eBay: eBay is a consumer-to-consumer online auction and shopping website.

What is eBay?

eBay Inc. is an American multinational internet corporation. Its main source of revenue is its consumer-to-consumer online auction and shopping website, localized in various countries. The website allows people and businesses buy and sell various goods to each other. eBay started off as an simple online auction website in 1995, but has since . It was founded by Pierre Omidyar. It is one of the success stories of the dot com bubble, which grew to a multi-billion dollar business with operations in over thirty countries.

How was eBay began?

Pierre Omidyar, a French-born Iranian-American computer programmer, started AuctionWeb on September 3, 1995. The company was headquartered in San Jose, California. AuctionWeb was part of his own personal site. The first ever listing on the website was a broken laser pointer that sold for US$14.83.

AuctionWeb was originally a hobby for Omidyar, a side business of sorts. However, the website stated garnering so much traffic that Omidyar’s internet service provider had to force his to upgrade to a business account due to the website’s high volume traffic. In order to pay for the increased fees, Omidyar started to charge users for using AuctionWeb. Still, he did not anticipate the number of checks coming in for the fees, as people joined in hordes. In fact, in order to manage the incoming revenue, Omidyar had to hire an employee, Chris Agarpao, eBay’s first employee.

This was followed by the hiring of the company’s first president, Jeffrey Skoll, in early 1996. In November of the same year, the company also entered into its first third-party licensing deal, with a company called Electronic Travel Auction to use SmartMarket Technology to sell plane tickets and other travel products.

The website grew tremendously; in January 1997, the website hosted 2,000,000 auctions, as compared with 250,000 during the whole of 1996. The name of the website was officially changed from AuctionWeb to eBay in 1997. The name eBay is a shortened form of Echo Bay Technology Group, Omidyar's consulting firm. In the same year, the website also received $6.7 million in funding from the venture capital firm Benchmark Capital.

By March 1998, the company had grown to 30 employees, half a million users and revenues of $4.7 million in the United States. In the same month, Meg Whitman was hired as eBay President and CEO.

On September 21, 1998, eBay went public and made both Omidyar and Skoll instant billionaires. At the time of its IPO, the company’s share price target was $18. However, on the first day of trading, the price went to $53.50.

After this the company continued to grow. In February 2002, the company purchased iBazar, a similar European auction web site founded in 1998. On October 14, 2002, eBay acquired PayPal. By early 2008, the company had expanded worldwide, had hundreds of millions of registered users, more than 15,000 employees and revenues of almost US$7.7 billion.

What is sold on eBay?

Users can essentially sell anything that they own. These include collectibles, decor, appliances, computers, furnishings, equipment, domain names, vehicles, etc. Generally, anything can be auctioned on the site as long as it is not illegal and does not violate the eBay Prohibited and Restricted Items policy.

There have been many unusual items have been placed for sale on eBay, such as at least two previously undiscovered species, including the Coelopleurus exquisitus sea urchin, military vehicles, and items of food.

However, eBay does restrict the sale of certain items. The website lists these as prohibited and restricted items:

  • Adult Only category
  • Alcohol
  • Animals and wildlife products – examples include live animals, mounted specimens, and ivory
  • Art 
  • Artifacts, grave-related items, and Native American arts and crafts
  • Catalytic converters and test pipes
  • Cell phone (wireless) service contracts
  • Charity and fundraising
  • Clothing, used
  • Contracts
  • Cosmetics, used
  • Counterfeit currency and stamps
  • Credit cards
  • Currency, selling
  • Describing drugs and drug-like substances
  • Drugs and drug paraphernalia
  • Electronics equipment – examples include cable TV de-scramblers, radar scanners, and traffic signal control devices
  • Electronic surveillance equipment – examples include wiretapping devices and telephone bugging devices
  • Embargoed goods and prohibited countries – examples include items from Cuba
  • Event tickets
  • Firearms, weapons, and knives – examples include pepper spray, replicas, and stun guns (see also military items)
  • Food and healthcare items
  • Gift cards
  • Government documents, IDs, and licenses
  • Government, transit, and shipping-related items – examples include airplane operations manuals, subway employee uniforms, and U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mailbags
  • Hazardous materials – examples include batteries, fireworks, and refrigerants
  • Human remains and body parts
  • Importation of goods into the US – examples include CDs that were intended only for distribution in a certain country
  • International trading
  • Items encouraging illegal activity – examples include an eBook describing how to create methamphetamine
  • Lockpicking devices
  • Lottery tickets
  • Mailing lists and personal information
  • Manufacturers' coupons
  • Medical devices – examples include contact lenses, pacemakers, and surgical instruments
  • Military items (see also firearms, weapons, and knives)                         
  • Multi-level marketing, pyramid, and matrix programs
  • Offensive material – examples include ethnically or racially offensive material and Nazi memorabilia
  • Pesticides
  • Plants and seeds                           
  • Police-related items
  • Political memorabilia (reproduction)
  • Postage meters
  • Prescription drugs
  • Prohibited services
  • Real estate
  • Recalled items
  • Slot machines
  • Stamps
  • Stocks and other securities
  • Stolen property and property with removed serial numbers
  • Surveillance equipment
  • Tobacco
  • Travel
  • Weeds (see plants and seeds)

