Chicken Little is Alive and Well – eBay Stores Fear Mongering/Marketing

Everything changes and yet oddly some things never change.  (yes, an old statement ringing true once again)…

It seems that every year about this time eBay chooses to make announcements which had heretofore been cloaked in secrecy.  Just recently the announcement was about a change to the eBay Stores format.  The eBay Stores format is becoming the eBay Stores “Experience”.

I say Halleluah! – It is about time the standard (off the ebay shelf) issue eBay store was updated to look like something designed post 1995.

I have no argument with eBay for this change or its implementation.  Everyone who owns an eBay Store has 45 days to make whatever changes are necessary to update their custom templates or 3rd party providers store design.  This seems like plenty of time in most cases and in the cases of the large third party certified eBay stores designers, the work has already been done.  eBay actually worked with these designers and developers to be sure that they were aware of the new standard (yeah, I know – now THAT’S a change, right?).  In any case the look will be new but there is absolutely no need to panic.

Yet Panic is what some want to instill…

The Sky Is Not Falling

The Sky Is Not Falling

The announcement from eBay had not yet made its way around the world when certain individuals and companies began to use it for their own purposes.  These marketers know that any announcement from eBay causes a certain amount of anxiety among eBay sellers even before they have had a chance to read its contents.  Voila – This is the time to strike and get peoples attention, grab them when the announcement has not yet been explained or analyzed (The virtual ink is not yet dry).  Once they have the attention of the sellers who are already on the edge of their seats from last years constant changes and announcements from eBay, they offer a way to solve “problems” that may not have ever existed or if they do exist, can be solved in relatively short order by the sellers current developer.

This is called Fear Marketing and it depends on the Chicken Little effect.

The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling!

Fear is a powerful emotion, it causes us humans to immediately seek an action to prevent injury. Fight or flight is the usual response to fear many psychologists will tell you, others say fear causes depression, doubt, anxiety.  One thing we know for sure is that fear gets peoples attention and when it is used in a marketing sense fear can be a useful tool.  Yet if used without the most deft hand in marketing, fear becomes a threat.

Do you buy from people who threaten you?

In the eBay world, lets be honest… a lot of the sellers who are successful on the platform do not have Harvard or even Community college business degrees.  eBay Sellers are generally honest, hard working, yet interesting people who for the most part simply started out making a few extra dollars on the site. With some added perseverance and maybe a little luck, a lot of these good people then made eBay selling a career or a secondary small business, others grew this start into a small empire.  This is what has been great about eBay and eCommerce in general, you don’t have to have a marketing degree or an MBA to make it out here, no one checks your resume when you are selling tie dye jeans.

The fact that the eBay community is a group of “regular folk” also makes it a target for unscrupulous and invasive marketers.  People who may have a bit more education or who have been taught tactics by those who have.  eBay sellers make for a very ripe audience for these people and the annual array of eBay announcements becomes a marketing smorgasbord for fear tactic marketers. We have all witnessed the discussion boards come alive when these announcements appear with motivated, worried, and sometimes desperate sellers looking for information and reassurance. This type of reaction, whether based upon fact or fiction leaves the door wide open for fear marketers.

Don’t fall for the fear tactics, don’t become a Chicken Little – The Sky, is not Falling

Do your own evaluation, check the facts, run your own business.  Don’t let an unsolicited email from a supposedly reputable source cause you to make a quick decision.  In the case of the eBay Stores Experience announcement, call your present designer or developer or call eBay before you jump into the unscrupulous fear mongering marketing spin of doubt and distrust.  In most cases these emails or letters or even podcasts will sound very authentic, as marketing spiels often do, but when you check the facts for yourself, you may find that no truth was contained in the statements.

