Why is eBay making life easy for bike thieves?

February 12th, 2014 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »
Photograph by Matthew McVickar showing attempted theft of his bike.

Photograph by Matthew McVickar showing attempted theft of his bike using a car jack. Pic released under a Creative Commons licence.

Most cyclists know about bike marking: the police carry out free public sessions where they indelibly mark your bike with your postcode. You can then add your bike’s details, such as the frame number and model, to the National Cycle Database. This means that if it’s stolen, you can mark it as stolen on the database.

This all sounds good, but will it really help you get your stolen bike back? Most bike thieves are stealing to sell – and the internet is a great place to do it. Smart thieves will avoid adding too much identifying detail to their online seller listings, so they won’t list the frame number and they may even avoid giving the correct make and model.

But what if sellers had to give the frame number? It wouldn’t stamp out reselling of stolen bikes – but it would make online selling less convenient for thieves. That’s why cyclist Richard Biggs recently created a petition asking eBay, one of the world’s biggest online marketplaces, to make frame numbers mandatory for bike seller listings. The petition gained 5,989 supporters before closing. Then Richard came up against an unexpected problem – he couldn’t actually deliver the petition to anyone at eBay. This giant online marketplace is distinctly lacking in human beings to communicate with. After several “return to sender” responses he did a bit of digging and found personal contact details for John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay.

The response? Making frame numbers mandatory in bike listings would be “too difficult”. If you know a tiny bit about web development, you’ll know that adding an extra field to a seller’s listings is actually quite easy. In fact, eBay already makes it compulsory for car sellers to add registration numbers to their listings.

Maybe it’s time for more cyclists to get in touch with eBay to express their wish for this very minor change. The postal address for eBay UK is:

eBay UK Ltd, Complaints Department
PO Box 659, Richmond-upon-Thames

They’re on Twitter too, as @eBay – but they never seem to respond to any attempt to contact them on there.

If more cyclists get in touch, perhaps we can persuade eBay to change its policy and stop making life so easy for bike thieves.


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