• John Burton

My Least Favorite Bank

I buy stuff on eBay. ebay. Ebay. Hold on, let me check. See, there's my point right there.

I am going with eBay. Which is my least favorite bank. They are one of my favorite online media media. They are an effective business acquistion firm. And they are one of my least favorite online experiences.

Before you get crazy - I LOVE some of the stuff that I have bought on eBay. ebay. Whatever. It is a resource, and an amazing one. My point here is that not that the business is a bad one, my point here is that their business is not their business, and so it suffers when their business needs someone to pay attention to - their business. Hard to follow? Just wait til you try to figure out what this company does.

Online media channel? You bet your lower case e. In 2018, eBay made $1.2 billion in advertising fees. Oh, and the other $1 billion in classified revenues. So let me do the math, if you make, I dunno, $10.7 billion a year, and $2.2 billion of that is ad revenue, then yes, you are in the business of selling advertising. Well, then they sold it to a company in Norway, for $9.2 billion. That makes you a ... you guessed it.

Of course, this media company is also a bank. Or vice versa. It gets confusing. While 20% of the revenue is from advertising, you do have to look at their acquisition business. Pay Pal. Skype. Stub friggin Hub. And the list goes on. Let me do some more math. I can sell a business that earns $1 billion (the classified business) for $9.2 billion in that same year - how much attention do you think I am paying to that guy's vinyl collection?

They are also publicly traded, which makes one of their primary businesses the service of the stock price. Don't be naive. When your company is public, the price of the stock is as important as anything else you do. Or, in most cases, more important than anything else you do.

So you get it. There are a lot of... distractions. Who cares? Somebody with a problem, that's who.

I had a shirt. A shirt that was expensive. I know it was expensive, because I bought it at the Westchester Mall. I almost never do any of that. Buying at a mall. Buying at the Westchester Mall. Buying anything expensive retail. None of it is any fun. But I bought it from a retail purveyor we all know and love, recent bankruptcy notwithstanding. At the Westchester Mall. Keep that in mind, it is important.

I listed said shirt on eBay. Never mind an average 10% fee for sellers (do NOT google any analyst's opinion on that percentage,) it sold. So no problem. Except, wait, I wanted money for it. So the way that eBay works is that when you want to GIVE them money, it is immediate. When you want to TAKE your money, it gets... nuanced.

First, you have to pay for shipping. More out of pocket? Yes, but no problem, eBay will take your money for that. Which they then hold on to for, wait for it...

No, I mean wait for it.

While I was waiting, which is a whole other story that I will talk about when we cover third parties to these transactions (OH WAIT, eBay owned one!!! - two? One I think. Who can tell?) the buyer wrote me. They didn't like the shirt. It was a knockoff. How do they know it was a knock off? Because they took it to an expert in knockoffs.

They demanded a refund. I asked to write to, or speak with, the expert. I spent more on gas to get to the Westchester Mall than the buyer did on that shirt, but since I did go to the Westchester, as I assured the buyer, the damn shirt was real. I never got an answer.

Instead, I was contacted by eBay. In between acquisitions. And they told me about the buyer's complaint. And so I provided them all the details, including the original receipt. I provided them with these details the day after they reached out to me. YOU try finding a four year old receipt for a shirt. It took me a day.

A day too long. I waited another two weeks, during which my money was held because of the complaint. Then I got the answer - they had ruled in favor of the buyer, and she was getting her money back, but she had to ship me the shirt. They asked me if I wanted to pay for the shipping. I said no thanks. Because I am polite.

The money, now 3+ weeks in my account but inaccessible, was now withdrawn. After another 3+ weeks...NOT. Withdrawn before I finished reading the email. If I wanted it back, I could appeal. So appeal I did.

Another two weeks. Then one day I get a package in the mail. It is my return! Ok, maybe this was a bad experience. I can always resell, and set the price higher to make up for my migraine. I open the envelope - and it is empty.

I did what any good eBayer would do, I wrote immediately. Another two weeks goes by, and then I get the last email, that my email about the envelope was too late after my email about the appeal, so, no appeal.

In other words, Officer, I waited too long to report something stolen, even though I didn't know it was stolen until 4 minutes before I reported it, so now there is no crime?

Maybe a little less time banking, and a little more time marketing. Is all I'm saying.