Despite 'fixes', Trade Me retailers continue to rage

Negative feedback

UPDATED with new comment; see Trade Me responds

Feb 28: Judging by its own Message Boards, retailers on Trade Me are still suffering following an upgrade that was supposed to make their lives easier.

On Tuesday, Trade Me assured NBR ONLINE that although there were glitches in the new system, most were fixed within hours. It was spun as a feel-good story of listening to community feedback.

But judging by grumbles throughout Wednesday, some fixes have yet to be implemented - or if they have, they've left many professional sellers totally confused.

"Why are [items] that sold prior to this flash new improvement not showing the old listing number anywhere," complained one seller, reiterating a widespread complaint from Tuesday.

"This is getting to be a right royal pain in the bum when trying to follow up on listings that were sold prior to the improvement," posted another.

A third griped, "I spent 10 minutes today finding 2 payments today because payments are not searchable. Why change something which works fine? Then there are some downstream products which some people use which work on the auction number and this will be custard too."

Trade Me support posted an illustrated guide to the new purchase system for multiple sales of the same good.

But even those who're up-to-speed are not happy with the new system, or Trade Me's design choices.

"It is a shame that trade me seem to go ahead and make these changes without thought as to how it will affect their sellers," posted one high-volume trader.

"I would far prefer that my customers use the auction number as a reference - and I have a separate auction number for all of my sales. So why do trade me now add another number into the mix - confusing for everyone. Big thumbs down from me."

Some sellers, it seems, definitely don't think their voice is being heard.

Trade Me responds
"Yes, there are some sellers who are still getting their heads around what we’ve done, and we’re helping them out as much as we can," Trade Me communications and community adviser Jeff Hunkin told NBR ONLINE.

Mr Hunkin sought to play down the numbers affected.

"Over the past 48 hours we've seen a 15% tick up in the number of emails from our members off the back of the changes - about 300 extra emails on Tuesday and 150 on Wednesday). One thing to note is that on each day more than 200,000 items have been listed onsite and more than 40,000 have sold, with the vast majority of traders doing what they normally do without any dramas," Mr Hunkin says.

Another factor NBR would raise, however, is that for every person who bothers to take the time to post about their problems, there can be another ten who are quietly fuming.

"The release has actually gone pretty well, but there were some parts that did not and we're sorry we let people down," Mr Hunkin says. Extra staff had been drafted in to deal with the issue.

Two big issues remain
There Trade Me rep conceded there were two remaining issues.

One is bugs.

"These are annoying but are an unfortunate consequence of making big changes," Mr Hunkin says.

"We try damn hard to keep these to a minimum because we know they annoy our members. We've fixed a bunch of these over the past 48 hours and the major ones have been sorted, with our tech crew working around the clock to nail these as soon as possible. We’ll keep working on these as they get on our radar."

The other was confusion about the new ID number system for listing.

"This is the piece where we’ve had some work to do to better explain the changes, " Mr Hunkin says.

"To ensure each purchase is identifiable we changed the reference or ID for a listing, to distinguish between an actual ‘listing’ and a ‘purchase’. Although we provided our larger sellers with a bunch of information about the changes in advance and involved some Top Sellers in the design and development of the new process, there are some sellers who have been surprised and confused. We didn't do a good enough job of explaining the impact of the changes on them. We've apologised and we're putting a lot of effort into explaining the changes, as we believe this is fundamentally a really good thing for sellers, and enables something a lot of traders have been asking us to do for a long time."

A real pain point for sellers has been that listing numbers disappeared from sold items. They have now been returned, making it possible to search in sold Items for both purchase reference numbers and listing numbers. 

Many are frustrated by what they see as mindless changes. But sole traders have to realise that Trade Me is under investor pressure to find new sources of revenue. A major drive to attract retail chains to Trade Me Stores to drive branded new goods sales. So far, things aren't going as well as Trade Me hoped on that front. NBR suspects more tweaks could be on the way for sales of mulitple goods. Second hand sellers and small/sole traders have to adjust to life where they are no longer Trade Me's only points of focus.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz


Trade Me reacts to retailer rage over 'big and important change'

Feb 26: Some Trade Me sellers wailed against changes to the site this morning, which had been aimed at making life easier for those who list multiple items - typically new goods sellers.

"We released a pretty big and important change to the way Trade Me works this morning. The long and short of it is that we’ve changed the way sellers list any number of the same item, and also the way we do reference ID’s, which is a critical part of how Trade Me ticks," communications and community adviser Jeff Hunkin told NBR.

Trade Me is looking to boost sales of new goods, and particularly brand new goods - which both the company and analysts that cover it see as key area of growth beyond the saturated auction market.

