Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shame on eBay

Many are aware of eBay's announcement this past July that it would no longer allow gun accessories to be sold on its online auction system. Below is the email correspondence that I had with the "Office of the President" which turned out to be a form letter as I got the exact same reply from both the President of eBay & the Vice President of eBay's Trust & Safety division (Meg Whitman & Matt Halprin respectively) - I sent similar letters to other officials at eBay, but they did not respond at all.

This was the letter that I sent to them:

Hello, I've been a long time eBay member since nearly the beginning back sometime in the late 1990's. eBay is simply the BEST online auction system in the world, and I use it to buy things many times a year, and have sold some things from time to time as well.

I am however puzzled by eBay's recent ban on all things firearms related (even simple accessories not regulated by any government agency). I believe that the justification used was that some loony might have purchased some item or other via eBay. That seems like a slippery slope to me. Is eBay to ban all knives just because some loony uses it to execute a mass suicide group? Perhaps cool-aid because it was poisoned & used to kill a mass suicide group? Perhaps all baseball bats because bats are used many times a year to kill people by clobbering them over the head? All cameras because some of them could be used by child pornographers? All cars because some may be used by drunk drivers to kill innocent victims? All spoons because spoons are used to eat, and some people eat too much leading to obesity & health issues? You get my point I'm sure - eBay simply can't ban all tools that MIGHT be used for bad purposes by bad people. Guns are simply tools not inherently good or evil. Guns are used more than 2 Million times a year to ward off criminal attacks by normal citizens in the US alone (not including police use) - 98% of the time without even needing to fire a single shot (simply showing it or aiming it at the criminal is enough to make them stop), so guns are used Many more times every year for good than for evil. To solve the so-called "gun problem" (a more fitting name would be "criminal problem") we need to lock up the bad guys & throw away the key rather than letting them back on the streets just because they behaved well while locked up in a prison cell where they were simply not allowed to act bad. Guns are also used by many sportsmen like myself who enjoy target shooting & target matches. I own guns, but I am not evil.

eBay has competitors that sell not only gun accessories, but actual guns. None of them compare to eBay, but they're currently the only alternative. Since the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms) estimates that about 50% of American households have at least 1 firearm in the home, and the 2005 census estimate is that there are 111 Million households in the US with an average of 2.6 people in each household, that makes about 144 Million potential members of gun owning households in the US alone that eBay may alienate by taking this political stance.

Thanks for considering my viewpoint.

This was the reply I got from both (the only text changed between the two responses was the name of Matt Halprin vs Meg Whitman & He/his vs She/her):

Thank you for your recent email to Meg Whitman in regard to changes to our Firearms policy. She has asked that I review your email and respond on her behalf.

While many everyday items can be used to cause harm to an individual, most items we permit for sale on eBay are not designed with the intent to cause harm or are not likely to be used to cause harm. In general, if items are legal to buy and sell in an unrestricted manner, we allow them to be sold on eBay. Many firearm-related parts that can legally be bought or sold have historically been allowed on eBay.

However, after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, eBay's Trust and Safety team along with executives at the company felt it was important to re-examine our existing Firearms policy and evaluate if it still met the needs of our marketplace and our company.

While no items related to the incident were purchased illegally on our site, it was important to make some changes to ensure we do everything possible to provide a safe marketplace.

Currently we do not allow actual firearms on the site. After careful consideration our executives and our Trust and Safety team determined that any item required to fire a gun has no place on eBay. All of our policies are under constant review. As the Internet and the way our communities use the Internet evolves, our policies and our marketplace must evolve with it. We determined that this policy change was in the
best interest of promoting a safe marketplace for all members.

Thank you for your time.


Office of the President

I then sent the following response:

Thanks for your response. Actually guns are not designed to cause harm. Guns are simply a tool no different than a box cutter. A gun is designed to be used for target practice, personal safety, officer safety, family safety, citizen safety, the safety of a woman to fight off a rapist, etc. A gun is a great equalizer - in the hands of a 100 Lb woman she becomes equal to a 300 Lb rapist, and can chase him away simply by showing it or pointing it at him 98% of the time. In the 2% of the time that she has to pull the trigger, even then it is better the bad guy take a hit rather than she be raped & possibly killed. In the hands of good citizens a gun is a tool for safety which is what they are designed for. A box cutter is deigned primarily for opening boxes, but as witnessed on September 11th box cutters were used inappropriately to do unimaginably awful things, much worse even than the incident at VT. How can eBay honestly go about censoring perfectly legal items every time someone uses one of them to do an evil deed? By that thought process, box cutters should be banned as well, since box cutters in the hands of those evil terrorists did much more harm than what happened at VT.

Perhaps black vests should be banned as well since bad people often wear black while perpetrating bad deeds. It is a slippery slope to start politicizing such a good auction site. My recommendation would be to stick with what eBay has been doing in the past - ban illegal & regulated things, but stay away from politics.

Since the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms) estimates that about 50% of American households have at least 1 firearm in the home, and the 2005 census estimate is that there are 111 Million households in the US with an average of 2.6 people in each household, that makes about 144 Million potential members of gun owning households in the US alone that eBay may alienate by taking this political stance.

Thanks for considering my viewpoint, and keep up the otherwise great work, as eBay is still the best auction site out there bar none. I know because today I had to start using a competitor's website when buying some additional gun magazines for my .22 rifle. They have a lot of room to grow just to catch up with where eBay is already at. I wasn't even able to use my paypal account because of a similar anti-gun paypal policy - I had to use my credit card directly & risk it being stolen by some hacker. If eBay is still unwilling to alter this stance, than hopefully some other auction & pay site will someday rise to the challenge & fill the giant gaping void eBay just created for 144 million law abiding American citizens who wish to be able to buy gun accessories & other non-restricted items at market prices via an auction site.

I never received further replies, I guess they ran out of form letters.


Anonymous said...

Well said. I really wish eBay would reverse this bad policy decision. It isn't going to do a single thing to reduce gun crime but it does force us to buy our gun accessories from someplace else.

Anonymous said...

check out this eBay seller's auction

and in case you missed it here is a screenshot

this sweet auction is at Current bid: US $99,999,999.00

there is One Seller who stood up to the mindless eBay machine

Anonymous said...

eBay's response came from a Terri Dianzo with the pretentious sounding "Office of the President." This "office" is actually a small department, which is an extension of eBay's Trust & Safety division. Terri Dianzo works out of the Salt Lake City location and claims to be the "highest level" or "last stop" for all escalated complaints regarding eBay policy or suspensions. Once you have reached her level, any future correspondences or attempts to reach her superiors are intercepted and forwarded back to her. The web is littered with horror stories about Terri and the notorious "Office of the President." Fortunately there is a way around this twat. eBay's Government Relations department. Complaints submitted to this department (especially through government channels) can often overturn unfair policies and suspensions.

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