“There’s a future for eBay buyers and sellers as long as people are still trading. Since people have been trading since the dawn of history, trading probably isn’t going to end anytime soon.”Jim Griffith, eBay University dean.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Did you know that 3 out of every 10 residents in the Triangle are eBay users?

Well, don’t think for a moment the online auction house and world’s biggest garage sale is satisfied with that number.

“We still have seven to get,” says Jim Griffith, dean of eBay education.

Griffith and eBay’s traveling education road show will be in Durham on Saturday, offering a day-long program for $39 to walk people through the ins and outs of setting up their own eBay store. The company expects 1,000 or more people to attend.

If anyone knows the ins and outs of eBay’s remarkable business, it’s Griffith. He was hired as the company’s first customer support representative after discovering eBay in 1996 and helping other people learn how to use the auction site and tools. He describes his first encounter with eBay in 1996 as “love at first website”.

Now, he travels 30 weeks a year, helping teach other people how to become eBay merchants. “We have instructed crowds as big as 1,400,” he tells Local Tech Wire by phone from California before heading to Durham, “You meet some amazing people doing this. They are excited because they have decided to do something new.”

A boon to entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is alive and flourishing at eBay. It now has over 430,000 “sellers” of products — from mom-and-pop shops to ventures designed to generating a full-time living. “And that’s a conservative figure,” Griffith points out. “We have over 115 million registered users worldwide, with lots of cross-over between sellers and users.”

Of those sellers, more than 150,000 are “Power Sellers” generating more than $1,000 a month in sales over a three-month period. “Titanium” sellers produce over $100,000 a year in sales.

According to eBay, those numbers include 1.4 million users in North Carolina, over 1.4 million in Georgia and over 593,000 in South Carolina.

Griffith says numbers exploded four years ago as the “dot com” boom balloon began to deflate. The eBay University started about the same time.

“What’s driving the growth in sellers are a number of different factors,” he says. “Lots of folks came to us when their economic situation changed, they were forced to make a career change, or they decided to continue their line of work and add something else. A lot of people dream of owning their own business, and it became more and more apparent to people across the country that eBay was a launching pad for new businesses.”

The seminars from eBay University are designed to help people overcome reservations or technical challenges they face. “Admittedly, eBay is a fun site, but it also is a huge site and can be intimidating to the newbie,” Griffith explains. “There are a lot of people who are more comfortable in learning in a classroom situation. It’s actually very fun. The program covers six hours, we have lots of breaks and provide lots of reassurance.

“We try to keep it fun. Exciting and reminding people that this is not really rocket science. It’s like teaching someone to ride a bicycle. Once they learn, they’re off. A lot of people will rush off and do their first listing that night. I encourage our classes to start experimenting and listing items when they get home.”

Seminars include basic selling for the new seller, and “beyond the basics” which shows current sellers how to grow their business.

eBay makes money off the program, but Griffith says “it’s not a big moneymaker.” The major benefit is creating 30,000 or so new sellers a year for the site. They create more inventory, add variety and, ultimately, produce more revenue from eBay, which captures fees for sales and services.

The eBay community

Griffith says eBay looks at the University in another way — as a tool to help foster what he calls the community feel of the site. “You are not transacting with a big company — you are interacting with another individual,” he points out about the buying and selling. “The biggest component of a community is the community helping its own members. That’s how I got started — teaching people what I had learned about the Internet and eBay before I joined eBay.” He notes that many eBay sellers and buyers help each other through various chat rooms. There are also “Trading Assistants: to help people set up their own shops or to act as consigners. There are also “Education Specialists” who are recognized by eBay as trained and ready to help the new sellers.

Griffith says the eBay staff will also talk about how to protect against identity theft and credit card fraud.

For those who can’t attend the seminar, eBay points people to the Trading Assistants program. The company also has started an Education Specialist program where people are trained to teach others about how to use and sell on eBay.

The programs and initiatives help bring more people to the Internet’s garage sale, flea market, bazaar, and online mall — all in one.

“There’s a future for eBay buyers and sellers as long as people are still trading,” Griffith says. “Since people have been trading since the dawn of history, trading probably isn’t going to end anytime soon.”

The session begins at 9 AM at the Durham Marriott and Civic Center.
Registration is $39.

To attend, register at www.ebay.com or call (781) 821-6734

eBay Teaching Assistant program: www.ebay.com/ta

The ChannelAdvisor connection

One of eBay’s online partners is RTP-based ChannelAdvisor. Its tool suite is designed to help eBay’s big-volume sellers manage and sell inventory. Scott Wingo, the CEO, has just published a book about the art of eBay selling called “eBay Strategies: 10 proven Methods to Maximize Your eBay Business.”

Wingo says the book is based on his three years of experience in working with small to large companies on how to use eBay.

For details on the book, go to: www.phptr.com/title/0321256166