So in my post about the Half.com changes yesterday, you’ll notice that I was suspiciously quiet on the fact that they aren’t just requiring that sellers use some kind of tracking, they are also enforcing a no less than 3 day handling time. I didn’t say anything about this because this deserves a post all its own.
Let’s look at some key phrases from yesterday’s update. The ones I really want you to look at are bolded:
1. To improve trust, safety, and user experience on the site, beginning July 12, 2010, sellers who offer expedited shipping will need to enter tracking information into the Half.com website for all expedited orders within 3 business days of making a sale.
Please note: The policy change outlined above only impacts orders where the buyer has paid for expedited shipping. Sales with standard shipping will not be affected by this policy change.
3. If tracking is not uploaded within 3 business days, expedited shipping will be disabled on the seller’s account and will not be available as a shipping option on the seller’s current and future listings.
4. In order to re-enable expedited shipping, sellers must upload tracking for all outstanding expedited orders within 3 business days after the expedited shipping option was disabled; otherwise, expedited shipping will be permanently disabled on the seller’s account until the seller contacts Half.com Customer Support to review and approve re-enabling expedited shipping.
So, in plain English, you only have three days from the sale of an expedited item to prepare the package for shipment (though I suppose you could delay before putting it in the mail). Now, like me, you are probably saying, “Well, yeah. What’s the point of expedited shipping if you take more than 3 days to mail it out?” I am totally with you on that. There is no point to offering expedited shipping if you are going to sit on the item and not mail it out and I like their “No expedited option for you!” method of taking it away from you if you aren’t performing.
But I still want to talk about this in a more of a big picture kind of way. After all, Half.com is still eBay’s weird cousin. Anything they do in one place is fair game for the other.
eBay has really pushed for sellers to ship items faster in this DSR world where buyers get to rate how fast items go out. Right now, they are weeding out the slow shippers through feedback. If you take too long to ship, you get low stars and suffer that way. But if they really want to be like Amazon and give buyers a consistent ship time estimate, it isn’t a stretch to see them setting an minimum handling time. Maybe it won’t be a site-wide requirement but it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to add it to Top Rated or some other performance level.
Right now, Get It Fast is on something of the honor system. I can say I have a 1-day handling time and offer Express and eBay marks my item as Get It Fast, giving me some additional exposure. But there is nothing to double check me on that. I could say I ship in 1 day and actually ship in 4 days, how would eBay know other than with bad feedback? With the Half.com system, they are very literally saying that if you don’t have a label tracking number to give us within 3 days of the sale, you lose that expedited advantage.
Might eBay, in the foreseeable future, start calling us on our handling times in the same way? If I don’t give them a tracking number in 24 hours from the sale, will I lose my ability to specify listings with Get It Fast? Instead of something we specify manually, maybe Get It Fast could become an average based on how soon after sale we post a tracking number of the item?
It may sound like a far fetched conspiracy theory but isn’t that essentially what they are doing with this Half.com update? Why is it a stretch to say it could happen on eBay?
Now, in an ideal world, this automatically calculated handling time would replace the shipping time DSR and then I would actually be all for it. How great would it be to actually have a notice of how fast we ship based on real numbers instead of an arbitrary rating on a stupid system given by buyers who think they are rating shipping time? But we surely do not live in an ideal world.
Of course, there are several things I don’t love about this and, after all, this is all based on pure speculation and hysteria. But this Half.com update does set an interesting precedent.
So what do you think? Is the handling time DSR rating enough to regulate handling time or might eBay start a stricter requirement in the future?
And if they did, is that a bad thing?