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EBay Accused of Padding Listing Numbers PC Magazine

EBay Accused of Padding Listing Numbers

Greedbay? Feebay? A select group of eBay power sellers have a message for the online auction site: don't cross us.

The sellers, riled up by recent eBay policy changes, have been hitting back at the site for weeks - first with listing boycotts and now with accusations of fake listings and forum censorship.

EBay on Tuesday admitted that a "bug" in its system had accidentally placed listings from eBay-owned onto late Friday night.

The bug was related to the gallery feature that allows users to place a small photo of their item on the initial search returns page, a spokesman said. EBay traditionally charged 35 cents to include a gallery photo, but as part of the policy changes that went into effect February 20, they are now free of charge.

However, "the code actually rolled out three hours late, so there were a certain number of listings ... that didn't get gallery free, so we were going back and fixing that" on Friday, the spokesman said. "What happened was, when we wrote the code to implement that fix in the database table, there was a string that was left on there that populated and sent listings onto that it shouldn't have."

Approximately 5,000 listings were pulled from, but they have since been removed, according to eBay.

Sellers pointed to the listings snafu as evidence that eBay was inflating its numbers to make up for losses sustained during the boycott. When the bug first emerged on Friday, the spokesman told a reporter that it was actually a planned test.

"But it wasn't a test. It ended up being a bug," he said. "So I ate a little bit of crow on that."

Sellers were not convinced, and some threatened to take their complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

"I have been collecting all eBay's padded listings and forwarding them to the FTC so they will investigate them," one forum poster wrote.

That forum poster did not respond to request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the FTC said that complaints are "non-public" and that PC Magazine would have to submit a Freedom of Information request to obtain data on whether or not complaints had been lodged.

One forum thread from Friday pointed to a California-based seller known as sdc_prod_434012 with no previous eBay transactions whose new listings did not allow users to actually bid on his items.

"This guy has over 35,000 items. And there is no button for a 'buy it now' and no button for making a bid. Interesting," a user known as mydiscountstation wrote. "E-bay is putting up some fake items to boost their listings numbers."

When PC Mag clicked on the link to sdc_prod_434012's items Tuesday evening, the person's store had 55 items listed, but clicking on the links went to a page that said eBay had removed the item. It also appears that members had approximately 22 days left to bid on his items, even though eBay auctions typically run seven days at the longest.

A comment on a Tuesday Appscout post suggested that forum posts critical of eBay's policies had been deleted.

EBay denied that any forum deletions were intentional. If any posts were taken down "it was accidental," the spokesman said. "We're not afraid of hearing from our community and allowing them to post and discuss things and be angry on our boards."


Exposing the sleazery of ebaY and PayPal


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