When eBay Multi-Sku Listings Become Fee Circumvention

Monday, 15 March 2010 at 8:47 am Pacific USA Time.

eBay's new multi-sku feature is plenty exciting! We discussed it at length during our weekly radio show, Online Marketing Brains. We found a weird item using multi-sku, and it became a debate. My co-host thought it was a cool use of multi-sku. I was convinced it broke the rules and was fee circumvention.

Well, I just got word from eBay that I was right. It would be considered fee circumvention.

What is a multi-sku eBay listing?

Multi-sku listings are designed for sellers who have identical items in variations, and want to list just ONE listing on eBay, but offer these variations. Great examples include:

  • This shirt comes in 4 sizes and 6 colours.
  • These shoes come in 20 sizes.
  • These baking supplies come in dark choco, milk choco, and white choco.

That's going to save fees for sellers, make shopping easier, and make eBay more like typical eCommerce sites, where you hit ONE listing for a shirt, and use pull-down menus to choose the size, colour, or the variation you want.

Sounds great! Where does this become fee circumvention?

It's a fine line, but it's clear to me. The listing we debated on our show offered baking chips. It used multi-sku to offer about 15 different chocolate and toffee chips from different brands (Nestle, Hersheys, etc…). At that point, it's not variations of identical items.

The listing could have offered Nestle chips in various chocolate flavours. The listing could offer Hershey's chips in various flavours. But once you have different brands, you have a different item. In your online inventory, this would be a whole different sku or set of skus. And that's where the line's drawn.

When you break this rule, it's considered fee circumvention. That means eBay thinks you are listing in ways to avoid paying eBay fees. And you probably were. :) So it's a fair cop.   

Chapter and Verse

To clarify this, eBay has updated their rules page on Fee Circumvention. Check the area that says "offering choices." Hopefully this clarifies this!

And remember, if an "eBay consultant" of some sort advises you to list in ways that break the rules, fire him or her. I would have zero trust for someone who claims to be an eBay expert but either doesn't know the rules, doesn't understand them, or doesn't care to follow them. I knew that was fee circumvention before I got Trust and Safety to confirm it. A really good eBay expert would have known that. :)

List safely! :)

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Categories: Just An Observation

Comments Closed

2 Responses to “When eBay Multi-Sku Listings Become Fee Circumvention”

  1. NullApps says:

    Which of these is more likely?
    1) The seller doesn’t understand the idea behind multi-variation listings.
    2) The seller wanted a boost in search for all unrelated forms of chocolate when any piece of chocolate was purchased.
    3) The seller wanted to save $0.10 (really, just $0.10).
    While the seller may have been saving money (and thus guilty of fee circumvention) I hardly doubt that was their true motivation.
    The more appropriate rule should have been under the “Search and Browse Manipulation” policy. It is akin to keyword spamming.
    I’m not in any way disagreeing with your conclusions since that rule really is under Fee Circumvention but with how eBay should classify this rule.

  2. I think that the seller might also have listed that way for “ease of use.” Think upsell. You found her looking for choco chips, and once you see this listing, you’re thinking toffee chips too.
    Lots of possible scenarios!