Pros and Cons of Private eBay Listings

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Ever stumble across an eBay listing that didn't let you see its list of previous bidders? Or feedback containing items that you couldn't view? Both of these result from private listings, which allow eBay sellers to keep these things from public view using a simple listing upgrade on the selling form.

It probably rings a bell. There are a lot of private listings on eBay, even if they're not the majority. But how does a seller go about listing this way, and why do they do these things? What does it mean for you?

How to Create Private Listings as a Seller

It's easy to create a private listing on eBay and results in no extra fees. Here's how:

  1. Begin the selling process just as you normally would.
  2. On the selling form, scroll down to the heading marked "Choose how you'd like to sell your item" where you'll also find the price and quantity options.
  3. Click the link labeled "Add or remove options" that is just to the right of this heading.
  4. Check the box labeled "Private listing" in the pop-up window that appears, and click "Save" to close it again.
  5. Complete the rest of your listing just as you normally would.

That's all there is to it—the listing you've just posted is private. In practice, this means simply that:

  • Buyers won't be able to see who else has bid on or purchased through this listing as they would.
  • Links to this listing won't be available in anyone's feedback as positives or negatives are left—though the feedback evaluations themselves will remain visible.

Reasons to Use Private Listings

Despite what eBay lore often says, there are legitimate reasons why a seller might find that private listings help them serve their customers and do better business:

  • Sensitive goods are involved. There are some types of goods that aren't things buyers want everyone to know about. It can mean adult goods, which is where imagination immediately goes, but it can also mean things like medical goods of various kinds. If you're a seller of goods that are sensitive in nature, you may find that your sales—and the amount of feedback that you receive from them—increase as you make listings private.
  • It's gift-giving season, or you're selling "gifty" goods. When people shop eBay for gifts, they're not likely to want their purchases to be publicly viewable—though they often haven't thought about this beforehand. In some cases, it can be a competitive advantage to make gift-oriented listings private, then include a blurb in your item description explaining that you're protecting the buyer's privacy so that their gift is a surprise.
  • You sell to other eBayers or online sellers. If you're a lot seller or a part of the sourcing chain for other eBay sellers, they'll be happier and more loyal to you if you don't show other eBay shoppers that they could have bought the same item(s) for much less money.
  • You don't want the competition to watch you. Though sellers can get good research through products like Terapeak, there's no reason to make it easy for others to simply comb through your feedback for recent sales and outcomes if you find yourself in a highly competitive selling area.

Private Listings Versus Private Feedback

Sometimes eBayers are confused by the differences between private feedback and private listings, with the stigma associated with one coming to affect peoples' impressions of the other.

  • Private feedback hides a member's entire feedback profile. When an eBay member's feedback is private, no one can see what others have said about them at all, positive or negative.
  • Private listings simply hide associations. When a listing is private, it simply becomes impossible to link a particular eBay member to a particular listing, since their bids are hidden and there is no link in feedback to the item. Members' evaluations of one another in feedback, however, are still viewable.

Private feedback usually indicates a troubled eBay account with too many negatives—though even this isn't always the case. For example, a buyer who has purchased a sensitive item from a non-private listing may choose to make their feedback private for a time for similar reasons to those given above.