The corruption of eBay

I got back from vacation and suddenly dropped a fat chunk of money on a bunch of used video games, which brings me to two points:
– old games need to have a smoother price curve. There are older games out there I’m interested in circling around and playing even though I’ve heard mixed things about them (like Wild Arms 3 — something where the story, or gameplay, or whatever is interesting but it’s flawed enough you don’t want to pay $50 for them). But the pricing for games seems to run $50.. 50.. 50… 50… $20, out of print. Trying to pick them up off Ebay is futile, they’re either selling for slightly less than retail or if it’s out of print, much, much more. I would happily pay $10 for those kind of games, or even rent them… crap, I totally should be renting through Gamefly or something. Anyway…
– Ebay is corrupt. It’s totally corrupt, and they must know this. And this is beyond “illegal stuff is on Ebay” or the many, many people selling diet pills of various flavors. Feedback, for instance, is faked out.

It’s almost addictive to find them. Find someone who looks fishy… for instance, someone selling computer software (claiming it’s legit) but the sale says “to save on shipping costs, we ship only the jewel case and CD…”

Then their feedback, which runs largely positive, contains weird stuff… many scattered comments from someone else, who appears to have bought stuff only from that guy, and from other people who also bought from the software guy, all leaving each other positive feedback.

Ebay must know this. I know there’s a huge number of users, and it’s impossible to keep track of everyone, but it’s not that hard to write some heuristic tools that go out and look for these pools and then send someone out to eyeball them.

Really — if you’re running a business selling something shady, what’s your motivation to do a lot of business with someone equally shady? Does your cell phone booster business really require regular infusions of questionable Photoshop software?

Potentially, this is one more thing that can bring Ebay down. If Amazon can integrate used fixed-price auctions into their business (with higher commissions but no listing costs), and Google’s keywords allow small resellers to target customers more efficently, that eats into the supplier side of Ebay, while trust and pricing can lead to erosion of the buyer base.

Ebay’s momentum was based in its scale: if you wanted to reach the most buyers, you sold there, and if you wanted to buy from the most sellers, you bought there. Their momentum has slowed, and if this continues… natch.

And in other news, I think I totally should have joined Gamefly a long time ago. Doh.