Buyer Beware

Always check out what is said, drill down to the basic truth of every marketing message.  It all boils down to need and value, if you are reading a message about a service you did not need or have already paid for then there is little value is buying a similar service from a new source. Be sure you need help before you make the call to the fear marketer, because once you are on the line with them you will then be led down a trail of constant doubt until you sign the contract to get yourself out of trouble.  Trouble you never really knew you had, and maybe didn’t…

eBay Stores Experience – Things to Know

  • If you have a basic eBay store that was not custom designed by anyone, then you have nothing at all to fear, eBay has you covered.
  • If you have a custom designed eBay store by a company like Frooition or Diztinct – call them or check the website to find out what they have done to make you ready to go.
  • The new format looks fine, better than ever in fact – so go with the flow, your buyers will like this!
  • Check out Janelle Elms article about this topic.
  • Check out Dave White’s similar article on ECMRN
  • Don’t fall for fear tactics, not for this announcement or any other.  And let the company who sends them out know you do not appreciate the basic premise that you are too darn dumb to figure any of this out for yourself.
  • Full Disclosure – I am an eBay Stores Designer.  I am affiliated with Frooition in the UK and offer my clients the advantage of my services with their extraordinary technology.  I do not now, nor have I ever, used outright fear and intimidation to coax a client away from another provider.  I really don’t have the need for such tactics, we are too busy making our own clients happy!

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0 Responses to Chicken Little is Alive and Well – eBay Stores Fear Mongering/Marketing

  1. Henrietta January 15, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    Auntie May says “Class will always tell” and your impressively high class and ethical business approach is very clear in this article.

    Like many others I have a serious aversion to sensational and negative advertising. I believe it is poor marketing and extremely revealing as to the character of those who indulge in it. Not the image I want to project for my business at all.

    Chickens who spend too much time running around squawking often end up as chicken stew.

    Caveat pullus!

  2. Debbie Levitt January 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    You’re right as usual. But you know what I think is actually worse than using fear? I think lies are worse.

    I prefer truth.

  3. Debbie Levitt January 15, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    (sorry – I hit submit too early before…)

    I agree, but I think that lies are worse than fear. You can often get past fear, but if you have bad information (or no info) because of a lie, that’s a whole other story. I think if people just told the truth, things will work out. At least I like to think that truth and good intentions will conquer all.

    The sky is NOT falling, and the new eBay Stores are a definite upgrade. But one thing I don’t want to see people do is forget to ACT on their Stores. With so many people in a panic this week and today because they left taking paper payments out of listings until the last minute, don’t leave checking or changing your eBay Store to late March!

    Remember that design companies may be busy with all that’s going on (template changes, Stores changes), so contact them early so that your new Store or fixed Store can be scheduled. Don’t wait until mid-March since they may be very busy with all the other non-early birds (if we’re sticking with birdy puns!).

    Another thing to remind sellers is to check your contract with your designer. Depending upon what’s in there, a fix to your Store because your Store is breaking COULD be free. I run a design company a few people may have heard of, and our contract specifically says that if we design something that is against eBay rules at the time we did it, and eBay cracks down on it, we will fix it ASAP for free. If other designers have things like that in their terms, now’s a great time to invoke that clause!

    – Debbie 🙂

  4. Just A Thought January 15, 2009 at 10:56 pm #

    Call me a Chicken Little, but as I understand it, eBay isn’t so much -changing- anything as simply enforcing rules it’s always had on the books. Which to me means that if your Store design ‘broke’, then your designer did something that was not allowed in the first place, even tho it’s only now that eBay is ‘cracking down’.

    So perhaps the “Fear” is… if they didn’t design it wihin eBay spec in the first place… how do I know it’s within spec now, and that it’s not just that eBay’s “checking” isn’t totally up to snuff (like that’s never happened!).

    I’m not a designer – I can write just enough html to make my listings look decent and that’s about as far as I go. But I’d be concerned if I found out that my Store design has never really been ‘in compliance’. EVEN IF compliance was only a suggestion and not manditory when my Store was designed.

    And I very much agree with Debbie — too many folks leave these kinds of things to the last minute (try an eBay search – title and description- for “cash” and see how many hits you get!) and then expect third parties to come rushing to their aid as if they had no other client in the world to support.

    Perhaps a bit of fear, to get these slow-pokes to moving, is not such a bad thing after all.

    Or maybe that’s just what I get for thinking too much. 🙂

  5. Larry January 16, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    This is not the first time Debbie Leavit has had a public meltdown. It seems to be a habit.

    I am not a designer either just a businessman. The image I want for my business is a professional one and I dont think I would want to deal with that kind of vigilante attitude.

    Poor marketing, not a good image.

