Archive | July, 2010

EBAY CEO Sells 50k Shares, Exercises Worthless Options in Front of Q2 Earnings

16 Jul

This post is little more than the musings of a past eBay Platinum Powerseller with some commentary about the state of the auction world.  It is just one opinion and I am certainly not certified to give any financial or stock advice, so take from it what you will.

Let’s Do Lunch

Anyone who knows me in person knows that I rarely talk about my business or what it is I do.  Being a “professional eBayer” is extremely interesting to people, mostly because everyone’s dream is to quit their job and make millions while working from home.  That fact is evident in those signs you see proclaiming you can “make 30k a week” if you simply call Juan at 1-800-rip-me-off.  People are always asking me the same questions: “How much do you make?”  “Where do you get the stuff you sell?”  “Can you help me do it?”  I used to enjoy talking about eBay back when I was selling Creative Muvo MP3 Players my freshman year in college.  My father’s favorite story about me is how I began on eBay – taking apart MP3 players, selling the Compact Flash card that was inside, inserting a smaller Compact Flash card into the MP3 players, reprogramming it, and reselling the MP3 player.  Back then, the Muvo cost $100, but it had a 4GB Compact Flash card inside of it that was worth about $200 and then the MP3 player could be reprogrammed with a smaller, cheaper card and resold for $50 or more.  I made about $20,000 profit in eight weeks – not a bad sum for an 18 year old attending college full time.  Schemes as simple and profitable as that are rare these days.  Lord knows eBay and PayPal would shut me down in an instant if I started moving that kind of product in such a short time today, with the dozen feedback and a new PayPal account like I had back then.

The eBay golden years, a time I fondly reminisce about now, were back in 2003 to 2005.  I don’t know much about stuffing money in the Caribbean, but I like to think that eBay back then was as easy and profitable as moving money interest free to the Caymans for characters like Tony Montana in Scarface.  Everyone’s story is different I’m sure, but those were my best years.  Sure, I’ve had plenty of success since then, but I doubt anything will ever be as fun as drinking beer, reprogramming MP3 players, and moving $1,000 a day from PayPal to my bank account.  Maybe I am just that nerdy, but it’s hard for me to envision a time in the future where things will be as care free as they were back then.

Getting Harder

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out things are more complicated in the auction world than they were six or seven years ago.  I keep up to date with just about everything that’s going on in the eBay world and even try my hand at writing tutorials and in-depth analysis from time and time, but even I have trouble figuring out seller releases and new eBay rules and regulations.  I’m tired of being treated like I’m stupid and tired of the eBay brass trying to trick me into thinking their new policies and stipulations will somehow benefit me.  I’m not a big complainer and if you’ve read this website over the last year or so, you would know that I’m actually one of the most pro-eBay “bloggers” on the internet, outside of any eBay owned blog of course.  There’s no doubt that eBay’s core business plan has moved away from people like you and me, in favor of conglomerates and businesses looking to unload stuff they would be embarrassed or unable to sell on their own websites.  As I personally move further and further away from eBay, I am not as concerned as I might be if I still relied on it for the majority of my revenue.  If things were still as easy as they used to be, I would probably have an even larger presence on eBay than I did in 2005, but that is not how things have come to pass.  I don’t have any ill will or the anger that many people seem to possess, perhaps because I feel like I’ve already made my money, but I do find solace in the fact that eBay is hurting even more than I ever will.

Not Just the Golden Age for Me

I spoke earlier about how the years 2003 through 2005 were my best years on eBay.  While I technically made more money in 2006 and 2007, it wasn’t as fun or as fulfilling as those first couple of years.  Not coincidentally, those same years were also eBay’s most successful.  On January 2, 2003, eBay stock was trading at a paltry $16.88.  Exactly two years later, the same share of eBay stock was worth $58.89, an increase of about 250%.  I can only imagine the happiness Meg Whitman must have felt that New Year’s, having built a company that at one time sold for $1 a share into a company with a market capitalization of more than 50 billion dollars.  It’s a truly amazing story of ingenuity, foresight, and a belief that anything and everything is possible.  Of course, eBay quickly fell on hard times.  Just one month after the stock was trading at an all-time high of nearly $60, the share price fell to under $40 just one month later on January 31, 2005 and was just a touch above $30 by the end of April 2005.  Fast forwarding a bit to 2009, I’m sure we’re all aware of eBay shares falling under $10 in March 2009.  They have since rebounded all the way back to as much as $28 in March of 2010, before falling back to under $20 just last week.

