EBay vs. Amazon: An Interesting Lesson in Customer Care

Rob Enderle
Slide Show

Getting Your Customer Service Agents Through High-Volume Times

These last several weeks I've been shopping for parts for my XK8 project car on both Amazon and eBay. Since I write on customer care and Internet best practices, I wanted to do a comparison between my eBay and Amazon customer experiences because I thought the differences between the two services, both very successful, to also be very interesting.


What initially prompted this idea was a meeting I'd had with eBay's CEO a few weeks ago and a question I'd raised on whether eBay would consider a dedicated buying device, which is what Amazon has in the Kindle Fire. His response got me wondering if eBay even thinks of Amazon as a tier-one competitor and this seemed to be something that might be interesting to explore.


Well, interest went out the window Sunday night when I got banned from eBay. Had someone told me this would happen, I would have assumed they were joking - banning a power buyer just doesn't make sense. I've since been restored thanks to a lot of hard work by some great folks, but I doubt this outcome would have been the same for anyone else. I'll cover what makes the two services different first and then cover the lesson learned.


EBay vs. Amazon


What is interesting about the two services is that, at the core, Amazon is a store while eBay is still Internet classified ads. This means that Amazon curates most of its content, which is new, and eBay manages mostly third-party buyers selling used products. However, both increasingly have third-party retailers selling new products in their services and Amazon increasingly has used options, suggesting that they are both increasingly competing for the same buy.


Amazon has recently moved to put apps on phones, PCs and iPads to buy books and manage music and I can imagine them eventually moving to some kind of more comprehensive purchasing app. The Kindle Fire is basically a packaged Amazon store, focused on media consumption, but containing a store front. It is on an Apple-like path of controlling the user experience to a high degree and, if it is successful, it will effectively be putting a super mall in every pocket that is tied only to Amazon and its affiliates.


EBay isn't controlling the user experience as closely and its interface appears older and far more painful as a result. For instance, with Amazon, you have "one click" buying where, with one click, you can buy most anything. EBay requires you first pick a PayPal payment method, then either re-enter your credit card information or log into PayPal. If you take the PayPal login route, it will default to taking money out of your bank account. If you want to use a credit card, you have to change it, and on the way to changing the buying method it will toss up an offer to get a PayPal credit card, which you have to accept or decline before moving on. It does this every time. If you are buying a lot of things at once, this gets pretty annoying pretty fast. In the end, you feel what appears to be a conflict between PayPal's goals of maximizing revenue and eBay's goals of providing a good experience and PayPal unfortunately wins.


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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 13, 2012 7:15 PM Wayne Balcombe Wayne Balcombe  says:

I have to agree Rob, eBay - in general - has all sorts of usability problems and  customer services issues (in fact eBay go out of their way to make contact with them a last resort). eBay have shifted their business model in the last few years and it seems to have all sorts of knock on effects - the the eBay/paypal disconnect is incredibly annoying (on two occasions I have been left out of pocket as I get ping ponged between the two) - frustrating!

Great article by the way!

Feb 20, 2012 11:39 AM Astrid Ancora Astrid Ancora  says:

I like doing online shopping and I am buying very often different things from Amazon or e-Bay. I am very satisfied of this sites and I didn't have any usability problems. I've recently bought some dog tags for dogs from e-Bay and I didn't have problems with their paypal service.

Feb 24, 2012 10:00 AM Soney Sanderson Soney Sanderson  says:

I love online shopping and I am always looking for good discounts on different websites such as San Francisco classifieds, eBay or Amazon. The truth is that I prefer Amazon as it provides an easier access and also the Amazon paypal is working good.

May 3, 2013 9:26 PM MoeLester MoeLester  says: in response to Soney Sanderson
I bought an item on eBay recently and the seller sent me the wrong 1 out of only 3. She has on her page a promise saying she will refund if she(seller) makes a mistake, regardless that she required from me to ship her item and paying for return shipping. I emailed eBay customer service her page screenshot with her promise to refund in case of seller's mistake, her wrong item's picture and business card of her online shop out of eBay to make me her customer, during telephone conversation all 3 customer supporters admitted I was right and was going to be refunded and very next minute I got the email saying they resolved this case in seller's favor, they even never explained the reason. While on amazon you are always protected with A-Z guarantee and refunded, also anytime advised by 7/24 online customer support. But just you try to contact eBay customer service ! You wait for 15 minutes them to answer, spend money on telephone conversation and are badly swindled at the end. eBay is the most insecure place for fair customers . Reply
Sep 16, 2013 6:40 PM Elisa  Henry Elisa Henry  says:
Interesting study on being able to control the customer experience. It's interesting what amazon has done though in regards to expanding to featuring 3rd party items and order fulfillment, beyond their own stocked inventory. This has allowed them to accommodate and grow to a larger scale, being able to compete with ebay. It allowed them to expand to niche products such as custom pet name tags that they may not have been able to offer before. I think being able to control the user experience has brought them to the level where people will go even for these niche products. Reply
Dec 17, 2013 12:05 AM smith smith  says: in response to MoeLester
I agree i have recently bought something on Ebay which we returned after 4 days as it was Faulty ,the seller is in china, we been told the have refunded the money to us on 29th of November but i did not receive it so i called Paypal they told me no refund was issued so i called ebay they told me the same thing that no refund is issued but they can not do anything about it. they told once you get your item and you dont do anything about after 16 days ebay will not contact the seller. Reply
May 31, 2017 5:19 AM Customer Service UK Customer Service UK  says:
There is good collection of the articles with informative stuff. Reply

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