find the infamous link:

Trust & Safety Link

OK… is this good customer service?

It took us over 28 minutes and several attempts to get the proper link from “Live Help” to then simply have an opportunity to formulate and process an email to Trust & Safety. Why not automate an email to the seller from Trust and Safety when a seller is blocked from selling and speed up the entire communications process?

I have experience dealing with eBay since 1998, I am an Education Specialist, a multiple account PowerSeller, and eBay blogger. I can only imagine what would have happened if my client, or any other non-experienced seller were presented with this confusing, frustrating and confounding experience.

Now we wait and it has been over 24 hours without a reply, my client and eBay’s business customer is stuck without the ability to list any new items on eBay. The client and eBay’s customer can not serve their customers while we wait.

I can’t tell my client why, and eBay does not seem concerned…

  • What kind of DSR rating would Cornerstone Commercial Supply’s leave communication in this case if they were filing DSR’s on the eBay customer experience?
  • How can eBay criticize sellers across the board about communications when in fact eBay has no working communication system to serve it’s customers?
  • What does eBay suggest new sellers do to increase the feedback rate, so they will qualify to list items in fixed price? This client has been active on eBay for several months and only has 9 feedback. I know they treat each customer with very high quality customer service, what can eBay do to educate the buyers about the importance of feedback for sellers?
  • Would this seller have done better in the old system? i.e. are they disadvantaged in search because they have not yet attained PowerSeller status?
  • When a new customer of eBay works hard to do everything right, provide a branded store, provide great products and reasonable shipping, in a niche market which is not over crowded… How does eBay suggest they compete with eBay’s own rules?

I am aware this is a very long post, but the point bears repeating… eBay must do more to accommodate sellers and communicate with them. In business, when a supplier just shuts you off without cause or notice your natural choice is to find a new supplier. If eBay is the supplier, and they have shut down sellers (customers) with no cause or explanation…

What does eBay expect these customer to do?

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0 Responses to Live Help – Communication at eBay – Cornerstone of the Buyer Experience

  1. Patricia013 June 25, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    Well, Ebay is trying to change their business model and be more like Amazon….Amazon will send you a reminder to please give your seller feedback. I know, because I buy on there all the time. Perhaps your customer should open an Amazon store?

  2. Scott Pooler June 25, 2008 at 9:42 pm #


    Except Amazon does not accept the type of products this business offers, to my knowledge.

    We could open an Amazon Webstores account for the seller and stock his webstore with his own products and then import similar Amazon products for upsales… Unfortunately the investment has been made in eBay and we need to get this situation worked out before moving forward with any new initiatives.

    Thanks for your comment Patricia! Keep sending them!


  3. Henrietta June 25, 2008 at 11:15 pm #

    It is called the worms eye view. This is what small non PowerSellers deal with on a daily basis. Live helpless.

    I will bet you that the reply you receive to your email has nothing to do with the question you asked. The second reply will be totally different and will also have no bearing on your question. I have had four successive replies, over the space of a week and a half, all different, none addressing the problem.

    Being who you are you may get special treatment. We don’t.

    From personal experience, keep the email down to five words or less.

    I spent an hour and a half on the phone with PayPal help today querying an unauthorised charge on my PayPal Debit Card. Have not used it since February. No of course I don’t know who charged and what it was for, total mystery.

  4. John Blayz June 26, 2008 at 12:20 am #

    I feel your pain and the this is not only an issue for a seller with a need, it has issues with a buyer too. The need of eBay to upgrade their customer service is the “Gorilla in the Room” It only takes 1 call and you will see they are friendly gnomes. The will not harm, nor help you they are just doing a job to their best ability. That is the scary part, I know they do not have a clue either, LOL.

  5. Phantom*SF June 26, 2008 at 2:13 am #

    My goodness – what an extremely exhausting ordeal!
    Just glad it’s not me having to go through that, however
    I’ve had my share of that in the past as well – but luckily it’s
    been a while now.

    The reps indeed are all very friendly and helpful, as to their
    abilities and limitations on providing information on what they can or can not disclose. That in part is where the problem lies, they need reps from all areas and departments on the job to help customers. For an organization such as eBay it should not be so, that for example Trust and Safety is a 9-5 job and then good night.

    Specifically that department should be staffed with online help 24/7.

    In a way I feel sorry for all other reps who are surely trying to give their very best, but I’m fairly certain that they in part are either burnt out and / or simply overwhelmed. That’s where the mistakes come in, such as not being able to provide the correct link, as it was in this case. I’m sure it not only frustrates the customer, but in the end also the rep.

    On another note, it makes me wonder if these reps are still within the USA, or meanwhile outsourced to other countries!? –

    Of course I am now very curious to know, as to how this riddle will be solved. What great mysteries may Trust and Safety have in store for CornerStonesupply? And how many moons will come to pass, before the answer is revealed?


  6. Scott Pooler June 26, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    As of this morning – Approximately 40 hours post email to Trust and Safety – NO REPLY has been generated from eBay of any kind.

    My Client just reminded me of the considerable investment he has made in “His eBay” and he is patient but would like answers.

