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eBay customers still fuming over auto site

Dozens of people join together to boycott the site, with representatives saying that they want to have their old site restored.

    Ron VanWarner said his sales of wheels and hubcaps on eBay were down 78 percent last month.

    Caryl Coleman stopped listing her items altogether and has not sold anything in weeks after averaging about $1,200 in sales each month.

    Ron Gissiner, who bought more than $40,000 worth of automotive items off eBay in the last year, now refuses to shop there.

    VanWarner, Coleman and Gissiner are among the frustrated people who say eBay has done too little, too late to fix its new automotive site, eBay Motors.

    The auction house pledged to fix the site after a firestorm of complaints greeted its launch in April. Customers said the showcase for auctions of automobiles, motorcycles, parts and related items was poorly integrated with eBay's main site, confusing to navigate, and difficult to read and download.

    But in the last month eBay has only addressed a handful of the most serious complaints--such as taking aircraft- and boating-related items off the main site and putting them in eBay Motors. Those categories have since been restored on the main site.

    That isn't enough, buyers and sellers say.

    "I'm angry," said Coleman, who lives on New York's Long Island. "They fixed something that wasn't broken and created something that nobody wanted."

    Some people have started to boycott the site, refusing to bid or sell through it until eBay reverts all eBay Motors listings to the eBay main site.

    "We would like them to scrap the whole idea," said VanWarner, who runs a wheel and hubcap store in Pompton Plains, N.J. "The whole idea was ridiculous to begin with."

    But Simon Rothman, vice president and general manager of eBay Automotive, said the critics are a small minority. Bidding has increased on items in eBay Motors compared with when those items were on eBay's main site, he said, and the percent of auctions that close with a winning bid has also gone up.

    "Buyers and sellers are really happy," Rothman said. "There are some folks that have been very vocal, and we've been listening to them."

    The uproar comes as eBay continues to branch out from its bazaar beginnings. The company recently launched a business-to-business trading area and opened a high-end auction category with Butterfields in October. eBay launched a joint site with AutoTrader.com in March that was the predecessor to eBay Motors and has since been folded into the new site.

    As with eBay Motors, many of these changes have drawn criticism.

    Butterfields has disappointed dozens of bidders. And many eBay members criticized the company's promotional deal with advice site Keen.com.

    "The real danger for eBay and for other players is when you take a platform that has been proven to work and change it, you run the risk of alienating your consumers," said Rob Leathern, digital commerce analyst at Jupiter Communications. "(eBay Motors) is a case where to some extent that may have happened."

    Complaints roll in
    eBay has fixed other problems with eBay Motors. When the site launched, sellers could not use their listing programs to list large numbers of items on the site. eBay has since upgraded its own listing program to correct the problem.

    "We've listened to the feedback and have changed the site accordingly and will continue to make changes in the next few weeks," spokesman Russell Brady said.

    "What they are doing is a Band-Aid on somebody's amputated leg," said Bob Coker, who buys and sells collector car parts.

    The search engine has also drawn criticism: A search on eBay will turn up items on eBay Motors, but not vice versa. Thus, a search for a "1960 Buick" on eBay turns up 27 items, while a search on eBay Motors reveals just 13 items.

    Other complaints focus on the look and feel of the site. The navigation bars on eBay Motors differ from those on eBay's main site and sometimes link to different places. The "services" link on eBay Motors provides information on financing, escrow and collector car insurance, while the same link on eBay gives information on eBay's feedback forum, how to register with the site and dispute resolution.

    In addition, eBay Motors uses smaller fonts and darker background colors than its parent site. Some eBay users say that makes pages on the new site hard to read.

    "The look of the site is horrendous," VanWarner said. "It doesn't look like eBay at all."

    Still others say the new site makes it difficult to list and find items. In launching eBay Motors, eBay expanded the number of subcategories for automotive items from less than 30 to more than 400. The company has begun to curtail some of those categories, but some sellers say they still find the number of classifications daunting.

    "I would never use eBay Motors," said Bob Swanson, a Ridegefield, Conn., resident who previously sold automotive parts on eBay. "It's too complicated."

    eBay representatives say the company will have many of these problems fixed over the next several weeks and months, but they declined to give a specific timeline. Many of those upset by eBay Motors say even if the fixes are made, it would not be enough.

    Dozens have joined together to boycott the site, with representatives saying that they want to have their old site restored. Many say they want eBay to acknowledge that its automotive area was built by the small-time buyers and sellers, not by big companies like AutoTrader.com, which receives co-billing on the site.