  6. Scott Pooler January 16, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    Hmmm, I don’t see anything in the official eBay statement about the NEW “ebay Stores Experience” that says it is just enforcing previous rules with no other changes. In fact the changes include many design elements…

    Including NEW Stores templates and enhancements (i.e. – NEW). No where in this statement is anything about compliance of previous rules mentioned. So where do we find the truth, if not from the eBay statement? Is eBay lying ? I don’t think so in this case. They seem to be just making a nice improvement.

    This is the statement:

    Hello…this is Nick Donelson from the Seller Experience Team. For years, eBay Stores have been a great tool for sellers looking to create their own brands on eBay. With this in mind, we’re excited to let you know about our launch of a new eBay Stores Experience. Improvements include new storefront templates and enhancements to Stores search results. These changes will improve the look of your Store, while enhancing your customers’ shopping experience.
    New Store templates: Sharp, professional designs and merchandising features to help you attract and retain more buyers.

    Enhanced search results:

    * Searches within your Store will include titles, categories, item specifics, and even similar keywords for more relevant results.
    * Shoppers will enjoy a more consistent, streamlined buying experience throughout the eBay site.

    Any time between now and the end of March 2009, you can preview how your Store will look in the new eBay Stores Experience. If you like what you see, you can opt in to the new experience right away. After March, all Stores will be automatically upgraded.

    Note to Store Sellers: We strongly encourage you to preview your eBay Store soon, especially if it is heavily customized. We’ve worked hard to ensure that most eBay Stores will upgrade seamlessly, with little or no modifications required by sellers. Some heavily-customized Stores may require more manual modifications, however. Through March, you can continue to use the current eBay Stores experience, while you optimize your Store to take full advantage of the new experience upgrade.

    So don’t wait for the automatic upgrade! Preview your Store’s new look now. If you like what you see, you can start taking advantage of the new features right away. For more details, please see our frequently asked questions.

    Best regards,
    Nick Donelson,
    Seller Experience

  7. Debbie Levitt January 16, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    Morning, Scott. Some of those details are in the FAQ that’s linked from that statement.

    New eBay Stores are a combination of cracking down on old rules and bringing in new rules.

    Site Interference is mentioned in eBay’s FAQ. New Stores more formally crack down on this. It was always against the rules, and eBay often looked the other way, so designers jumped on that. Without eBay cracking down on it more, it was a popular thing to do, and I think just about every major eBay design company out there did it! Hey, it was a red light everybody could get away with running. 🙂

    In November 2004, we got a phone call from eBay. They said that all of our eBay Stores were breaking a rule called Site Interference, and even though it was the middle of the holiday season, they were thinking about taking ALL our client’s Stores down. I went into a total panic. I had never heard of the rule, but all I knew was that I didn’t want to be in that position ever again. eBay decided to hold off (it was the holiday selling season!). So we made the decision to not build Stores that broke that rule on the assumption that at some point, eBay would decide to crack down on those Stores. I see this as the conclusion of that!

    Disallowing things like JavaScript is new, though not completely unforeseen. The Active Content Strategy, announced around eBay Live, was about disallowing certain types of coding from the eBay site, both in listings and in Stores. That hasn’t been rolled out yet, but I see the move in Stores as picking up a piece of that.

    That means that if Active Content does roll out this year (no date yet), people will see more restrictions about what types of coding they can do in listings. Again, it’s hard to say where they might go with that, but if eBay at some point says no JavaScript in listings, I would call that a “new” rule that designers and developers would have been able to well foresee.

    I’m assuming that Active Content will roll out at some point, and I’m erring on the side of caution. We’re making sure that our listings right now are as close to compliant as they can be, based on how the Active Content Strategy has been explained to me so far. Having to change Stores is annoying but not so bad. Leaving clients with hundreds or thousands of listings that’ll have to go poof is potentially very annoying! Plus, to take them down and put them back up will incur a lot of listing fees, and disrupt Recent Sales.

  8. Scott Pooler January 16, 2009 at 8:56 am #


    “We no longer support any customizations that conflict with our Site Interference Policy. Some typical conflicts include taking over the eBay global header or changing the appearance of the in-store search items list. If your design attempts to manipulate those elements, your store might not function properly, and you will need to remove the problematic customizations.

