eBay Now, One Year Later

Same-day delivery, without some of the initial glitches.

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A little over a year ago, I wrote about eBay Now — the online marketplace’s same-day delivery service. I found the idea intriguing, but it didn’t work very well in my encounters, mainly because the payment system — which involved the courier using PayPal to swipe the credit card upon delivery — was fraught with glitches.

Today, I decided to try again. I needed a memory card and a memory-card adapter for my iPad — and since I’m about to leave on a trip, I didn’t have time to go shopping.

I found that the experience has changed a lot. Now you can pay on your phone when you place the order, eliminating the possibility of the problems I witnessed last year. Tipping is now built into the ordering process — though eBay seems to go out of its way not to give you a sense of what an appropriate amount is. (The app showed me four options, ranging from $2 to $20.)

The original iPhone app featured a map that showed you exactly where the courier was in the process. That seems to be gone. So was the ability to see the courier’s name and photo, at least when I shopped. That might have been a bug, though, since the app informed me that “(null)” was going to deliver my order.

I wound up happy, since a personable courier showed up with the products I wanted in plenty of time. eBay says orders should take “about an hour” to arrive, which seems optimistic in my experience: This one took an hour and 38 minutes.

eBay Now is now available in the San Francisco area, Chicago, Dallas and┬áparts of New York City. It still seems like a concept that doesn’t have a business model in place: eBay’s couriers go to local stores and buy products at the same price you pay. The only markup is a $5 delivery charge, which can’t begin to cover the cost of operating the service. But I like it — and one way or another, I hope it’s more viable than its famously unsuccessful spiritual ancestor ever was.