Tired of the Amazon/EBay Comparison

My biggest “pet peeve” about the eBay/Amazon/auction blogosphere is our obsession about comparing Amazon and eBay as if they are somehow in direct competition or even similar companies.  Amazon and eBay are so different that you might as well add British Petroleum or GlaxoSmithKline to the mix and compare Wall Street results of all four.  Ever bid on an auction at Amazon?  Ever seen an MP3 available for purchase from eBay’s Music Store?  Ever bought a product directly from eBay?  Ever used Amazon Payments on Dell, Newegg, or any other major internet retailer other than Amazon?  Ever purchased eBay’s e-reader device?  There is just no comparing the two because their business models are so different.  How much of Amazon’s revenue comes from third party sales?  We will probably never know.  I could go on and on about Amazon, but it will have to wait for a future post.

EBay is a Stronger Company than Amazon

At the beginning of this year, I wrote an article about the many ways in which eBay is a stronger company than Amazon.  Titled, “EBay is a Stronger Company Than Amazon and I Can Sort of Prove It,”  I went into detail about how eBay has always been a more profitable company than Amazon and probably always will be.  Amazon’s market cap might be roughly twice that of eBay, but it’s also trading at an astonishing 53 times earnings.  This is an absurd price to earnings ratio and part of the reason why Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cut Amazon’s rating from buy to hold just yesterday.   Amazon is going to be even more pressured in the coming months with significant competition from Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Apple in the e-reader business and Apple will continue to make more money in media sales than Amazon could ever hope to.  Not to mention the fact that e-readers will never catch on with university students because it’s impossible to take notes or highlight important passages with a Kindle device, not to mention attach sticky notes or quickly flip back and forth between pages.    Considering Amazon made such a big deal out of the “student version” of the Kindle, they must have thought it would be a viable tool and a significant market for the device.  Like Amazon Payments, it looks like the Kindle may turn out to be a bust for the company.  Of course, Amazon never admits to how many they have actually sold, so we may not know until they stop selling it.

John Donahoe Sells 50K Shares, Exercises Worthless Options in Front of Q2 Earnings Release

John Donahoe has been selling 16,667 shares of eBay stock on the last Wednesday of the month for each of the last three months, probably as part of his contract or an expiration date on the sales or something.  Over the last six months, eBay insiders have sold 811,161 shares and purchased just 5,400.   The eBay haters may find solace in the fact that John was forced to sell 24,000 shares of eBay stock on May 11th, 2010 with total proceeds equaling $0.  Nothing worse than worthless stock options, except for maybe the $0 paycheck many past eBay sellers are getting from the company these days.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This next week will be an interesting one.  EBay reports earnings on Wednesday July 21 and Amazon reports the following day.  Standard & Poor’s reiterated a “Strong Buy” and $32 price target for eBay on July 14, even after the 3.8 billion dollar patent infringement case came to light. Amazon is probably on the way down, but you never know what their report will look like after several key acquisitions over the last year, including Zappos and Woot.  I am not too worried, considering I own shares of neither stock.  But it has always intrigued me, so I will continue to watch.