    To read more about our Site Interference Policy, see

    Most customizations done within the bounds of our policy should not break. However, if you use CSS or JavaScript extensively, you may need to optimize your code for the new eBay Stores Experience.”

    My store looks fine in preview…. Go Figure, I guess my design had none of these issues.

  9. Debbie Levitt January 16, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    You’re exactly right, that’s the chapter and verse. 🙂

    But people should STILL check the Site Interference policy and look at their Stores. Here is a bizarre reason why.

    Last year, when we didn’t know if eBay were going to formally embrace “advanced” Stores or outlaw them, we built three. We told those clients that it was against the rules, and if eBay cracks down, we’d have to charge to change it.

    But the interesting thing is that if you preview those Stores in the new Stores experience, they don’t break. But they ARE advanced Stores, and they are not compliant with Site Interference! I think they all got changed yesterday, so we’re done. 🙂

    I like to think that we wrote the code so well that they stand up to the preview. 🙂 Some companies evidently reverse-engineered some code eBay had on the page, and then overwrote it. eBay is stripping that out. When we wrote our “advanced” coding, we looked at eBay’s CSS and made sure we overwrote nearly zero of it. So our code is barely being stripped out, and with most of it still in there, it looks like a good “advanced” Store.

    You’re raising a great point. Just because your Store doesn’t look broken in the preview doesn’t mean it’s compliant.

  10. Henrietta January 16, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    I am amazed that you had never heard of the site interference rule Debbie, it has been around for a very long time.

    Are you an eBay seller?

  11. Debbie Levitt January 16, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    If this is THE Henrietta, then you know me. 🙂

    As I said in an earlier comment here, I was made aware of the Site Interference rule in November 2004. We then made sure our Stores were compliant.

    Some sellers would ask us to build more “Advanced” Stores that we felt were not compliant. We talked most of them out of it, even when selling them those would have meant more money for us. A couple insisted on it anyway, and not knowing if eBay were going to decide to allow “Advanced” Stores, we did a couple for sellers who insisted. 🙂

    So yes, I know about it. I’ve blogged about it for years. Spoke about it at eBay Live for years. And even printed the Site Interference rule in the company brochures I had done in May 2008.

    I tried to be a poster child for the rule. 🙂 And I still am since I think removing Site Interference from listings could be on eBay’s road map at some point!

  12. Henrietta January 16, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    I am certainly not the only Henrietta but I am the 200 West Main and Red Ink Diary one and ex-eBay seller Howmanyhorses.

    I misread the date in your post, did not see 04 & assumed 08 which is why I was surprised.

    I wondered if you were an active eBay seller yourself or if you limit yourself to consultancy and design?

  13. Debbie Levitt January 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    Hey, H. Actually, I started buying and selling on eBay in April 1998! It was mostly casual. But in around 2003, my then-boyfriend and I invested in some merchandise, and were selling fairly seriously (outside of my As Was work).

    By the time we got to around a score of 600 feedbacks (100% positive!), the relationship was stressful, competition was growing, and As Was biz had really picked up. So we ended up closing shop.

    I still sell casually and randomly. In fact, I just sold a $2800 bicycle a few weeks ago. It’s really neat. It has an electric motor you can recharge, so it’s like part scooter, part bike. I was listing them on behalf of a store in Tucson, AZ that carries them. I since took them down, so if you want those bikes, you’ll have to call Bikes Electric in Tucson. 🙂

    I started the design/consulting/marketing company in 1995. My first eBay client was in early 2001. A local camera store for whom I did their website asked if I knew anything about this eBay thing… could they do well selling new and used cameras online? Sure! I explained eBay wasn’t just a garage sale anymore. 🙂 I designed their listings (they actually still use most of my original layout, ugh!), About Me, trained their staff, set them up with software, the whole thing.

    You’d know them as cametaauctions [], who now have over 300,000 feedbacks. In their first year, they went from never selling on eBay to selling over $1M per MONTH. So I figured I was on to something, and shifted my company focus to working with eBay sellers.

    So that’s been my main thing and my constant. But I am a big eBay shopper, and nowadays, an occasional seller. Too busy with the As Was thing and some cool new side projects to sell more seriously online.

    But thanks for asking! Apologies to Scott for the content and it being a bit off-topic, but I was asked by the Priestess herself!

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