How many people use eBay?

eBay is now considered the ‘World’s Largest Online Marketplaces.’ According to the company’s fact sheet, in Q2/2013, eBay Marketplaces reported 120 million active users worldwide.

In the U.S. alone, there are:

  • A pair of shoes sold every 5 seconds
  • Women’s accessories sold every 4 seconds
  • A woman's dress sold every 4 seconds
  • A pair of women’s jeans sold every 16 seconds
  • A pair of men’s sunglasses sold every 18 seconds
  • A men’s necktie sold every 23 seconds
  • A pair of Chuck Taylors sold every 3 minutes
  • A pair of retro sunglasses sold every 52 seconds
  • A women’s handbag sold every 5 seconds
  • A designer’s handbag sold every 4 minutes
  • A cell phone sold every 4 seconds
  • An MP3 Player sold every 29 seconds including Apple iPod, Creative Zen, and others
  • An LCD television sold every 5 minutes
  • Headphones sold every 9 seconds
  • A GPS Device sold every minute
  • An Apple Laptop or Notebook sold every 2 minutes
  • An iPad sold every minute
  • An item in the home décor category sold every 7 seconds
  • A bedding item sold every 5 minutes
  • A bath item sold every 20 seconds
  • A major appliance sold every 31 seconds
  • A baby gear item sold every 3 minutes
  • Patio and Garden furniture sold every 50 seconds
  • Tea cups sold every 7 minutes
  • A hammock sold every 7 minutes

How to buy on eBay?

Once a user finds something on the website that they like on the website and are interested in buying, there are two ways that they can do about this. One is to bid on the item, at the end of the bidding period, the item then goes to the highest bidder. Another option is to ‘Buy It Now’, if the seller has this option. The seller will provide the amount he expects from the sale, the user has the option to buy the item outright at that price.

How to pay for something on eBay?

The payment can be done through various way, depending on the options that the seller has selected. eBay offers the following payment methods to choose from:

  • PayPal
  • Bill Me Later
  • Credit cards and debit cards
  • Skrill
  • ProPay
  • Pay upon pickup
  • Escrow
  • Checks, money orders, and bank wire transfers aren't allowed for most eBay purchases. But sellers can offer these payment methods for certain items in some categories, including Motors, Capital and Business Equipment, Real Estate, and Adult Only.

Is it safe ordering from eBay?

eBay has experienced controversy, including cases of fraud. Its policy requires sellers to use PayPal, and raises concerns over forgeries and intellectual property violations in auction items. However, eBay works hard to address these issues and concerns.

eBay recommends checking the feedback for the seller by other buyers who have already dealt with the seller. These buyers will be able to give an accurate picture as to the seller’s products, the condition they received the product, etc. A buyer can use this feedback to avoid buying fraudulent products.

If one does feel that they didn’t receive the item that they paid for, or that the condition of the item was not what they believed it to be, then the buyer can directly contact the seller, who may revert the sale and return the money. However, if the seller does not respond then the buyer can open a case in eBay’s Resolution Center. eBay executives will then look into the matter and try to achieve a solution to the problem appealing to both the buyer and the seller. 


Image Courtesy: amazongenius.com, deals.ebay.in

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