Take care and good luck shill bidding, Josh

How to Withdraw Money From Limited PayPal Account Before 180 Days

10 Jul

How To Withdraw Money From A Limited PayPal Account Before 180 Days Pass

Introductory Paragraph

One of the most damaging things that can happen to an eBay seller is getting hit with the dreaded “Notification of Limited Account Access.”  PayPal will limit just about every seller who does more than $2,000 worth of sales per month and even limit sellers who sell less, depending on numerous other factors.  I’ve written in length about ways to minimize limitation risk in past articles, as well as how to restore account access once a limitation is placed.   However, to restore account access you’ll likely have to provide personal documents and information, including your Social Security number, credit card information, a copy of your driver’s license, supplier contact information, invoices for the products you’re selling, proof of delivered goods, and succumb to a personal credit check.  Even if you submit all of these documents, it’s still possible that PayPal will deny your limitation appeal and keep your account permanently limited.  They won’t tell you why either, except for one of only three or four canned responses.  In addition, some people may not be comfortable giving out all of the information PayPal requires or may not be able to provide it.  There’s also no guarantee PayPal will even give you an opportunity to appeal the limitation.  PayPal routinely blocks accounts permanently, with no reason provided.  Restoring account access is a painfully frustrating experience that will take at least a week to resolve, if not more.

What Happens If I Can’t Restore Account Access?

PayPal reserves the right to limit a PayPal user’s access to their account and freeze any funds in the account for 180 days.  Here it is, right out of the user agreement:

We may close, suspend, or limit your access to your Account or our Services, and/or limit access to your funds for up to 180 Days if you violate this Agreement, the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, or any other agreement you enter into with PayPal.

As well as:

We may hold your funds for up to 180 days if reasonably needed to protect against the risk of liability.

and:

10.8 Acceptable Use Policy Violation – User Fines. If you violate the Acceptable Use Policy then we may hold your funds up to 180 Days, fine you up to $2,500.00 USD for each such violation and/or take legal action against you to recover additional losses we incur. You acknowledge and agree that a fine up to $2,500.00 USD is presently a reasonable minimum estimate of PayPal’s damages, considering all currently existing circumstances, including the relationship of the sum to the range of harm to PayPal that reasonably could be anticipated and the anticipation that proof of actual damages may be impractical or extremely difficult. PayPal may deduct such fines directly from any existing Balance in the offending Account, or any other PayPal Account you control.

The bottom line is that PayPal can, and will, hold any funds remaining in the PayPal account for 180 days if you are not able to resolve your limitation.  On top of that, you will be unable to send funds, receive funds, or close your account at any time in the future.  You will receive an email similar to the following if your account has been selected for permanent limitation:

Notification of Limited Account Access RXI034

Hello Meg Whitman,

As part of our security measures, we regularly screen activity in the
PayPal system. During a recent screening, we noticed an issue regarding
your account.


We are very sorry, but in accordance with the PayPal User Agreement, we are
no longer able to have you as a customer.

We have had to close your account for the following reason:

We have observed activity in this account that is unusual or potentially
high risk.

We apologize for any inconvenience this account closure may cause. You may
still log in to PayPal to view your transactions history and personal
information for a limited time.

The funds in your account will be held for 180 days, due to the risk of
outstanding chargebacks and complaints. After 180 days, any remaining funds
will be available to you for withdrawal.

For your protection, we have limited access to your account until
additional security measures can be completed. We apologize for any
inconvenience this may cause.

To review your account and some or all of the information that PayPal used
to make its decision to limit your account access, please visit the
Resolution Center. If, after reviewing your account information, you seek
further clarification regarding your account access, please contact PayPal
by visiting the Help Center and clicking “Contact Us”.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Please understand
that this is a security measure intended to help protect you and your
account. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Sincerely,

PayPal Account Review Department

How To Withdraw Money From A Limited PayPal Account

First of all, check the Resolution Center to be sure that you do not have the ability to withdraw funds.  All PayPal limitations are different and you may get a “soft” limit before the permanent limitation sets in.  Withdraw all of your money to your bank account immediately if you do have the ability to withdraw.  If you do not have the ability, then try to restore account access by completing the steps with the help of this guide.  If that fails, then your goal becomes getting the money out of the account as quickly as possible.

