Do marketplaces do enough to recompense sellers when there’s a glitch?

On Tuesday evening, we think for about an hour, Amazon UK experienced a glitch that meant that shoppers couldn’t check out and buy. Both Chris and I tried to buy items (on mobile and laptop) and we received an error message. You can read about that here.

Needless to say, although not for a fair while, eBay has also been guilty of serious technical glitches that hamper buyers from making purchases too. And, let’s be honest, any platform is likely to be afflicted from time to time. Errors are inevitable. But our usual point remains: problems happen, it’s how you deal with them that counts.

It all raises a question: what should marketplaces do for sellers when buyers can’t spend their cash? An outage or wobble or glitch means that sellers lose out on sales and even an hour on Amazon must represent a millions of squids worth of lost purchases?

In the first instance, we trust that the marketplaces (and it’s not just eBay and Amazon here but any platform) is always working to ensure there are no such outages. It’s hard to imagine that they don’t make every effort to stay up 100%. It’s totally in their interest in terms of both profit and credibility. But it is also difficult. The scale of eBay and Amazon et al is huge and it’s pretty much impossible to engineer for all eventualities.

So it is, therefore, inevitable that sometimes there will be problems. So what should they do to recompense?

There are a number of difficulties. It’s hard for a marketplace to quantify lost sales in the event of a problem. It is also almost entirely impossible for them then to extrapolate that into compo. Should they cover all the money of lost sales? Make a refund in goodwill? An across the board courtesy credit? It’s very tricky.

Perhaps the big contribution could be transparency? Let sellers know exactly what’s happened and what went wrong and promise to redouble efforts on keeping the site working as it should. Some marketplaces are better than others on this basic courtesy. But it is, at least, a sign of partnership and respect, and a start.

What would you like to see?