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eBay and Amazon must make seller holidays easier

By Dan Wilson August 13, 2013 - 6:59 am

summerIn the many years I’ve been involved with eBay and Amazon, one thing has struck me as remarkable about the cadre of small businesses who sell online: how bloody hard so many people work. I know loads of people in business, mostly small business, and the dedication is notable.

But ecommerce does seem distinct. It’s not just the amazing amount of labour that keeps an ecommerce business running profitably that I wow at. It’s also the variety of expertise every seller needs too. And all sellers require creativity and flexibility on tap. It’s a very demanding skill-set.

And that’s why in August, a holiday mindset is no bad thing. A bit of time off rejuvenates the ecommerce cells and provides some space to think too. A break is good for the soul.

So why do eBay and Amazon make it almost impossible for their sellers to completely switch off both themselves from the everyday grind and also their sales?

I was grateful to hear from one Tamebay correspondent this week with some personal reflections. He trades on both eBay and Amazon and just badly fancied a week or so off. This is what he said:

“I carefully plan things, as much as possible, so that we close eBay
down so no one can buy and also Amazon. The trouble is eBay pending echeques on PayPal and also eBay sales awaiting payment. There is also the issue of Amazon pending payments.”

“The worst, I think, is Amazon, as pending payments can take 10-12 days to clear. I asked Amazon what I could do to avoid a payment clearing halfway through my holiday and their answer was, “You can’t.”

It doesn’t seem beyond the wit of humans, or indeed eBay and Amazon folk, that more could be done to help sellers take a holiday and also be helpful to customers. Tamebay’s friend continued:

“We are a small company and try very, very hard to make sure customers are informed about holiday closures. But where we can put a nice list on our website to advise future closures, all that eBay and Amazon can manage is CLOSED. eBay lets the customer know when you will be back but Amazon offer nothing so grand.”

“Why can’t these huge organisations that are so customer orientated (Sarcastic? – Ed.) give us sellers a chance to communicate this information to the buyers?”

And that’s a plea, I suppose. All the salaried, superannuated, optioned-up staff at Bezos House and Omidyar Heights replete with expenses and sometime jollies presumably get at least 28 days fully paid holiday as just one part of their doubtless quite generous total compensation packages.

Here’s Tamebay’s challenge to eBay and Amazon staff this August. Gift those people who fuel your business and staff perks just some of the same vague rights you enjoy>> some time off.

Your mission: help a small business seller on your marketplace take a week off where they aren’t answering emails, processing sales, fearful of a bad review or an angry punter. Or even worse still: the wrath of an over zealous customer support rep condemning them for a lovely day by the seaside because they have tried their best but not met some ludicrous conditions.

  • 4 years ago

    Agreed! eBay is easier if you have anything on immediate payment so that you don’t have the issue of items awaiting payment and echeques (why do they still exist anyway?) but its the messages and the fact that even if you have ‘holiday settings’ turned on, hardly anyone seems to read them or notice them so you still get the inevitable ‘Where Is My Item’ message.
    It would be nice to not have to take a laptop on holiday and make sure I can get WiFi when I’d like to be having a rest from it all.

  • Bunchy
    4 years ago

    Lovely idea, but it’s not going to happen.

    When Amazon introduced the big stick of timing seller responses the question was asked of Amazon “what do we do if we are on holiday and a question arrives?”
    Answer: You must log in to your account every day to ensure questions are responded to.

    It’s just another hurdle for me to jump and I plan the close-down as carefully as the holiday.

  • 4 years ago

    Sadly very true Dan. As a former small business owner I found myself never fully taking time off (even in quiet periods) and even though I knew I needed them to restore my energies for the longer term and to spend time with friends and family.

    Do you think that sellers would be interested in hiring a ‘Business sitter’ whilst they were away? They could provide anything from a basic level of ‘check email and inform you’ to run ‘business as usual’ depending on the degree of complexity and what was desired.

    I ask as I’m looking to escape a mis-guided return to the corporate world and have always loved working with the incredible bunch of entrepreneurial SMBs who sell on Amazon and eBay. Seriously do you think that anyone be up for exploring it?

    Claire

    • Robert
      4 years ago

      That’s one of the most interesting ideas I’ve heard in ages.

