18 November 2009

I received notice this morning from eBay:

We received a report about a message you sent to another eBay member through our Email Forwarding System. The message violates the Misuse of eBay Email Forwarding System policy. We want to let you know about the report and invite you to learn more about communication between sellers and buyers. To learn more about the Email Forwarding System guidelines, please go to:


We're taking a neutral position regarding the report we received, but if we continue to receive similar reports, we'll have to investigate. Policy violations can result in a formal warning, a temporary suspension, or an indefinite suspension.

If you have concerns related to this matter, you can contact us by going to:


Well, I'd like to know about what message this complaint was levelled. But, naturally (this being eBay), there's no appropriate option at index_selection.html, and the best fitting options require that in one field I provide a relevant item number or user ID about whom I'm complaining. My own user ID is rejected from this field.

Over the years, eBay, like many other corporations, has modified its interface and protocols to make them dumber in ways that specifically increase the difficulty of confronting it with responsibility.

eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar, whose user ID is pierre. So I entered that user ID in the field, and it was accepted. Doubtless that, if others do likewise, then the software will be tweaked to prevent it.

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2 Responses to Unthwarted

  • I laughed at your amusing solution to the i.d. field problem. Unfotunately, what isn't funny is your accurate view that ebay and other websites have become increasingly 'unfriendly' to users.

    Here is my own recent encounter with Ebay's user-friendly site... seeking a solution for reasons undisclosed, I was forced to navigate to a certain page on Ebay, and in order to continue, I was given one option - 'click here'. Clicking the link brought up a new page that also failed to house any helpful information other than their own advertisements, and the directions to click on another link if my questions were not satisfactorily answered. "Click". That mouse click brought me back to my previous page, resulting in an endless loop (as far as that particular Ebay function/topic). Needless to say my questions were still unsatisfied, so I called their 'help' line. After the obligitory 20 minutes on hold, an ebay rep told me to resolve my problems that I need to go to the exact same page and click the same link. Thank you , ebay.

    • Daniel says:

      I received a reply this morning, which referred me to a set of policies, none of which had been violated unless the assumption were made that I might plausibly be given special powers on a Day of Judgment (in which case I might be construed as having made a threat, but also in which case eBay should take special care not to offend me).

      Your experience brings up the problem of telephone representatives who are themselves just working from flow-charts which are presented to them by a computer program. Of course, the person at their end of the line, using the program, doesn't feel ownership of the problem, and indeed may not have ownership (having been instructed to paint-by-numbers). But the institution itself needs to accept it, and have a reasonable protocol which, as the automation otherwise fails, hands the problem to a human representative who does have ownership.

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