There is an item that, for a long while, we were the only people on eBay selling. Everyone knows that cannot last forever so along came several other sellers who started to sell the very same item. For twice as much. Identical items that we are all getting from the exact same place.

Of course, they didn’t sell very many and, if anything, they helped us because we were so much cheaper in comparison. So they tried to make their inflated price seem justified by adding random trinket accessories to the item.

Now, we have access to these same accessories. We don’t sell them for the simple reason that no one ever wanted them when we did sell them and they are rather heavy so if no one wants them, why raise the shipping costs of the items people do want by adding random things to the listing? This seemed logical to us but I understand why our competitor added them in. Yes, it made their shipping costs much higher but if I buyer balked at their higher price, they could say, “Yes, but we include this random thing you don’t want in the listing and they don’t so it’s worth twice as much!”

This still did not work. Several of these sellers gave up on this item leaving only one or two that I know of. Their prices are still twice ours for the same item. They are still including the random trinkets no one wants. They are still not selling very many. I guess if your price is twice as much you can sell less and it doesn’t matter as much. Who am I to say?

I have no problem with all of the above. While I may fault their logic, I am a big believer in a free eBay market and competition like this keeps things interesting. I am certainly not the only person to have the idea of selling what I am selling so now that the item is out there, it becomes a game of who can do it better. I like a challenge. And if I was the second seller to get in on this trend instead of the first, I would like this all the more.

My problem is thus:

Buyers now email us, with some frequency, wanting us to add, at no extra charge, the extra trinkety stuff the other seller sells to our item. This other seller offers this random stuff with the item, why don’t you? You’d think that the fact that the other seller’s shipping is $2 more expensive than ours AND they are charging twice as much might gave you a hint why I don’t offer it but, no, people want me to match exactly what the other seller is giving at MY price.

I used to sit and explain why we stopped offering the trinkety stuff because it increased the shipping so much that it wasn’t worth the value, most people didn’t want it, this keeps our prices low, etc etc and finally I stepped back and said, why are we doing that? My new philosophy is, when I get an email like this, I simply say that we only offer what is shown and if they want what the other seller is offering, they should buy from the other seller. Period.

9 out of 10 times, the buyer then just buys from us in a day or two anyway after we say this.

This has also happened after the sale. Buyer says, I’m upset because I got this item from you and you don’t include the random trinkets the other seller does.

So now, come feedback time, I am not only accountable for what my item description says, I have to be accountable for the item description of my competitors as well? Give me a break.

I know buyers all want something for nothing. I am a buyer frequently and I am sure I am guilty of this myself.

But on the seller’s side, this demonstrates something really important. What your competitor does affects how your customers relate to you. If your competitors are terrible at customer service, this can put you in a much better light if you are good. If your competitors go the extra mile and you don’t, it is going to make customers judge you more harshly if your service level isn’t as high as theirs. If your competitor is offering some extra, you better start considering offering some kind of equalizing offer or have an explanation ready if confronted. It’s not something you can just turn a blind eye to.

But when it comes to pricing or what is offered, it also means that your buyers will want to be able to mix and match what they like about each. “I want the shipping costs of Company A, the price offered by Company B and the customer service of Company C,” they say to you, Company D. Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to play that game but you still need to be aware of it. Company B could be selling at a loss and be out of business in 3 weeks but your prices will still be judged based on them.

Do I have a perfect solution? No.

In the end, the only way you can combat this is to simply be the best that you can be and hope that you stand out in comparison. But by staying aware of what your competitors are offering, you can start to anticipate buyer issues and that will make you better prepared on how to deal with them.

When these other sellers came along, I neither raised my prices nor bended to the pressure of adding junk to my listings at no extra cost. I didn’t lose any money from price wars and my sales are largely unchanged. But it could have easily have gone other ways and still could so you need to be ready to adapt as needed.

But let me turn this over to you.

How do you handle competitors in your business? How has the way they run their company affected how you run yours? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.