      It’d need a bit of thought about issues such as security and trust, maybe even indemnity insurance, but it might just work.

      Look at the prices people pay for pet sitters and house sitters !

    • 4 years ago

      Claire,

      Have a chat with Robert? :)

      I think there are difficulties but ALSO possibilities.

      dw

  • Mike
    4 years ago

    I managed a week on a Greek Island by prewarning my punters to pay-up before a certain date (via the message field on the eBay invoice), shutting down my eBay shop for a week and running a 10 day eBay auction while I was away (which started 5 minutes before I left for the airport)

    I took no mobile, no laptop and I read no newspapers… it was lovely… and when I came back my holiday was paid for by the auction!

  • 4 years ago

    In the past I have been critisised for living and working in deepest rural Cornwall. But there is a massive advantage to living close to the holiday resorts of Cornwall(and indeed all the other magnificent coastline of the UK) and that it that there really is no need to take a full blown holiday.

    If I want a day off I do the bare minimum that morning and then go out for the day. It also has the great advantage that I am not dependent on the vaguaries of the Weather Gods. If I want to take Thursday off and when I wake up Thursday Morning its raining I just re-arrange it so that I have Friday off instead.

    So may I suggest that ebayers and Amazoners consider re-locating their premises to locations close to the Coast. After all the Post Office operates exactly the same across the Country(At Present)and the quality of life is far better in deepest rural Britain than in some horrible City.

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      The quality of life in my city is excellent thank you and lot better than most rural areas as well.
      Plus we have decent services and superfast broadband and are within commuting distance of London and its delicious attractions.
      Mind you buying a a couple of holiday cottages down your way does have it’s attractions especially given the way prices are going.
      pip pip

    • 4 years ago

      Surely it depends on your definition of quality of life. In deepest Rural Britain we value such as peace and quiet. No loud noises from Police Cars or Ambulances racing past on a highway perhaps a mile or so away at two in the morning waking up all the local population for miles around. Although no doubt over time you get used to such noise pollution. While around here there are days when the loudest noise is the clip clop of horses going up the lane or birds singing in the garden,.

      You might value having London with its noise, dirt and often peculiar people just down the road. Personally I prefer to have green countryside just down the road where if you are really lucky you might catch sight of a Deer.

      You may like Cities I used to have a job years ago which required me to go up to London at least once a month and often to stay for two or three days. The company had a luxury flat available right in the West End. I viewed any and all time in London as pure hell and as soon as I arrived I was just praying for the ordeal to be over. The one thing I did always try to achieve was a spare hour or so when I would go to the Science Museum and stand before the Railway Exhibits. But apart from that time spent in London was time wasted.

  • Stuart
    4 years ago

    I agree and I don’t with this. If you had a high street store you can’t just put ‘closed’ on the door for two weeks can you?

    Therefore the same could be said with an online business, either your a business or a hobby seller.

    It is easier for me now as we have staff that can cover if I do take holiday (I still don’t seem to find the time) but it was difficult when it was just me but I worked around it without any help from ebay or amazon.

  • Chris
    4 years ago

    I have been known on numerous occasions whilst being abroad to log-on to the local wifi in the town centres to check how my ‘sales’ are going.
    I think its just another catalyst with being self employed – can you ever switch off?

  • Gerry007
    4 years ago

    .
    Last year I had 4 ‘long weekend’ breaks, but NO actual long break [ie + 1 week].

    We’ve always found our orders drop off Thursday/Fridays, so clear orders on Thursday & Book flights for late on Thursdays & return on Monday.

    This year I decided not to & hammer the business. I have regretted this & when a stack of problems arrive, that’s when I feel ‘I need a Holiday’.

    The other thing that still amazes me Is our many buyers still do not READ the listing/description.
    We have a Summer product that every year we sell 0000’s of. At the mid/end of July we really had a run on this item & ran out. Our supplier was waiting for the new stock to clear Customs & we plastered a great big message in RED across the top of the listings.
    STILL buyers complained of slow delivery & when we pointed out the message, 1 even said it was not there when he ordered otherwise he would have gone elsewhere. This year we took screenshot of the listing and sent it to the complainers.

