If any of you have had the misfortune of trying to contact eBay customer service by email over the last several weeks, you probably realized that you have not received a response. Email support from eBay has been increasingly slow over the last year. EBay fired most of their customer support staff located in the United States in October of 2008. Over 1,600 people were terminated, largely because eBay’s stock at the time was trading at a six year low of just under $18 and they deperately needed to cut costs. Of course, share prices deteriorated even further in 2009, bottoming out below $10, but who’s counting. EBay customer service has always been atrocious. Most any email to the company will return a canned response generated by a computer that scans the email for “keywords” and returns the response most likely to address at least one of the customer’s concerns. Nonetheless, most emails receive at least some response within 48 hours. Not so these past couple of weeks.
After the 2008 terminations, eBay outsourced to a firm in India to take care of customer’s basic problems. If you call Paypal’s 1-800 number, eBay’s 1-800 number, or go through eBay’s “Live Chat,” India is their first line of defense. The problem is that India can’t really do much for you and they have no authority to restore accounts, issue or remove violations, or go into any depth beyond what pops up onto their screen for them to read at you. Nine times out of ten their answer will be “Contact the buyer/seller.” The good news is that it’s so loud at the call center that you can hear seven or eight answers to other people’s problems which may lessen your need to ask follow-ups. They also talk so fast you’ll probably be off the phone 30 seconds after you finally get connected to someone. If you can convince India that your problem is significant enough they will tell you how to contact eBay’s “Trust and Safety” team or the relevant intermediate department. If you’re on the phone with PayPal, India will forward you around an endless loop (India is a large country) until your call may finally find its way onto American soil where a real life, possibly American person, will give you the run around instead. Unfortunately this is the nature of the beast in the 21st century. EBay is in a particularly difficult position because they have literally hundreds of millions of “customers” around the world. It would be impossible to hire enough staff to respond to emails and calls personally, so this broken system is what we’re stuck with.
About two weeks ago I received an email from a user threatening to burn my house down with me inside of it. Whoever said eBay isn’t a dangerous place obviously did not have the joy of entering into a transaction with this sweetheart. Such a threat might scare a normal person, but since I have the strongest and sexiest Australian I know as my personal bodyguard I was not the least bit worried. About an hour later I baited our closet killer into replying through eBay with a profanity laced message so I knew I could forward the message to eBay and they would likely suspend the user. I diligently filled out a report including the usual header information along with the body of text and expected the user to be suspended within 24 hours as usually happens. I waited. And waited. Four days later I contacted Trust and Safety again with a follow-up email. Still nothing. I waited another three days and sent a third email and followed up through eBay Live Chat inquiring as to whether or not my email had been received. They assured me it had and I would receive a response within 72 hours. I received no response and gave up. One might assume that eBay would be concerned about removing users threatening murder, but as we all know things change. After all, there’s always secret fees to create or bogus promotions to start.
Today, after 15 days, I received the following apology email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Luckily I’m still alive to read it:
You recently contacted eBay Customer Support. A change in our email system, created internal challenges that negatively impacted our ability to answer your original email.
We have made some adjustments to our processes that will assist us in meeting our service level timeframes. We are truly sorry for any inconvenience that this situation has caused you.
If you have been unable to resolve the question that you originally contacted us for, please visit us through our Contact Us page:
1. From our home page, click the “Contact us” link on the top, right hand side of the page. You’ll be asked to sign in.
2. Enter your question or your problem and click the “Ask” button or click the link that best describes your issue.
3. If you entered a problem, click the link that best describes your issue.
4. If you still need help, click any of the links on the right hand side of the page. If available, we would strongly suggest using the “Chat with us” option, as this option may be the quickest method for you to address your question.
eBay Customer Support”
I agree that being murdered would have been inconvenient, but then again I wouldn’t have had to do anything but sleep, so inconvenient might not be the best word. Told you these emails are never personal. I copied and pasted my original email into the “ask” box, but couldn’t locate the “death threat” issue so I settled on “Report a User.”
Did it really take eBay two plus weeks to figure out they were having problems with their email system? Did they fire whoever is supposed to be updating the system announcement board? Maybe they thought, “Wow, we haven’t received a single complaint in over two weeks!!!! Everyone gets a raise and let’s fire the rest of the U.S. customer service staff because we obviously have no need for them!” It’s hard for me to guess.
I actually caught someone with an eBay IP address snooping around the site today. They ran a variety of DNS and WHOIS lookups on me and my precious site as well. Hopefully they aren’t onto us. If anyone wants to know, my real name is Mike and I sell used pants, Affliction T-shirts, and comic books.
I’ll let you know if I get a response and our prospective serial killer gets the boot.