Behind The Scenes at eBay Live

I remember my first eBay Live. It was held in Anaheim, near Disneyland. The entire event fit in a room that was smaller than some of the individual meeting rooms at this year’s event. There were about 2000 to 3000 attendees. This year’s event pulled 15,000 people from all over the world. I met sellers from the UK, Australia, Japan, Austria and Germany. The convention floor was so huge, it was a 300 yard walk just to the rest rooms.

The best part of eBay Live for Karen and me was meeting so many readers who stopped by the booth to say hello. I have to apologize to all of you who stopped by to see me and missed me. I was doing a number of seminars and panel discussions and my publisher arranged a number of press interviews including the San Jose Mercury, Washington Post and KTNV-TV in Las Vegas.

It is really hard to meet and spend time with everyone on the convention floor, so next year Karen and I have decided to hold our own evening event at the next eBay Live in Boston. It will be an invitation-only event for my readers only. (I’ll let you know the details next May.)

For the best overall news coverage on eBay Live, go to Auctionbytes.com. Ina Steiner and her reporters were everywhere at eBay Live and she has all the news. As I only publish monthly, my thoughts are more big picture — long term. What does eBay Live mean to you and what happened there that will affect your business in the coming year? They say "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" but that wouldn’t be any fun. If you couldn’t be there how would you learn what happened?

One of the most interesting events that happened at eBay Live was the pressure eBay put on the Mandalay Bay Hotel to kick Alibaba out of their event space in the Border Grill. Alibaba (www.alibaba.com) rented the private meeting space downstairs in the Border Grill located in the hallway between the convention center and the hotel. They put on a great function every day from 10 – 2PM. Alibaba gave away great prizes, provided free food and drink and gave several presentations on wholesale sourcing and importing.

Reportedly, eBay contacted the hotel on several occasions and tried to force Alibaba out, and later offered the hotel money to buy them out. One source heard them offer the restaurant manager any amount of money they wanted to shut them down.

When Alibaba put signage in the hallway directing people to the event, eBay showed up with hotel security guards and made them remove it. Why you ask? Well, Alibaba owns TaoBao, which is eBay’s competitor in China. The battle for China’s online auction market has been fierce and bloody with no love lost between the parties –but did eBay need to carry the acrimony over to the US? (Full disclosure – Alibaba purchased Banner space on my web site to advertise their event).

A lot of people who heard and read about eBay’s actions re: Alibaba were perplexed –as this is not the eBay culture we have come to know and expect. I might be able to understand eBay’s actions if Overstock.com was in the same venue, or if Alibaba was promoting TaoBao, but they were promoting their wholesale sourcing search engine service where eBay sellers can find goods to sell on eBay –thereby earning fees for eBay. eBay is big enough, and should be secure enough in their market, to just ignore Alibaba. Their actions were the only negative in an otherwise excellent and upbeat event.

Anyway, the Alibaba event was a lot of fun. They played a game called Trade or No Trade based on the TV show Deal or No Deal. They even had a Howie Mandel look-alike for the MC. One of the prizes was a Segway Transporter and they also gave away two ATVs, a mountain bike and some great tents. There was nothing at the event that could be considered "anti-eBay." If anything, Alibaba was very supportive of the eBay community, eBay US and helping eBay sellers find product.

As eBay Live went, it was a huge success! The panels and seminars were excellent, there were some great vendor solutions on the exhibit floor and the last-night gala was amazing. Although there was a one-hour wait to get in and a shortage of tables, that didn’t deter the faithful –we just camped out on the floor. At one time there were over 1,000 eBayers sitting on the floor eating and drinking and watching the Vegas showgirls and a band of Elvis impersonators. Huey Lewis was awesome. He sang all of his top hits and had the place rocking!

I had never stayed at the Mandalay Bay before. It is a beautiful hotel with dozens of swimming pools, a wave pool where you can body surf and great restaurants. We watched a lounge act one night by an awesome rock group called Paragon. Paragon is a symphonic group that plays classic rock. They consist of eight virtuoso musicians who together create a distinct and awe-inspiring sound. Collectively these accomplished musicians have mastered seventeen instruments. In addition to the standard guitar, bass and keyboard, the band includes a cello, viola and a violin. Their lead singer Candice, a hot little blonde from Oklahoma, has a voice as bright and pure as Janis Joplin. Candice and the lead male vocal, Mike, performed probably the best rendition of Me and Bobby McGee I have ever heard.

It seemed that everywhere you looked you saw eBay members walking around with aluminum foil headgear. Apparently this started on the eBay message boards. When I asked what the foil headgear was all about, they explained it was designed to deflect eBay’s electronic brainwashing waves.

The PayPal panel discussion became quite heated. There weren’t that many people in the room, but those who attended were quite vocal in their complaints. Most of the complaints came from Canadian and overseas sellers who are being charged more than we are in the US.

This was the only meeting I attended where I saw real frustration and anger with many sellers complaining loudly about PayPal’s policies. One really good suggestion was for PayPal to send a token to eBay when a refund is issued so buyers don’t keep getting notices to pay the seller.

The US Postal Service had one of the largest booths at eBay Live. Whenever you go to these shows you always accumulate a large stock of brochures and catalogs. So the USPS gave everyone a free priority mail box and postage to ship stuff home in so you didn’t have to carry it in your luggage. USPS also displayed a new eBay-only shoe box-sized priority mail box just for eBay sellers. You can order them for free at eBay Supplies. I ran into my good buddy, David Hardin (Shoetime on eBay) who will really love all the free boxes. He sells hundreds of pairs of shoes a week on eBay.

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