North American Network Operators Group

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Re: Complaint of the week: Ebay abuse mail (slightly OT)

  • From: Paul Vixie
  • Date: Sun Aug 03 12:43:40 2003

> ... ebay now requires that you fill in their lovely little web form to
> send them a note.  Even if, say, you're trying to let them know about
> another scam going around that tries to use the machine
> to extract people's credit card information.

one can easily imagine that their [email protected] alias was receiving so much spam
that it was too costly to read it all and fish out the valid complaints.
(this is a ~recent spammer tactic, clogging the metadata paths to make it
harder for network owners to discuss spammer activities.)

however, the real reason is likely to be lack of uniformity in complaints.
among the population who complains to [email protected], there isn't a single definition
of "spam" or "abuse" or "hack" or "scam" or what have you.  a complaint that
is about a credit card scam is only differentiable from a complaint that is
about a spamvertised web site after a fairly expensive human has seen both
and made a determination.  at ebay's transaction volume i'm sure that the
aggregate costs of those humans was looking pretty large.

so it was for all the other companies who have tried to manage their abuse
costs by making people go to web sites.  most of these companies were not as
financially successful as ebay, though, and the unwillingness of the public
to fire up a web browser in order to give the valuable gift of feedback about
customer activity turned into a larger cost than the one they were avoiding.

ebay is a different animal, and i'll take bets that the potential complainants
who send enough abuse complaints overall that they have to prefer e-mail and
say "no" to web forms, is not even part of their target audience.  that means
they don't care if you stop using their service, or blackhole all mail from
them, or whatever you have to do to protect yourself from their other
customers... because they will still have tens of millions of other customers
who don't send abuse complaints or who are willing to deal with web forms.

this sounds like i'm defending them.  i'm not.  but while reprehensible and
irresponsible and socially radical, the web form approach's only real cause
for failure is when the lack of a useful feedback channel curtails complaints
which the network owner would find valuable.  that's just not provably true
in the case of ebay.

we all knew that profitable large network owners would change the landscape
compared to merely ebitda-positive large network owners, and here's an
example of how "big company" cost management practices can go up against
"reasonable and customary internet behaviour" and pretty much ignore it.

this won't be a case where taking your complaint to the peering/backbone
folks can result in a policy change, either.  to get the attention of the
people who make this kind of decision in a company like ebay, you'd have to
go to the better business bureau, or congress.  good luck storming the
castle, boys.
Paul Vixie