eBay’s Reverse Christmas Gift

eBay Bucks reward program policy change

Did you get an e-mail from eBay with the subject line, “Changes to eBay Bucks Rewards Program?”  I did.  I usually disregard these “updates to terms and conditions”-related e-mails because they’re boring (yes, I know that’s a bad policy).  However…I’ve been an eBay user since 2000, and I’ve bought and sold a few (hundred?) items on the site during that time.  And since eBay Bucks has been a decent perk, I opened the e-mail to see what kind of wonderful changes were coming my way.

Here’s the text of the e-mail, with a couple of non-essential lines deleted for the sake of brevity:

Dear Scott,

We’re writing to let you know about upcoming changes to the eBay Bucks Rewards Program. In order to continue offering meaningful benefits, we regularly look at the program’s performance to learn where changes are necessary. As a result of our latest program review, the eBay Bucks Certificates to be issued for the quarter ending December 31, 2013, will be the last sent for Rewards that total less than $5.00.

Effective January 1, 2014, program members must earn a minimum of $5.00 in eBay Bucks during a quarterly Earn Period in order to receive a Certificate at the end of the period. Quarterly balances below the $5.00 threshold will be forfeited…

As always, please know that we appreciate your eBay Bucks membership, and look forward to rewarding your participation with significant benefits.


eBay Bucks Team

Huh.  I didn’t expect THAT.  I don’t buy enough to rack up $5 in eBay Bucks every quarter, so my eBay Bucks rewards are effectively going out the window.  In truth, it was just a few dollars here and there anyway.  But there was something nice about getting something useful every once in a while, especially after fourteen years in this relationship.

Here are a few things we can learn from eBay’s e-mail:

  • Consider timing.  If you’re eBay, why don’t you announce this policy change in October, or some other time when people aren’t shopping like crazy?  People shop (a lot) in the days after Christmas.  I’ll admit it…I’ve been browsing eBay for a few small items that Santa missed.  The new eBay Bucks policy doesn’t exactly give me a reason to make those purchases on their site.  It’s a reverse Christmas present—instead of giving me something, they’re loading my eBay Bucks into their giant fake Santa bag and heading back up the mountain on their Grinch sleigh.
  • Let bad news be bad news.  Don’t try to spin bad news into good news.  This e-mail fails in that sense.  If you are telling me that you’re effectively making your rewards program worthless to me, don’t talk to me about your desire to continue offering meaningful benefits.  Tell me that you’ve looked at my account history and you know that this will negatively impact me, tell me why you had to do it, and tell me you’re sorry. 
  • Bad news goes down better with (actual) good news.  If you’re delivering bad news, deliver some actual good news with it.  If you don’t have any good news, consider inventing some (or delay the message until you do).  This approach, for example, probably would’ve had me singing eBay’s praises: “This isn’t great news for you.  And we hope that you’ll start to buy more on eBay so that you’ll start to reap the rewards of this program once again.  You’ve been with us fourteen years, and we appreciate that.  So to soften the blow, here’s a one-time promotional code for $15 in eBay Bucks, redeemable toward your next purchase of $50 or more. “

Are you an eBayer?  Let me know what you think of their e-mail and the policy change.


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