eBay full of fakes
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I’ve long heard of Chanel, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands keeping track of how fakes are selling on eBay. I figured that this was a practice that eBay was fairly strict about, as they frame the site as a great place to buy high-end goods for cheap and are always flashing around brand-names in their ads. But apparently not. This article starts out talking about some jewelry dealers who’re trying vigilante-style to smoke out a group of fakers, but Tiffany and Co. are also apparently angry about the amount of ugly fake heart toggle necklaces being sold on the site.
What I think is interesting here isn’t that eBay isn’t doing anything. I’m never surprised when a corporation won’t take responsibility for something within its own borders. No, what’s interesting is that it’s the features of the system itself that makes this possible. No oversite from eBay and very few mechanisms for user-user policing.
I’ve written before about how the reputation system doesn’t work. the harm of retaliation for leaving negative feedback is greater for buyers than for sellers, so people generally don’t do it. But eBay can’t police all the thousands of transactions that happen each day either. So this means you have a marketplace full of faked or misrepresented items, and few options for users who are aware of these practices. They can’t leave messages for other users, they can’t request the items be removed unless they themselves have bought them and found them to be fake, and the sellers usually won’t bother responding to emails.
Obviously the danger is that rival sellers will sabotage each other’s stores. But in practice I haven’t really seen anything like that, whereas I’ve seen a great deal of people puffing up their positive feedback and driving up their bids by using multiple accounts or friends and family. The high-volume pirates from Hong Kong and China who sell low-quality Marc Jacobs jackets for $25 are organized and professional. If the site actually does care about keeping down piracy, they need to look at alternate models of policing, perhaps organized around community moderation rather than a top-down authoritarian approach.