First of all, it’s unlikely that PayPal will release any funds until after at least 45 days have gone by since you received the initial notification of limited account access.  This is because buyers can file a PayPal dispute up to 45 days after payment was sent and PayPal wants to be sure they have your money to cover those refunds.  After 45 days has passed, send an email to executiveoffice@paypal.com containing something similar to the following:

Subject: Status of Limited PayPal Account Withdrawal

Body:

Dear PayPal,

My account has been limited since (date of first received limitation email) and I have not had the ability to withdraw the (insert amount) that is remaining in the account.  When will these funds be made available to me?

I would appreciate any help you can provide.

(Name)

It may take a while to get a response.  The usual turn-around time is about five days.  Your initial success depends on how long your account has been limited and whether there have been a lot of complaints or other problems with the account.  If the account has been limited for more than 120 days then it’s likely you’ll receive an email with the subject “Your PayPal Funds are Eligible for Withdrawal” along with a response to your original email with a case number in the subject line along with your original subject.  In the example above, it will look something like “Re: Limited PayPal Account Withdrawal (KMM156434026391L0KM) :ppk1.”  If the account has only been limited for a short time then it’s likely you’ll receive a response similar to the one below.

Dear Poor Seller,

My name is Carrie and I work for the office of Executive Escalations. I
want to personally thank you for contacting PayPal. Your concerns were
recently forwarded to our office for review in the hope that we might be
able to assist you further.

A review of your Account indicates that PayPal elected to sever the
business relationship due to excessive risk.  Due to that risk, the funds in the Balance will be held for 180 days from the date the limitation was placed (Date).

As stated in section 10.4 of our Legal Agreement outlines that if we

have reason to believe that you have engaged in any Restricted
Activities, we may take various actions to protect PayPal, eBay, a User,
a third party, or you from Reversals, Chargebacks, Claims, fees, fines,
penalties and any other liability. The actions we may take include but
are not limited to the following:
a.      We may close, suspend, or limit your access to your Account or the
Services (such as limiting access to any of your Payment Sources, and
your ability to send money, make withdrawals, or remove financial
Information);
b.      We may contact buyers who have purchased goods or services from you,
contact your bank or credit card issuer, and warn other Users, law
enforcement, or impacted third parties of your actions;
c.      We may update inaccurate Information you provided us;
d.      We may refuse to provide our Services to you in the future;

e.      We may hold your funds for up to 180 Days if reasonably needed to protect against the risk of liability; and
f.      We may take legal action against you.

PayPal, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to terminate this
Agreement, access to its website, or access to the Service for any
reason and at any time upon notice to you and payment to you of any
unrestricted funds held in custody for you. You can review PayPal?s
Legal Agreement by clicking the ?Legal Agreements? link at the bottom of
any PayPal web page and then clicking the ?User Agreement? link.

I apologize if you feel you did not receive the level of service you
expected of PayPal.  We appreciate your willingness to share your
experience with us so we may evaluate our policies and procedures to
ensure we provide good customer service to everyone contacting our
company.  Your feedback is valuable and presents an opportunity to
evaluate and continuously improve the level of service we provide to our
members.

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience caused in respect of this
matter.  If you require clarification on any of the issues raised,
please feel free to contact us directly at
executiveoffice@paypal.com.

Sincerely,
Carrie
Executive Escalations
PayPal, an eBay Company

This is their standard copy/paste email response.  If you get this kind of response then you will need to press harder.  It’s unlikely PayPal will release all of the money at once in this situation, so you should try to get half of the funds transferred to your bank account at this point.  In this email, you want to sound serious and professional.  Don’t threaten to sue or assault anyone.  Reply directly to the email you received before with the case number in the subject.