  • 4 years ago

    Nice article Dan.
    What I would love is to be able to put a start of holiday date, a return holiday date.
    From this a month or week prior to the closure customers are advised that if it’s not paid cleared by the holiday closure then it will remain undispatched until the seller returns. Forewarned is for armed.

    Ttfn
    Simon

  • 4 years ago

    I’ve invested in technology to allow me to log into my inventory and sales on Linnworks. Recently they launched a mobile app which means one click and I can see my sales. I take a laptop with me and I can log into Linnworks full systems.

    Recently I went to Portugal on holiday and found a company called Rent-A-Dongle. They had my dongle waiting at the car hire company! I could sit by the pool with skype open and communicate with my team, whilst logged into Linnworks to guide them as to specific orders, or trouble shooting issues.

    At the end of the day, my business and the success or failure is down to me, and my management. Customers dont care if you are on holiday. If you make items available for sale, you should organise your business to ensure fulfilment can occur.

    I am now looking to moving stock into a 3rd party fulfilment centre. I already have 1000 items in Amazon FBA. This is probably the only way a holiday is possible with minimal contact!

    Ebay and Amazon are there to enable a sale between and buyer and a retailer. I dont expect them to do anything other than enable me to sell my stuff efficiently.

    • 4 years ago

      What you don’t say is how your loved ones felt about you driving your ecommerce from the side of the pool. :)

      I think that Amazon and eBay can, should make this more effective. Holidays are a good idea.

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      Dan it isn’t a case of driving the business from the beach but for many simply keeping it ticking over whilst having some sort of break with the family.
      For one person and small online businesses you will still have to deal with support emails, returns, RMAs, stock orders and refunds regardless.
      And where money is concerned only very trusted employees would ever be allowed to authorise a refund for example which is money out of the business.
      So access to accounts and control issues become a very tricky issue for many sellers even if they do have some staff.
      Amazon & eBay are not in the business of enhancing the online sellers lifestyle – period.

    • 4 years ago

      Delegate that is the answer. Obviously if you are a “One Man Band” then apart from the Cat there is nobody to delegate to. But if you have a staff it should be possible to get away for a while. However if you do have a Trusted Staff and you have delegated then Cash Refunds should not be a problem.

      In jobs I have had since I left School back in 1968 just about every one allowed me to make refunds. Often the amounts I could refund or credit were enormous. On no occassion did my Managing Director need to delay his holiday.

      I know that it is more difficult if its your own business but it is not beyond human ingenuity to come up with a rule that will allow your deputy to authorise small refunds. After all how many refunds do you give per day, week, month, year?

      If you need a holiday and you live in some large Town or City with abysmal quality of Life then take a holiday and recharge your batteries.

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      The quality of life in Cambridge, like so many cities in the UK, is excellent thanks so rarely do I need to recharge my batteries other than to placate the family.
      No we are far from a one man band as it happens so we manage just fine but I was making the point on behalf of many who are very small businesses and where these issues can be very tricky to manage when away for more than a few days.

    • 4 years ago

      Two of the jobs I have had over the years were based in Cambridge. Although I was not impressed by Cambridge itself(except for a few areas around the University) which for the most part is just another ugly City. So I lived in a very small village out in the wilds of Huntingdonshire.

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      You really do live in a fantasy world don’t you!
      The quality of life in many cities, including London, can be excellent and your experience counts for little.
      Surprised you ever noticed anything when you were signing so many cheques each day, visiting Railway Museums and delegating so wonderfully to your minions.
      You obviously couldn’t hack it in the fast lane over here so best you get back to the slo-mo life in the south west and rest up dear boy.
      We neither need you or want in Cambridge thanks.
      pip pip

    • 4 years ago

      You are really a totally ugly person. You feel that everything that you believe is automatically right and anybody who even slightly disagrees with you is automatically not just wrong but some sort of deviant.

      Well I am sorry the 2 jobs I had in Cambridge had similar job descriptions. That was Internal Auditor. One for a Group and the other for a Public Authority. You are not appointed to such jobs if you cannot hack it. Indeed I was in my early to mid 20’s when I held those jobs so it is obvious that I had even at that early age built up a degree of professional respect.

      But what gets me is your belief that everybody should love living in Cities and if they do not then they must obviously be something seriously wrong with them. I am very happy that the majority of people want to live in Cities. It mean that there is less pressure on space on rural Britain and green and pleasant countryside can continue to exist.

