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eBay close European national offices

By Chris Dawson December 13, 2008 - 8:28 pm

eBay have confirmed that they are closing many European national offices, as Europe bears the brunt of their global cost-cutting exercise.

An eBay spokesman confirmed yesterday that European operations will now be centralised in just two offices: Richmond (UK) for marketplaces and Zurich (Switzerland) for marketing. Paris, Berlin and Milan will retain some PR and sales functions, as well as customer services; other national offices are being closed altogether except for their customer service desks.

eBay had announced in October that around 10% of their global workforce would be cut, with 1,000 permanent positions lost and many temporary contracts not renewed. They’re coy about exactly what percentage of this loss is being foisted on Europe, but we know that 77 out of 100 positions have gone from the eBay UK team based in Richmond. Assuming that similar losses are happening in Paris, Berlin and Milan, we can estimate that eBay Europe’s bigger national sites could easily account for 300 job losses, with perhaps another 100 or so from the smaller sites.

Morale amongst eBay staff – even those staying on – is reportedly the lowest it’s been for years. People who are being offered jobs in the new eBay Europe, are preferring to take the “generous” redundancy package. In the present economic climate, this speaks volumes.

eBay’s message is that these changes will not impact site users. Their announcements in October, translated into a dozen European languages, said as much, and they’re still saying it now. This is a company who thinks that the only way they impact their users is by the cut and paste answers their CS teams send out. Promises that national sites will not change aren’t likely to reassure eBay members who already complain that real support is impossible to get, that policies are made with no reference to the realities of trading on the site and that straight answers are rarely forthcoming from eBay staff. Fewer people and centralised management are not likely to improve any of these issues.

  • hitch
    11 years ago

    Cant see what benefit the UK Office has been to UK Sellers. This is payback for the Dolphins. The fewer the Staff the fewer changes they can implement.

  • 11 years ago

    #1 Actually many of the staff in the UK office have fought tooth and nail for eBay UK sellers and for features and changes to benefit them. It might not be visible quite how much enthusiasm and commitment those guys have, but they’re all an amazing bunch.

    Finding out that you and most if not all of your work colleagues are looking for new jobs either within the company or elsewhere can’t be easy though, and a centralised European operation is going to have more to oversee than the particular needs of the UK (Take the recent VAT change for example, no other EU site had a tax change with less than a weeks notice and the fee refund offer was implemented by UK eBay employees for the benefit of UK eBay sellers).

  • Ed (BuildaSkill)
    11 years ago

    Chris – I hate to say this but you seem to be living in some sort of bubble

    Whilst you’re right the UK staff reacted quickly to the VAT issue – they had to, because of the number of threats of escalating it to the Customs & Revenue – they have a long legacy of dragging their heels on a great many other issues –
    – Denying for a month that trans-Atlantic visibility had been cut in Feb 2007
    – Failing to respond to expat sellers enquiries re: new-BIN fee eligibility through Aug-Sep 2008
    These are the two most discussed that come to mind. Without singling out individuals regarding continual bad attitudes towards paying customers when pinking, if they could be bothered to pink (and I know it was a voluntary additional duty, but a lot less staff were doing it recently compared to several years back), the UK staff could have kept sellers onside instead of alienating swathes of them. Now the jobs are being cut, it’s the support of those sellers that the staff need, to try to keep their positions in their regular location.

    How the tables have turned – previously it was the sellers who needed the support of the staff, now the staff have brought about their own redundancies by losing so many sellers to other venues, that the staff are no longer needed, and they need all those dolphins and exiles back to justify the jobs. What goes round comes around?

    In many ways, globally, eBay staff created their own redundancies. Allowing the inroads to customer service of Emma the Robot in Australia, braindead cutting and pasting of incorrect answers instead of human replies, continual failing to take ownership of “senior” customer (Gold PS & above etc) problems and pursue them for action – it all smacked of people filling time until payday, rather than genuinely doing their jobs. Of course they got chopped when business stalled.

    There are a few star personnel in eBay UK – Patricia Sellar in PS Support, Aileen Enright in Trust & Safety are two that I have continually heard praised on and off eBay in forums and other channels.

