A while ago, I was working as a third party service provider for a big company. I was offering a pretty nifty (and very profitable) service through their services marketplace that I invented and was also teaching classes and doing some other freelance work for this company on the side. One day, they informed me that it was a conflict of interests for me to offer my service alongside the other things I did for the company and I would have to stop.

While I could see their point, I was also annoyed because a) I knew of several other service providers who had the exact same relationship with this company that I had and they weren’t being asked to shut down their 3rd party services and b) I’d been running this service while also doing freelance work with them for a very long time with them so why was this suddenly an issue now? But I wanted to keep a good relationship with this company so I shut down my third party service.

It was barely down for a week when, much to my surprise, the company launched the exact same service that’s I’d been running. It was a complete and total rip-off of what I’d been offering and I was really freaking ticked because it sure as heck looked like they made me stop my service because they’d seen how profitable mine was and wanted in (they were getting a cut of mine anyway because it was on their marketplace AND my service directly supported & increases sales of their products but I guess they wanted to cut out the middle man and make 100%). I complained and they expanded my role with the company. What they offered me was more money for less work and, even though I knew they were offering it to shut me up, I took it because sometimes you gotta pull an Elsa and Let It Go.

Fast forward several years. I’m now working with this company full time, somehow having survived many rounds of layoffs, but I’m ready to leave for several reasons so I give notice. And here’s where this story takes a turn for the super ironic…

During my exit interview, the company asks me if I would stay on part time for a bit to help them with a service they had that was floundering because it seemed like something I might know something about. This service… was their knock-off of mine. There had been so many staffing changes since they robbed the service from me originally that no one on staff had any idea of the service’s origins. I ended up taking their offer, being paid to run my service for them, which they had completely botched and nearly run into the ground. For a few months, they paid me to work on their… formerly my… service and I finally got it working smoothly and profitably again, like it had been when it was mine.

Of course, no sooner did I get it back to where it used to be, then they informed me that they no longer needed me and had hired someone in-house to take it from there. I was let go from running (my!) service a second time because they wanted it all for themselves without paying me but, at this point, I was so sick of working with this company that I didn’t care anymore. I walked. But I still stewed as I watched them happily advertise my service, which was finally working successfully and in demand again, without any money or at least acknowledgement to me for having saved it from the brink or even invented it in the first place.

They only managed to keep the service afloat for a few months without me before it folded for good. They never contacted me to help them fix it again but there’d been another round of layoffs since then so it’s entirely possible the few people who knew about my history with the service were gone again. Either way, their stubborn determination to run this service in house so that they could make 100% of the profit instead of letting the actual expert (me since it was my damn service, yo!) do it resulted in the service degrading until it was finally run into the ground. They stubbornly burnt a very profitable and in-demand service that encouraged people to use their product and brought in new customers to the ground because of pure stubbornness and corporate stupidity so now no one gets it. Not the users that wanted and benefitted from it. Not the people who could profit off it. It’s just gone now and everyone loses.

All because they didn’t want to admit that maybe an expert can do a better job than a copycat.

The company I’m referring to is not eBay. It wasn’t even in the same industry. But tell me this doesn’t sound exactly like what eBay is doing with the Trading Assistant program and this eBay Valet disaster. What’s it going to take for them to admit that the sellers with the experience know how to sell for others better than any copycat service they can throw together?

Photo by fabio_ski.t