Trust and eBay – a little Friday fun… or the tale of eBay’s biggest seller…

March 19, 2010

ChannelAdvisor ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

I was working on the second instalment to our eBay changes series around the trust changes they are making.  I believe eBay is making big strides in trust and you’ll see those in that piece later today.

But I was also reminded of something that I’ve been meaning to write about.  I’m a pretty data-driven guy in case you haven’t noticed 😉 and one thing I keep an eye on is the top sellers (by GMV) on eBay. It’s interesting to see who is breaking into the top 10, 100, 200, 1000 and who is on the decline.

About three years ago, I noticed there is consistently a VERY large seller that does well over $15m/m in sales.  Pretty impressive eh?  It goes without saying that they are a Top Rated Seller of course:

Allow me to introduce you to…eBay’s largest seller who is ALSO the future Mayor of NY! (and maybe President)

eBay’s largest seller is (drum roll please): christopher1428!  who goes by the moniker Chris Riggs for Mayor

Not what you were expecting, eh? You thought I was going to say or maybe a big auto dealer.  Nope.  Well, let me walk you through what is going on here and I promise you, it will blow your mind.

Chris consistently keeps about 200 listings live on eBay in his store at the $200-600 range which is probably what this art actually trades at in the real world.  The genius move is Chris keeps 5-10 listings running of the same stuff he’s selling at lower prices in the $10-30m range.  For example:

  • Here’s a green drizzle piece. This can be yours for $21m
  • Here’s more of a comic kind of piece for… $21m (I bet you can get a bulk discount if you buy both)

You get the idea.

Now of course, if someone is going to goof off on eBay, they look for expensive stuff and buy it, and don’t pay.  I can 99.999999999% guarantee you that chris has never sold a $21m painting (meaning someone paid), but on eBay it’s a regular occurrence for someone to ‘commit to buy’ one of these.

The UPIs are probably a pain for chris, but it does seem to drive a ton of traffic.  A TON of traffic.

This has been going on for years….

I first noticed this (because of the top seller reports I maintain) that this wasn’t really above board back in 2005 and thought it would be interesting to watch and see when/if eBay put a stop to it.  Since then we’ve seen entire eBay regimes come and go, the feedback system changed constantly and new programs to raise the bar.  We now have a money back guarantee and lots of other strides.  But here’s Chris, for 5 years now selling $21m paintings that nobody pays for.  There’s also a fair amount of blatant keyword spamming that he does, but I won’t go into that.

My favourite part is that on many of the photos, Chris stealthily adds pictures that at first seem relevant (e.g. the first will be a close up), but then they degrade into party pictures and usually Chris or his friends are giving the finger.  I’m sure after this eBay will take action, so I want to preserve some of these for posterity.

I’ve often wondered if this started out as a dare or a gag and they were shocked that a) the items weren’t taken down and b) that people buy this stuff.

Whenever you see the top rated seller flag, that’s me censoring out something in the photo you should go to eBay to see: (click these to enlarge) – remember, these are from LIVE eBay Listings! (as of 3/19/10)

(This last one is my favourite as it doesn’t even have Chris in it (maybe that’s his art back there), but check out the T-shirt on the guy on the left – the auction doesn’t state if this offer is part of the auction or not – it seems to be $20 extra.)

Phew, that’s enough of that – if you want more, Chris has a vibrant myspace page here.

What’s your point?

As long as this kind of stuff is happening on eBay (and believe me, this is far from an isolated incident), eBay won’t officially have solved their trust problems.  All of the other changes are good and positive forward momentum, but they are lipstick on a pig (as we say here in NC) when you have flagrant things like this going on right under eBay’s nose for the last 5+ yrs.

Part of me already regrets posting this as I’m sure this one canary in the coal mine will be killed.  Don’t depsair, I have plenty more where this came from – unfortunately not as flashy as Chris though.

SeekingAlpha disclosure – I am long Google and Amazon.  eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor.