I suppose it is difficult maintaining a platform like eBay in a world of ever more sophisticated security intrusions. But last night eBay went over the line, at least for me, making the platform so secure that I could not use my account.
We have an enormous pile of stuff we have tagged to sell on eBay, but just have not done it yet. Yesterday, I convinced my son to do all the selling work on eBay in exchange for a revenue split. As we sat down on his computer to sell the first item together so he could learn the process, eBay refused to let me use my account because I was on a computer it did not recognize or had not used before (we'll forget for now the basic creepiness of eBay tracking me well enough to know I was on a new computer it had not seen me on before).
It turns out the whole confirmation process is keyed to the phone number I put in when I started the account. The problem is that I was an eBay early adopter. I have had an account for at least 12 years. In trying to remember the phone number, it was probably not my home number. That made it either a work number from 4-5 jobs ago or else a fake (remember, in 1997 eBay was just another little startup -- I may well have given it a fake phone number).
Anyway, the first verification process involved a phone call. Whoever owns that phone right now is probably pretty confused. The second involved an online chat. I verified my name and account user name and address and all kind of other details, but apparently we just could not get past the agent's need for me to verify my 12 year old phone number. She started trying to give me hints - like the area code and the last digit. I told her that unless she gave me all 10 digits, we weren't going to get there.
We never did get the account opened on my son's laptop, he never did learn how to use eBay, and I guess I will still have a big pile of unsold stuff in my garage building up. At some point I will find a computer eBay recognizes and I guess put in a better phone number, but all momentum with my teenage son is lost (you know how that goes).
Update: So I did the logical thing, I found a computer that eBay would let me use with my account and changed my phone number in the account page to my new number. Unfortunately, when I went back through the account verification process back on my son's laptop, they still wanted me to be able to come up with the old phone number (that number was x-ed out in the account page so I couldn't just look it up). Somehow they have come up with a process that appears to be keyed to the phone number you used when you created the account, fine for relatively new users but a broken process for some of us with 12-year-old accounts. Eventually, by the way, after about 30 minutes I was able to come up with some piece of information that they accepted and I got access to eBay on that computer.