      I would much rather walk through a green valley listening to the sounds of birds and perhaps seeing wild animals such as rabbits or even the local fox than I would walk through a city centre with traffic rushing by and the stench of motor fumes combined with all the other smells of the city. Now if you think that I have something wrong with me I just do not care. I happen to love Green and pleasant Rural Britain.

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      Your opinion about me is of absolutely no interest or concern to me whatsover.
      What I object to is the pompous claptrap that you come up with to justify a rural idyll that is far from reality for many people.
      Most of the UK population live in urban areas for a reason and it isn’t because we miss gazing out of the window across Cold Comfort Farm or live in villages with next to no services.
      God Bless ‘ugly people’.
      pip pip

  • Mark b
    4 years ago

    A pause button on lisings please, so the sold value is not reset. That will fix it. If selling on eBay, Immediate Payment only and obviously out of office reply in messages/ email.

  • Hereford United fan
    4 years ago

    This is the biggest issue I have. My wife does not deal with this well.

    We had a long weekend and I managed to reply to most emails on my blackberry. The biggest problem was where cases are opened. It is not possible to simply reply to an email because it is all wrapped up in the case. They also don’t get the out of office response through ebay messages.

    Unhelpfully all these are the ones that need addressing quickly.

    I am planning to take 10 days off next summer but I plan to shut my shops down 1 week before I go so that hopefully most of the issues will be dealt with.

  • Cambridge_Blue
    4 years ago

    Unless you are big enough to have staff to cover you are effectively on call 24/7 and all you can do is mitigate the worst as others have described.
    Plan carefully & shut-down in good time, use FBA or fulfilment if you can but regardless you will have to deal with emails and support/returns issues in any event.
    Ecommerce can be a tough mistress sometimes which makes me wonder why so many choose to do it frankly.

  • northumbrian
    4 years ago

    regardless of if its online or selling from a suitcase in a shop doorway , when you work for yourself 5 o clock never comes, your always on duty ,you never shut the door and leave it behind you,

    • Gerry007
      4 years ago

      .
      So true northumbrian

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      It is true that the self-employed work incredibly hard and very long hours indeed but there is still something different about online (or on call) businesses.
      Customers seem to think you are available 24/7 and emails come at all times of the day and over weekends just as the sales do.
      We find the expectation is that you will respond almost by return nowadays even at weekends.
      We are not complaining but to engineer any break takes serious planning for most.

    • 4 years ago

      I have often sent out emails in the early hours of the morning as I have received emails at the same time. I wonder if somebody who has sent an email at say 2am really expects a reply by return. I know that I do not. It is one of the great assets of the email system that you can receive and send emails throughout the 24 hours and that they are waiting for you to deal with when you have the time.

      Certainly I cannot ever remember a customer coming back to me and complaining that I took 7 hours to reply to his 2am email.

      Certainly most of us work long hours and often enjoy it. However it helps to be living in a wonderful area. I know that Cambridge_Blue seems to think that “Rural” equates with poverty striken and with no facilities at all. It may very well surprise him to learn that Superfast Broadband and indeed Electricity and mains water is the norm around here as it is across many areas of Rural Britain.

      However as I have said so often before there is a lot to be said for working in a green and pleasant area rather than some horrible City. A few years ago a friend came to stay. He lives in one of those Cities so loved by Cambridge_Blue. For the first few nights he was here he could not sleep. It was just too quiet. He was used to the sounds of the City all night. The cars and trucks passing by. The sirens from Police Cars and Ambulances and no doubt the drunks lurching home after a long night in the Pub or Club.

      In rural Britain it might surprise Cambridge_Blue but life is not only much slower but it is far more pleasant and I for one am very happy that it is.

      Cambridge_Blue also talked in one posting of buying a Holiday Home or two in Cornwall. Essentially The Cornish do not like Holiday Homes. Our attitude is that Cornish Homes should be inhabited 12 months a year by a family not for a few weeks a year and locked up empty the rest of the year.

