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eBay to de-emphasize auctions, lose all distinctiveness

eBay buy it nowOnline auction site eBay has two things that make it different from every other online store. First, it's a virtual bazaar where anyone can hawk their own goods rather than a traditional storefront where a company maintains and sells its own inventory. Second, as an auction site, there's a chance that buyers will get a real bargain, or that sellers will get more than an item is worth.

For a while now, eBay has been offering sellers the option of selling items for a fixed price. This way both the buyer and the seller know exactly how much money will change hands up front. If you search eBay for pretty much any item now, you'll find a ton of "buy it now" listings amidst the sea of auctions.

But now it looks like eBay wants to change the ratio a bit, by lowering seller fees for fixed priced items. This will do three things:
  1. Make it easier for customers to simply place an order for an item at a specified price instead of waiting a week to find out if they won an auction
  2. Help eBay compete with the thousands of other web stores offering items for fixed prices
  3. Kill off one of the things that really made eBay special
Now, eBay isn't really going to emphasize that last bit. But the truth is, the move sort of turns eBay into half.com (which is already owned by eBay). Sure, a few sellers might decide it's worth selling their items in auctions, hoping that some buyer will forget to comparison shop and pay way too much for an item. But if it's cheaper to just list the item for the price you hope to get, why wouldn't you? And that takes a way a bit of the excitement involved in the bidding process.

Then again, with so many people using eBay, when was the last time you really got a bargain as a buyer?

Tags: auctions, buy-it-now, ebay, half.com, paypal

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