    To me, dispassionately reading many, many sellers opinions of interacting with UK and European staff, the common complaint is that they felt as if eBay staff were dismissive and denigrating of their concerns, insulting in communication, and arrogant in answering.

    Comparing that to similarly sized groups of reports from the eBay Asia-Pacific region, and the eBay North America region (particularly “Live” help via telephone or online chat) the opinion of customers are that these support groups are friendly and helpful, concerned about the plight of paying customers, but often unauthorised to reverse earlier actions from within eBay.

    My own experience of eBay UK staff can simply be summarised by saying that I was left with the feeling that if I did not pucker up and bend down to kiss derrieres, then I would not be assisted – and that was with me as the paying “always right” customer.

    You reap what you sow eBay Europe. It’s time to pay the piper.
    I feel sorry for the handful of good, professionals that know how to treat customers correctly – I hope they are retained.

    Ed

  • LOL
    11 years ago

    (Take the recent VAT change for example, no other EU site had a tax change with less than a weeks notice and the fee refund offer was implemented by UK eBay employees for the benefit of UK eBay sellers).

    LOL give me a break anyone would think eBay was not a business….SELLERS pay for this and with less local staff the system is basically going down the tubes…

    Game over, watch the collapse live from mid Jan, stock will be ravaged yet again

  • 11 years ago

    I’m confused. Don’t power sellers want to end rising fees? Doesn’t eBay need to cut services and operations costs to do that?

    As for moving from local to regional, won’t coordination costs/errors go down while cross-fertilization of ideas and innovation go up? Aside from legal and PR/marcom, there’s relatively little f2f communication by eBay in most eu countries.

  • 11 years ago

    Just interested really after reading this.

    77 out of 100 UK positions have gone, what do the remaining 23 staff do? thats not a dig just curious. Who looks after the likes of us with account managers?

  • northumbrian
    11 years ago

    its just as likely the grant deal has run out
    and the rates and wages are no longer subsidised by the Governments and local authority
    and I would rather not have an account manager they are just time wasting pests

  • Board_Surfer
    11 years ago

    well perhaps we will see a few less baffling decisions from ebay UK , like not bringing in the change to choice listings.

    Never understood that one.

    That aside I cannot bring myself to muster up much sympathy for those affected, they never seemed to give much of a damn about us.

  • hitch
    11 years ago

    #2 Actually many of the staff in the UK office have fought tooth and nail for eBay UK sellers and for features and changes to benefit them

    I have no doubt they are committed and enthusiastic, but cannot see what changes they have pushed through for UK Sellers. If they have then it has tended to be a late correction of earlier changes.
    Selling on Amazon has been a reveplation, one small example, on Ebay a customer only occasionally buys two items in one transaction, at most once a week. On Amazon we are getting customers buying more than one item on a daily basis, sometimes 3 or 4, unheard of at Ebay.
    UK Sellers continually raised the shopping cart as an example of how to increase sell throgh, increase Ebay fees and therefore keep Staff in employment, did they listen to this – no

  • 11 years ago

    #8 You’re wrong there, there are a hell of a lot of eBay staff that cared passionately about the community, even when buyers and sellers do nothing but whinge and complain. I’ve personally met hundreds of eBay employees over the years that have freely given up their weekends and evenings at events like eBay University and at Industry conferences.

    None of them were obliged to work weekends and they didn’t get time off in lieu. They did it because they cared and were committed to eBay’s users.

    There’s a difference in criticising eBay as a company and whether their main concern is shareholders, buyers or sellers, but slamming the employees as individual people, who have worked hard for you ain’t really on, especially as they can’t respond.

    I don’t agree with all the decisions eBay make, but there’s not a single member of eBay staff I can knock.

  • northumbrian
    11 years ago

    erm I never said nowt against the staff,
    but I do tend to agree with 3

    the odd occasion I had anything to do with ebay support staff ,I was treat in a patronising manner at best ,I often felt as if I were a small boy being told to go and play and not bother mummy,

    I have no idea who any of the individul employees that worked hard for me , but I feel little gratitude, I pay a very large amount in fees, they are paid a wage by ebay ,and work for ebay, and would not be doing it otherwise

  • 11 years ago

    Sighs, more change
    I feel for those whose jobs are threatened, no matter what company or country they are in, everyone is cutting costs, and staff is one of the quickest ways.

