Posted December 21, 2012 3:21 pm by with 2 comments

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ebay noweBay, a company not traditionally known for its personalized customer service, is turning that thought around with their new shopping app eBay Now.

If you live in San Francisco or New York City, you can use your phone to buy just about anything and have it in your hands within an hour. Not wild enough? For the holidays, they’ll include a roll of exclusive limited-edition gift wrap from designer Jonathan Adler.

Imagine this scenario, you’re at the office Christmas party and your co-worker unexpectedly hands you a lovely basket of coffee and treats. You didn’t buy her anything, but no problem – you excuse yourself, rush into a bathroom stall, whip our your phone, pick a similarly priced item from eBay now and before the party is over, you’ve reciprocated appropriately. Sheldon Cooper would be so proud.

eBay Now has two other features that truly define the meaning of customer service. First, they assign a personal shopper who calls you to confirm your order. The person’s picture even shows up on your phone so you know who to watch out for.

Next, they give you the ability to track the buyer as she moves around the city and a quick call button in case you need to give her further instructions. Kind of like watching Santa on NORAD.

I want to know what these people get paid to perform this service. On one hand, it’s kind of cool shopping for others, but that one hour window makes it more like pizza delivery. I imagine these shoppers face plenty of angry buyers when they show up late or with the wrong item.

I watched a video where a TV reporter tested the service and it went very well. I was surprised to see that you don’t pay for the order until it arrives. The shoppers have those PayPal card swipers on their phones to collect the fee. Which also makes me wonder how the shopper paid for the item in the first place. Does eBay have a revolving charge account at these retail establishments. I sure hope they don’t make the shopper fork over their personal cash for reimbursement later.

Now, through Christmas, eBay Now is offering their delivery service free of charge. The news reporter said that the normal fee was only $5, which is ridiculously cheap. In the city, it would cost that much to drive and park or take a cab, let alone the time wasted.

I don’t know how viable this service will be in the long run and how many cities will be able to implement it, but it’s still a great lesson in customer service. If you can’t beat the price of your competitors you can beat them by personalizing the shopping experience so your customer gets more value for their buck.


  • eBay is finally catching up with retail giants like Amazon. A shopping app like this one should help them generate more sales around the holiday season.

  • MPReader

    The author is right. The service is ridiculously cheap. Considering that the dispatcher and the courier need to be paid, the gas and car maintenance costs money, the PDAs cost money, the wireless service costs money, the management (not cheap) and infrastructure cost money… even a 10-year-old can figure out that it costs WAY more than $5 for an hour of personalized delivery service—probably more like $25 or $30 an hour. Unlike a Chinese restaurant that makes money on the food that is being delivered, eBay doesn’t make any money on the items they deliver, because they don’t own them—they are purchased from regular retailers.

    The service is cool because it’s cheap. Who wouldn’t want it! I would. But who’s paying for it? All the people who pay fees to eBay. Unfortunately, those sellers and PayPal users have no say in how their fees are used, even if it’s on money-losing ventures.