eBay Tries To Recover from Outage

Late Friday night, leading online auction site eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) apologized for a service outage that had crippled its site for nearly 24 hours. By that time, however, the damage had already been done. Disgruntled eBay customers vented their frustrations on online message boards and eBay stock fell more than nine percent, dropping 16-13/16 to 165-7/8 on Friday.

The service outage, which prevented any bidding and listing of new items, began at approximately 9:50 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday and lasted until 7:25 p.m. on Friday.

The problem was traced to Sun Microsystems software. eBay said it believes all information and data on the site was recovered. eBay, which unveiled a new redesign on Wednesday, also announced that it has reverted back to its old interface in order to prevent future problems.

“We know we must provide continuous service for our community, and that we have let our community down,” said Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay. “We will not rest until we make sure that this problem will not occur again and that we make things right for our users.”

eBay will extend all auctions that would have ended during the hours of the outage by 48 hours. EBay will also refund all fees for auctions between June 9 and June 11. This move to appease customers won’t be cheap. eBay says that the outage, auction extensions and refunds will reduce its second-quarter revenues by at least $3 million and as much as $5 million.

“No Bells and Whistles”

In an open letter to eBay’s customers, Whitman and company founder Pierre Omidyar said that eBay has ” taken a serious look at our priorities because of this outage. We hope you will give us the chance to show you our commitment to your success and to keeping eBay up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our goal: Uninterrupted service. No fancy bells and whistles. We just want to make it work.”

Whitman and Omidyar added that eBay “will offer a free listing event some time in July as a token of our appreciation of your continued support and understanding.”

Will Users Abandon eBay?

During the first three months of 1998, eBay’s registered users grew from 2.1 million to 3.8 million as gross merchandise sales totaled $541 million. Now eBay’s top concern is trying to win back the trust of many customers who are taking their business elsewhere. eBay’s loss is also a gain for other companies that offer person-to-person auction sites like Amazon.com and Yahoo!.

In fact, there are numerous postings on Web message boards about how the outage will damage eBay. Message boards on Yahoo! and AuctionWatch.com were especially busy.

Anti-eBay Petitions Circulating on the Web

In addition to messages from customers who say they will abandon eBay and investors who are angry, anti-eBay petitions are circulating on the Web. There are also postings that express concern about eBay’s technology. After all, the company’s redesigned interface has been shelved, and the resources used to produce that interface might have been wasted. Shares of eBay were down 10-5/8 to 155-1/4 in early trading Monday.

2 Comments

  • I find it interesting that E-bay doesn’t want its customers knowing the toll-free number to reach customer support. I posted a number that I found through a Yahoo search and they erased it. They sent me the following letter. Perhaps it’s time for E-bay to MAKE customer service "cost effective." The number is 1-800-322-9266.
    Letter below:
    Hello ormarr,
    I noticed that you posted eBay’s phone number on an eBay Board. Since eBay does not have the staff to handle large quantities of incoming phone calls, and increasing our staffing levels to handle an increasing number of calls would not be cost-effective, we would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from providing the number to others, especially in public forums such as discussion boards and chat rooms.
    We certainly appreciate your willingness to provide help to other users and I know that providing the phone number seems like the correct thing to do, especially when a user appears to need emergency help; however, providing the number to large groups is counter-productive. Since we don’t have the staff to handle these calls it only increases the frustration levels of
    both members and staff.
    Thanks for understanding that I had to remove the post and send this request on to you. I know you were only trying to help out. 🙂
    Regards,
    Deann
    eBay Moderation Team

    • we have found a contact phone number for eBay in the UK which seems to handle worldwide calls for them. The number is +44 700 500 3229 (+44 700 500 EBAY)
      we called them and our problem was resolved after a few calls.
      good luck.

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