    In Richard Carpenters words… “If we did something wrong, we did not know what it was at the time and we will fix it when we know”. “Why won’t they tell us”?

    This is an exceedingly difficult situation to explain to a client, or to anyone. There is absolutely no process available to find an answer which will lead to a solution.

  7. Scott Pooler June 26, 2008 at 8:23 am #

    How would you fill out this survey? And, does anyone at eBay ever read the responses?

    Thank you for chatting. Please provide us with your feedback so we may serve you better. It will only take a moment of your time.

    1: For these first few questions, please rate your overall experience. Later, you will be asked questions about the specific eBay representative who assisted you.

    Overall, how would you rate this experience with eBay Customer Support?

    Very dissatisfied

    2: What was the main reason that you contacted eBay Customer Support?
    Reporting a problem/error with the site

    3: Was your original question to eBay Customer Support resolved?


    4: If not, please select the reason why.
    I didn’t feel the agent understood my question or concern

    I was referred back to Help pages
    I was referred back to Customer Support

    My issue requires more info/contact with Customer Support
    Rep didn’t answer all of my questions
    Referred to Safe Harbor or Billing chat
    Technical issue

    5: How satisfied were you with the wait time before the eBay representative joined the chat?


    6: Did the chat session encourage you to buy and/or sell on eBay?

    Our chat had no effect on my buying/selling habits

    7: How many times have you contacted eBay customer support regarding this issue?

    8: If there was one thing we could do to improve our “Live Chat” process, what would it be?


    9: Please, elaborate on your choice above.
    Allow the representative to answer questions and provide useful information.

    10: For this next set of questions, please rate the specific eBay representative who assisted you.

    Overall, how satisfied were you with this specific eBay representative’s service?

    Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied

    11: How satisfied were you with the wait time between interactions with the chat rep?


    12: How would you rate the following aspects of your chat with this eBay Customer Service Representative?

    The representative understood my question.


    13: The representative’s tone was friendly and professional.
    Definitely Yes

    14: The representative’s explanations and instructions were easy to understand.

    Definitely Not

    15: The responses felt personalized rather than canned or scripted.

    16: The representative addressed all of my concerns.

    Definitely Not

    17: The representative was knowledgeable about the subject.

    Definitely Not

    18: If there is one thing that the representative could have done to improve your experience, what would it be?

    Answer my main question completely
    Address all of my questions

    19: Please elaborate on your choice above.
    Trust & Safety issues with restrictions on accounts need immediate attention, not 24 hour delays and referral to another department. Also, representative gave a bad link three time to contact Trust & Safety, what help is that?

  8. Dave June 26, 2008 at 8:57 am #


    This is just the situation that I discussed at the “blogger” meeting at eBay Live. I told Brian Burke and the Trust & Safety rep (forgot who it was) “when action is taken against an account, there MUST be a way to communicate with eBay immediately. When eBay suspends or restricts someones account in many cases they are messing with someones livelyhood. The real fear is the “Black Hole of Trust & Safety”. eBay must enable this to be resolved immediately not in the next 24-72 hours.” Brian and the T&S rep acknowledged this and wrote it down on their notepads.

    Obviously, this is a problem that is confronting a significant number of users and one that eBay must act on and quickly!

  9. J. T. Byron June 26, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    The problem with eBay fixing their communication problems is that eBay will probably try to do it themselves. And as past performance proves, they usually make things worse.

    As we have seen in their attempt to improve seller-to-buyer communications, they have made more of a mess than they have fixed.

    My suggestion is that they hire an outside consulting firm that will analyze it properly and do it right. I also hope they will put the money and manpower behind it to impliment it properly. But that might be asking too much.

  10. John Blayz June 26, 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    I am going to make a bet that this is the reason for the violation…

    This video has a that is a violation of the links policy. If nothing else, it is a good candidate for the TnS shutdown


  11. Scott Pooler June 26, 2008 at 6:46 pm #


    Thanks… I wonder if a URL for a free video editing suite for mac is the real reason for shutting this seller down?

    If it is, and that video suite is not sold by or connected to this seller in any way, then they just have too much time to waste at Trust & Safety.

    Thanks for your tip!

    If it is as simple as that, we will certainly remove the video. – It would be nice to know…

    Getting closer to the 72 hour time limit…

  12. Henrietta June 27, 2008 at 2:15 am #

    Is there any possibility that this is related to the telephone number and email address on each listing and his About Me page? Soon to be prohibited.

    I know we do not have an actual implementation date beyond the ‘July’ mentioned in the May 19th announcement. Typical of the eBay way, however, you will recall TnS started removing digital delivery sales 8 days before the stated cut-off date of March 31st.

    It will be July in 4 days.

  13. Andrea 'Enthal June 28, 2008 at 10:02 am #

    And you thought that you were in real life.
    Instead you got sent into a Kafka novel.

    Remember the opening credits of the British TV series “The Prisoner”?

    Where am I?
    In the village.
    Who is Number One?
    You are Number 6.
    I am not a number, I am a free man.

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