Dear (name of person who sent the last email from the Executive Office),

I appreciate the level of risk PayPal is taking on by offering their services.  My account has had zero credit card chargebacks at any time and I have zero open disputes and claims.  There is no justification for holding (insert amount of money) since (insert date).  From the research I have done, there is no legal justification to hold my money for this amount of time either, regardless of what your terms of service say.  I will be filing a complaint with the California State Attorney General, Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, and (insert local congressman’s name).  I will forward the complaints to your office as well.  I am a reasonable person and all I am asking for is the release of half of the funds now.  If you look over my account I am sure you will see that there is zero risk of loss to PayPal.  Thank you for your attention and I am sorry we were not able to come to an amicable solution.

(Your Name)

EBay/PayPal read everything I put on this website within 20 minutes of it going up.  Take a look at the information I have in the email examples above and put it in your own words.  If you just copy/paste it then they’ll know where you got it from and won’t take you as seriously as they would if they think it’s an original email.

An email like this example will show them that you mean business and know what you’re talking about.  A lot of people will start threatening class action lawsuits and other ridiculous threats.  PayPal knows 99.999% of people are going to do nothing.  Your promise to file complaints with those agencies is reasonable and something you can actually do.  Wait about two days for a response.  You should get one much faster than it took to get the first one.  Ideally, you’ll receive something like the following:

Dear Josh,

Thank you for your response. I apologize for any confusion in regard to this matter and I can see how this situation could be frustrating. I have reviewed your PayPal account and your recent inquiry. Based on our review we are prepared to make a one-time exception, and release $3,000.00 USD. The funds will be manually transferred from your PayPal account balance to the Confirmed bank account on file. Please allow one to two business days for the transfer to complete. Once the funds have left your PayPal account, please allow three to four business days for the funds to reach your bank. Due to the inherent risk of Reversals, the remaining balance will be held for the full 180 days. You may log into your PayPal account after January 1, 2010, and withdraw the remaining funds.

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience caused with respect to this matter.  If you have additional questions, or would like further assistance, please feel free to contact me directly at 402-952-8338 or email me at executiveoffice@paypal.com.

Sincerely,

Connie

Executive Escalations

PayPal, the safer, easier way to pay online

It usually takes about 24 hours for the money to leave your PayPal account and the usual two to four days for it to show up in your bank account.  They may also ask for confirmation of which account you want the funds transferred to.  If they want you to call, try emailing them the answer to their questions unless you want to get on the phone with them.  Don’t give out the whole bank account number – the last four digits is fine.

If you still get denied, follow through with the complaints.  The reason you got denied is probably because it hasn’t been long enough since your account was limited.  There is a lot of fraud that goes on through PayPal and they have no idea if you’re “one of the good guys.”  If you still get denied and it’s been 90 days or less then try again around the 90 day mark.  Chances are that PayPal will be more comfortable releasing some of the funds at that point, provided you don’t have any complaints or credit card chargebacks.

California State Attorney General Complaint Form: http://ag.ca.gov/contact/complaint_form.php?cmplt=CL

Better Business Bureau Complaint Form

http://sanjose.bbb.org/ComplaintDetail.aspx?CompanyID=0000204015

Federal Trade Commission Complaint

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en

If you don’t know the name of your congressman, simply “Google” your city and “congressman” and it should be the first result (if your congressman is any good).  There will be a phone number and an email address for you to forward your complaint.

Conclusion

There are very few people at PayPal that have the authority to make decisions.  I have fairly good intelligence that says there are only about six people in Omaha, Nebraska that decide whether accounts are reinstated after a limitation.  Computers do almost all of the work, but a human makes the final determination.  Your best chance of getting your money prior to the 180 day mark is the process I have explained above.  Calling the 1-800 number and trying to email random people at PayPal won’t do you much good.  The chances of getting anyone on the phone that can actually do anything about it are just about zero.  The trick is always to stay calm and never say anything you can’t follow through with doing.  If you have any additional problems you’re welcome to post here or email directly at my email listed in the “About Me” section above.  Of course, I will never ask you for any personal information.  I don’t even want to know your last name, let alone your password or banking information (no offense).  Don’t give it out to anyone that attempts to contact you directly either.

Good luck and I would be happy to help if you have any additional questions.