    I for one find it a shame, I would like to echo what has been said above, having spoken to Patricia on the helpline, she is fantastic when I can not get hold of my accounts manager, who is Jo, and also fabulous.

    Other peeps worth mentioning are Dianne and Stephan – I can not count the amount of times they have scraped me off the floor, and reassured me when things get tough – I hope you all have kept your jobs, as powerseller support without is unthinkable

    Suz xxx

  • northumbrian
    11 years ago

    of course I have the greatest of sympathy with those that do a good job and thru no fault of their own are worried about their future,

    though I cant get my head round why someone who is paid to do a job should get praise when they do it correctly,
    its as if its the norm to be happy with the inadequate, then if you find someone to do what their paid to do ,they are somehow special

  • Board_Surfer
    11 years ago

    TBH I dont give a flying fig about Ebay university or industry conferences, none of these things have ever put a penny in my pocket.

    I list my items, i sell 90% of them, the only time i ever have any kind of problem is when I have to interact with Ebays alleged CS which has to be the poorest I have ever come across.

    The only thing that cheeses me off about then laying folk off, is that CS will only get worse ( if thats actually possible).

  • northumbrian
    11 years ago

    I wonder how many ebay workers are used to support the Stazi culture , police state, brainwash machine, to give snitches a little fake power and ficticious influence in order to have them do the dirty work

  • 11 years ago

    No mention about their Blanchardstown site then? I thought that was expanding to fill the skill shortage left across Europe? They took over the former Xerox EU building earlier this year, and a look at local news websites suggests there is a big recruitment drive there at the moment.

  • 11 years ago

    @steve #16

    No customer support staffing cuts in Europe at the moment, as far as I know.

  • Mark T
    11 years ago

    I would hope for a positive in this.

    I personally think that the biggest problem for us as sellers on Ebay is the splintering of sites and different policies.

    One worldwide site with drilled down search and common policy would be something I would like to see Ebay investigate.

    The old Ebay, where everyone listed on the same site would be more than welcome…

    If their market share continues to be attacked by other online retail options, this could be a blesssing in disguise.

    Mark

  • 11 years ago

    “biggest problem for us as sellers on Ebay is the splintering of sites and different policies”…. and that’s what the internal eBay changes are aiming to address – introducing policies in a consistent manner across the different sites.

  • the_lilac_tree
    11 years ago

    ‘and that’s what the internal eBay changes are aiming to address – introducing policies in a consistent manner across the different sites.’

    The one policy that would benefit a large proportion of UK sellers ie. ‘choice listings’ has been implemented on the .com site, has yet to be implemented on the UK site. This is not a minor .com policy change, it is significant and only serves to point clearly to the fact that there is no consistency across the sites globally.

  • Mark T
    11 years ago

    #19

    I hope so Chris 🙂

    Mark

  • 11 years ago

    I have had nothing but a positive experience dealing with eBay UK staff, of which I have met around 15 or so personally this year. I am sorry to hear this news and hope that the people who have gone find employment soon.

  • pmul
    11 years ago

    I’m surprised that no one has commented on the insular Corporate outlook revealed here. Fortress America it seems to be. While Amazon has huge warehouses and thousands of staff in the UK,Ebay probably hasn’t enough staff to run the local Richmond branch of W.H.Smith’s.
    Seems the philosophy of despair. From support that was notoriously bad,to support that is virtually non-existent. Letting International Ebay just wind down?

  • nickynackynoo
    11 years ago

    When I have had a problem and depended on Ebay support there was nothing there except excuses and run around’s….I was given the run around by ebay employees, told lie upon lie and ended up £40+ out of pocket

    So in my eyes…. a reduction from NO support won’t hit me at all !!

    Good riddance to rubbish !

