Took the day off today. Not by choice, mind you, but because eBay was broken and I don’t have anything to do other than tell people in Cyprus I really don’t ship via $1 horse and carriage. In this case, I don’t mean broken like not conforming to what I want as I have in the past. I mean broken like a dozen armless UPS employees decided to play “Super Bowl” with your Xbox 360 packaged in nothing but newspaper and prayer. Normally I reserve Saturdays for playing with my IP address, buying stuff from my competitors, asking them how much shipping is to Cyprus via horse and carriage, and then leaving negative feedback. I couldn’t even do that today though because every search I tried resulted in either zero matches or a message stating the “function” I requested was temporarily down. At first I thought maybe all those listings I reported for bogus reasons had actually been taken down, but when a search for “expired pretzels” didn’t result in any hits I knew something was wrong. I did what I always do when I think there’s a problem and called my mother. She confirmed that her search for “Beanie Baby” resulted in an error and we agreed that it was unlikely no one was selling Beanies this week. I followed up by doing what I always do and went to the internet to try to find doomsdaymongerers complaining about similar problems.
The best part of being a faceless eBay whiner with a clever URL is that there are so many people just like me. Feels like I’m part of a real life family because we all love to complain about the same things so much we’re basically friends, if not lovers. Today the internet was truly ablaze with hate because eBay’s own search function was not functioning properly, among various other things.
Most people found it impossible to search for items using eBay’s search on November 20th, starting around 11am in the morning. No matter what the user searched for, they would be greeted with either an error or zero search results. This made it impossible for buyers to purchase or bid on items they weren’t previously watching or found via a method other than eBay’s search, like Google or via magic. EBay made an announcement acknowledging the problems at 1:37pm on the System Announcements Board stating:
Due to errors in some of our backend systems, members may be seeing different errors in Search. This could be that “We were unable to run the search results you entered. Please try again in a few minutes” or a blank page, or simply the browser being unable to display the page.
This is also affecting the ability to access eBay Stores through search directly, and sometimes from the store URL.
Please note that we are working as quickly as possible to get this resolved. Thank you for your patience as we continue to work to resolve this.
The problems continued throughout most of the day. Users have been reporting all kinds of issues including an inability to bid on items they could actually find and an inability to send or pay invoices. Finally, around 11pm, eBay announced that they had found the problem and were working diligently to fix it. Everything should be back to “normal” on Sunday the 21st, whatever that means.
Supposedly eBay is going to issue some kind of refund, but it is unclear exactly what that compensation will look like. In reality, whatever eBay is willing to refund, be it insertion and final value fees or even some kind of “above and beyond expectations” package, will pale in comparison to the losses suffered by lower auction prices. If you were selling an item you expected would sell for around $200 and it ended up selling for the $19.24 price it was at the day before because no one could find or bid on it then no fee refund could possibly make up for that loss. Any eBay seller knows that the auction price can double, triple, or go up even more in the last 30 seconds of an auction. This gaffe, probably the most serious I’ve ever seen, has no doubt caused some sellers serious money. Granted, Saturday is not a popular day to end auctions, but that certainly doesn’t mean there are no items ending. Once eBay realized the magnitude of the problem they should have extended the end time of the affected auctions until the next day. Unfortunately, eBay chose not to act and millions of dollars were lost worldwide.