As many eBay sellers know by now, several weeks ago the listing site Auctiva decided, rather suddenly, to start charging for their formerly free services. I started using Auctiva in early 2008, and found it a very useful way to list my items on eBay. And free was good, especially since I had started a new store, KatyDids Cards (the focus of this blog) and wasn’t sure how well it would do at first. So a free listing service seemed like a good idea while I got my feet wet again.
The templates were nice, although I picked one that was very simple, as I like to let the item I am selling do most of the talking. What I really liked was the image hosting, the click-to-enlarge feature for images, and the scheduled listing. Those things were very nice indeed. So I stayed, and also started an account with my other store, VirtualAntiques, from which I have been selling postcards and ephemera on and off since 1998. Setting up the various “profiles” took some time, but once I got it figured out, things went smoothly.
I did find that from time to time Auctiva’s website would be down, or slow. But I took that in stride and didn’t complain. I was rather shocked at the whole Malware incident this past February, (see this link on AuctionBytes for more info on that), but didn’t suffer any major damage to my system (just lost time and listings), so let it go.
But the recent price changes were the last straw for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Auctiva needing to charge for their service, I do understand that. I honestly never really understood how they were able to offer their service for free (see this link for a ColderICE blog entry about how Auctiva was Round Tripping eBay’s links) but wasn’t going to worry about it. I should have known, you get what you pay for in the long run.
So, there’s this sudden announcement that Auctiva is going to start charging us for listings. Start charging us for photo hosting. And the part that really got me upset, they were proposing to start charging us a Final Value Fee for each listing that sold that we had listed through their service. Ok, I can see a listing fee. I can see an image hosting fee. But to reach into my pocket and take a percentage of my sale? I don’t think so. And to top it all off, these changes were going to take place in 30 days. Whoa!
Now even eBay gives sellers time to adjust to major changes that they make. And we all know that eBay can sometimes not take sellers wishes into account when making changes. But Auctiva didn’t bother to float these ideas to focus groups, they just boom, told us we had 30 days to pick a payment plan and get ourselves sorted out. My initial reaction was anger and frustration. I felt threatened, stampeded, and anxious. When I looked at the calculator they initially set up, it seemed as if my current usage was going to cost anywhere between $70 to $120 per month. Quite a change from free! I immediately started casting about for alternatives, looked at Vendio, but found their service too expensive for me too (later the CEO of Auctiva said he based his initial payment plans on those being used by Vendio.) I then looked at InkFrog, which seemed like it would work well for me. A flat rate of $9.95 per month, and I could use both my eBay user names through the same account!
However, the prospect of having to move over 1,000 listings to another service in the space of 30 days or less was incredibly daunting. It would have meant manually revising at least 33 listings per day, not to mention moving all the photos associated with those listings (thank goodness I still have them archived!) The thought of getting it all done in time was just overwhelming, and I know I wasn’t the only one. The forums on Auctiva and eBay were abuzz with users who were protesting the proposed changes. The Twitterverse was atweet with unhappy users. The eBay seller presence on the Internet just shouted with dismay.
Then the changes started coming out of Auctiva. At one point, they offered an 18 month price lock-in at $10, but only if you paid the money up front. Then they offered several tiered levels. It seemed as if the price levels being offered changed at least once a day. Reports came in from people who tried to close their accounts, and when they did, a screen popped up offering them a “special rate” of $10 flat per month. People (like me) got unsolicited emails from Auctiva Support offering them higher rates (they offered me a rate of $25 per month, based on my usage.) When people started posting on Auctiva’s forums about these special offers, the messages were deleted. After a certain point I was blocked from posting on their forums, I guess because I called their CEO Jeff greedy, and he didn’t like that.
During all the online discussion, at one point Jeff began to reply to the messages being posted in the eBay Seller Central forum. He posted a number of rather unprofessional messages, including one where he referred to the people who run InkFrog as “a couple of guys working out of their garage.” Now I went looking for that message yesterday, and eBay has scrubbed it off their board, interestingly enough. But enough of us saw it, and referred to it later, so it’s entered the zeitegeist for good now. I think it was those comments, made by the CEO of a company, that made me decide I really was leaving and not going back. I found them unprofessional and unbecoming. In fact the way the whole thing has been handled really destroyed any trust I might have had in the management of the company.
So I bit the bullet, signed up with InkFrog, and began the process of moving my listings. Bless them, they created a tool that moved all my images in all my eBay listings (active and inactive), so I no longer had to have my pictures hosted on Auctiva. And they’ve also created a template stripper that takes out all the Auctiva HTML from listings, which is very usefull. You still have to revise your listings afterwards, but it makes things easier by far. And all along, my interactions with the InkFrog staff have been pleasant and professional (except when we’re swapping jokes), and they have answered my questions quickly and with excellent info. InkFrog has locked in their price levels for at least three years (as long as you sign up before December 31st.) Using their service is easy, I made the transition with little to no trouble at all. In fact, I prefer the way they do things to Auctiva now, much easier in some respects. I’ve experimented with their third party insurance and like it, and now I’m even looking at opening my own eCommerce site through their buyitsellit site!
So I guess I ought to send out a “thank you” to the management of Auctiva, because if they hadn’t put me through the wringer they way they did, I never would have left and found an even better way to do things. So thanks Jeff! Best of luck to ya…