  • One of "them"
    11 years ago

    I just read through all the comments and here are my five cents worth…

    What’s happening:
    Customer Service – no change
    Marketing – pan-European team in Zürich
    Marketplaces – pan-European team in London
    Sales+PR – stay local

    This means on one hand less “local flavor” in changes being made to the market place, but this also means that you don’t need to talk to 11 countries if you want to do a change. Overall I would expect the decision making processes to become much faster and more efficient, which will benefit the needs of the customers. So the whole restructuring really isn’t at all about cutting cost, but about the reduction of redundancies.

    There are a couple things I’d like to say about the people working at eBay, being one of them myself:
    We do care A LOT about about our customers – believe it or not
    We are very well aware of things that are going well and things that are going very badly and we are giving our best to fix them.
    We are very passionate about our job and yes it does hurt to read comments talking about “Stazi culture” (#15 b.t.w. you probably mixed up “nazi” and “stasi”)

    Thanks for the comments expressing compasion with the people that have been laid off. I think it is important to differentiate between eBay as a marketplace and the human beings that are trying to make it work.
    The morale of the staff that’s staying on is actually really good as far as I have experienced it. There’s a lot of excitement, you could even call it start-up atmosphere.
    I know everything I wrote won’t help anybody of you who has been having problems on eBay, only actual change does. Is the restructuring going to help this change for the better to take place? We’ll probably have to wait 6 months to find out.
    Please note that this is just my very personal oppinion…

  • 11 years ago

    This is not happening to eBay alone. The whole world is now in a tailspin downturn.It will take time to trim all non-productive excesses.Once this is over, it will be back to normal business as usual for eBay and all.

  • 11 years ago

    Chris I agree – ebay had some talented, passionate and dedicated staff and certainly as far as the ones I respected or that helped me in anyway are now working elsewhere!

    As for the VAT fiasco I’m personally convinced that Dan’s rant had far more to do with getting that fixed than anything else – so weird don’t you think that ebay recanted and suddenly found they might be able to do ‘something’ within 48 hours of that post (circulating widely to loud guffaws)

    The ones that are left simply don’t seem to have ANY idea at all of what it’s like to actually sell more than one item a month on the site.

    just my personal opinion.

  • One of "us"
    11 years ago

    #25 “Customer Service – no change”

    So useless stays useless then? I agree with all the comments above. You could have sacked/restructured that lot and missed nothing.

    I’ve never spoken to anyone who thinks CS at ebay is anything but a wasted phone call or email and that’s my opinion too. All CS at ebay does is piss off sellers and I don’t waste my time or energy anymore because my day is usually bad enough by the time I’d need to call and it could only get worse speaking to you lot.

    PS. “local flavor” – I think you mean “local flavour” (this is England where we speak English in case you hadn’t noticed?)

  • 11 years ago

    #28 Ya’ll have to train your CS rep to how you want to work – a bit like you have to train your Post Office. 😉 You also have to know what they can and what they can’t do – no point asking for the impossible.

    I have to say I am full of praise for mine (Conor and Jerry) and can’t speak highly enough of them. To be honest I don’t bother with the phone most of the time – I just drop them a Skype chat and they’ll respond when they can which is usually pretty darn quick (I suspect using Skype jumps the phone and email queues as it pops straight up on their screen so I hope everyone doesn’t start using Skype! 😯 )

  • 11 years ago

    #29 I was loving the Skype but it kept replacing phone numbers on the web, but more importantly “order details” in SMP with bloody skpe call buttons, I used to cut and paste them into an email, couldn’t find out how to turn it off so I bunged the bugger in the bin,,plus you were my only contact Chris 😆

    must ask Amy if she has Skype, she’s in charge of my account and she does a sterling job god bless her, I can’t imagine working for a company like eBay at the moment is much fun.

  • 11 years ago

    Whirly you can turn the number highlighter on/off by clicking the Skype add-on logo at the top of your browser :p

  • 11 years ago

    #8
    quote
    There’s a difference in criticising eBay as a company and whether their main concern is shareholders, buyers or sellers, but slamming the employees as individual people, who have worked hard for you ain’t really on, especially as they can’t respond
    unquote

    They could always copy n paste a response like they usually do.

    In my opinion, they are brain-washed muppets.

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