      There are Cornish Villages and Towns with a high percentage of Holiday Homes. The local Schools suffer because there are no children living in the Holiday Homes; the local shops and other traders including the Pubs suffer because there is nobody living in those homes. Basically the life of the Town or Village is blighted by having so many dead empty holiday homes in the area. So we call for Holiday Homes not only to have to pay full Council Tax but a Premium Council Tax(some would like to see a 25% premium). Also that a Home sold to become a Holiday Home would have to be subject to Change of Use Planning Permission.

      Basically we want our Towns and Villages to live with people living in them 12 months a year.

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      Given the negligible activity of your business selling remaindered books I suspect your experience of email response times is very atypical indeed given that you probably get one email a week.
      Whilst your friends may enjoy the ‘silence of the lambs’ in the countryside the rest of us quite enjoy living in our horrible urban lairs away from your fantasy of rural life thanks.
      Good to see however that clean water and electricity have finally arrived and hopefully mains sewage won’t be too long in arriving down your way as well.
      Superfast broadband will never be available to many rural areas unless it receives significant public subsidy which is precisely what is happening right now – however your thanks & gratitude to us ‘townies’ who are mostly paying for this is graciously accepted.
      It does not surprise to me that you support discredited authoritarian policies in trying to restrict the free trade in the ownership of property given your previous comments.
      It is absolutely no business of yours or the ‘cornish’ whether an owner of a property chooses to live there, rent it out or simply leave it empty.
      Instead of meddling with our property market I suggest you work towards trying to get companies that pay much higher wages to locate down your way and also start building some more houses locally, say 500 or so in your little hamlet for starters.
      That way those of you living the rural dream could actually afford to buy something in the open market rather than trying to blame somebody else for your problems.
      Now where have I left the brochure for those apartments with their own moorings on the ‘Cornish Riviera’ ……… just found it!
      God Bless ‘cornish independence’
      pip pip

    • 4 years ago

      Have you ever noticed how when those who have made it in various horrible Cities around the Country come to retire their Dream is a Place in the Country. Somewhere away from the noise and grime of some awful City where they have Trees and Grass and probably room for decent flowerbeds and possibly an animal or two.

      Yet Cambridge-Blue critisises me for living in just that sort of area. According to him everything in Rural Britain is Poverty and should be looked down on.

      Well I am very sorry for him. I am very happy living where I do and I think that it shows just how childish and immature he is to keep going on about it. I am very happy and I would be very happy to live here for the rest of my life and be carried out feet first when the time arrives.

    • Cambridge_Blue
      4 years ago

      How sad indeed you are.
      Now take a chillax pill and go and cull some seagulls and fleece some grockles in the time honoured ‘corneeesh’ way.
      I’m sure you will feel better soon.
      I’m off to enjoy a nice Bank Holiday weekend in the lovely city of Cambridge.
      God Bless ‘the rural poor’.
      pip pip

    • 4 years ago

      Cambridge_Blue critisises the amount of business I do. He obviously does not understand the concept of Semi-Retirement or indeed in my case Poor Health. He only understands that everybody must be flat out all the time. I am sorry my old bones will not take it any more.

      He talks about Remainder Books. Yes it is true some of the Books that I list are Remainders but a lot are not. Some were only published recently certainly far too recently to be Remaindered. As a matter of interest Most(apart from those who sell Secondhand Books) list at least a few Remainders and some list All Remainders. I am somewhere in the middle New – Remainder.

      The fact is that I am 63 years old and winding down. Cambridge_Blue seems to think that this somehow puts me in the wrong. Sorry as with so much else I do not agree with him.

  • Big time trader
    4 years ago

    Holidays are good for mind body and soul. Online retail is 24/7 – if u want sales 24/7 then be prepared to serve customers 24/7 and manage and plan ur breaks.

    My wife and I have a nice big holiday home near Looe in Cornwall which we use a few weeks of the year and I let my family use it as well. Yes it is empty for 83% but that is my choice.

    I pay some cleaner to give it the once over monthly – couldn’t get a local, she is Polish. I love the area but notice that alcohol is a big thing for country folk, a lot of alcoholism is the countryside that is for sure.

    That might be why the pubs are great and locals are friendly.

    Anyway, now is the time to have a break as Q4 is nearly upon us and it will soon get so busy. When u say to yourself *when was the last time I had a proper holiday* that means u do need one.

    big time

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