But earlier today, the rollout of new features seemed to have gone horribly wrong. On the sites Message Boards, professional traders complained they were seeing eroneous $0 total weekly revenue figures, previously deleted auctions reappear, or getting grumpy emails from customers who could not make a payment or send a delivery address.

"All of us are running a business on site not a kid's game," wrote one retailer using the site. "These glitches badly affect our daily routine and now it's a mess in the office. [It] might take extra 12 hours today to get these orders posted."

This afternoon, breaking Trade Me's media silence on the issue, Mr Hunkin spun it as a story of listening to the community.

"The changes deployed this morning we encountered a couple of issues that caused some confusion. Thanks to some testing, and the help of our Message Board users, we were able to identify and iron most of them out in the few hours following the changes," he told NBR.

"There are some outstanding cosmetic issues from the changes made this morning that are affecting a small number of members, and we’re working through them as top priority. It’s been a significant change for Trade Me and we remain committed to making it work well.  We appreciate that this is frustrating for those affected, and the team will be working around the clock until these last few issues are resolved. 

"As with any big change to the site we anticipated we’d need to have our finger on the pulse, so we’ve got all hands on deck over the next few days to quickly repair any issues that may crop up. We understand that this change might take some time to get used to and are in communication with all our affected sellers to help them take advantage of the new changes."

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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15 Comments & Questions

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No matter how hard Jeff Hunkin tried to spin it, this debacle just tops off the numerous problems TradeMe users had with various changes (so called site improvements) over the years. Smacks of lack of understanding of business requirements and lack of proper controls and systems testing procedures.

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Agreed - what a load of patronising BS. The matey tone really upset my stomach.

Planning and testing very poor and this complacent organisation is now well into the phase of maximising its monopoly profits.

You'd think there might be an opportunity for eBay.

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Trade Me is slowly squeezing out the mom and pop sellers who it was originally designed for. Fees are rising for not much gain, unless you are a business.

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I think you have identified a critical dilemma for Trade Me. If they start losing "mom and and dad" sellers because of price or functionality, then competitors will see an opportunity to break into that market.

Launching major enhancements without rigorously testing all aspects of the functional specification is a trap that many systems fall into. It is no surprise bugs are found. It is a costly process testing for bugs, so it was probably an executive management decision to make the launch and take the risk. The problem of looking for bugs when a system has been completely built is that fixes can inadvertently compromise the functionality of other parts of the system - this is what has happened with Novopay.
While interative testing may be time consuming and therefore costly, testing functionality as you build a system can significantly reduce the likelihood of major system failures at launch. This process also makes it easier to identify the nature of bugs and what fixes to implement. It takes away that "looking for a needle in a haystack" feeling that users sometimes get when system owners fumble around looking for solutions.

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The rising fees will also result in people eventually cottoning on to the fact some traders will need to place higher prices on TradeMe than on their own websites. This could result in TradeMe becoming an advertising site, with the traders' own websites being the transaction sites.

Obviously there will be some traders who can't afford the overhead of their own website (though possibly Google Sites and Google Checkout - or similar - might help), but for those who already have websites it might have this effect.

Is TradeMe messing with their business model without thinking through all the possible consequences?

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Already happened to me - bought an item on TradeMe, then discovered I could have bought the same thing directly from the sellers website for $10 less. Lesson learnt!

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TradeMe has been an average experience from the start, just try to search for a car between 50K and 60K. Any new competitor with a higher quality user experience and effective marketing would rapidly erode the TradeMe customer base. Their moat maybe wide but it's only ankle deep.

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Lets support the other similar sites owned by Kiwi people to sell/buy stuff

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Oh dear - lotsa ruffled feathers, it seems.
I enjoy cruising thru the numerous listings of pre-used goods on offer and have got some good bargains.
However, I rarely look for new goods on Trade Me - it's so much easier to use Google and see what pops up.

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I wonder what would happen if TradeMe and Novopay got together and had a baby?

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I'm a top seller on Trade Me and I'm extremely irate, frustrated and disappointed at the the changes they have made to their site over the last year or so. The problems are that you have geeks and young whipper snappers running the show who have little or no idea how frustrating and time consuming it is to confront and adjust to constant changes, which do nothing but annoy the beegeesus and waste the precious time of their regular users.

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Geeks and Whipper Snappers may make the changes mate but the orders come from the top. As for the model itself - I think this will open doors for the competitors. Familiarize with those whom Trademe have alienated.

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Maybe an alternative like "Sella" needs to be considered.

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Sella is "sold" mate

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I tried TradeMe and Sella: too expensive to sell on and not many bargains to buy. So I either buy direct or on eBay, and will sell stuff again when there's a place fit to trade on.

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