Souped-up search capabilities still lacking

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

Before I launch into my weekly whinge, let me assure you, dear reader (and my bosses), that I am an avid — and, for the most part, happy — Trade Me user.

I have been a member of the site since May 2000 (see note 1) and have accumulated a fairly extensive and positive trading record. However, during that time I’ve never been a great fan of Trade Me’s search capabilities and have mentioned its shortcomings in this column more than once.

Now, to be fair, I have to point out that the site has just announced new, souped-up search capabilities that allow users to filter out their search results by category. For example, a note in Trade Me’s announcements section says: when you search for “lord of the rings”, you can choose to only show results in Toys & models or Gaming.

Perhaps they could introduce a new section titled fakes to make it easier when searching for Louis Vuitton bags.

Not that I blame Trade Me entirely for all the pirated bags, flash cards, clothing, shoes, software and so on that pop up on the site. No, that’s all down to the scum trying to rip off our hard-earned bucks by selling us shoddy goods with fake labels.

They should all be banned from the site, given 1000 lashes (see note 2) and forced to listen to David Hasselhoff singing:

That one has to be a contender for the title of his worst recording so far (see note 3).

However, I still believe Trade Me could do a lot more to seek out and stop (or at least slow down) the wannabe scammers.

But I digress — back to Trade Me’s search capabilities. You can filter your results to show only new items but how about the opposite? Every now and then, a trader starts a message board thread complaining about various categories being bogged down with listings from dealers.

It’s a valid point: not everyone specifically wants to buy a new item and if you’re an auction junkie, 90 percent of the fun is the thrill of the chase — the hunting down of a bargain.

Finding those wee gems is getting harder with so many repetitive listings from some of those who use Trade Me as a business base.

I’m not saying it’s all traders doing the Trade Me thing for a living, but there are some who run a gazillion auctions for the same $2 item over and over and over again.

The other search option that needs to be looked at is, surely, in the jewellery section. Listen up dudes and dudettes: take a look at, for example, the rings section.

In there you’ll see a category for gold and another for silver.

Where’s the section for plated? A cheap, sure-to-wear-down gold-plated ring should not be listed in the same category as 9 or 18-carat real gold. Then there’s the diamond section, which has far too many listings for man-made diamonds, or created diamonds.

These belong in the cubic zirconia section and listing them in the wrong section is nothing short of dishonest. Again, this is a topic that periodically pops up on Trade Me’s message board.

I realise running a site the size of Trade Me must be a huge job. However, listening to your users should surely be the best way of knowing if you’re getting it right. The latest changes to the search function are a good start.

NOTE 1: Actually, I joined before that but in a display of blondeness, I promptly forgot my user name so had to sign up again a few months later.

NOTE 2: Not that I condone violence. I’d settle for a flick on the back of the thighs with a tea towel. A damp tea towel, because that stings more.

NOTE 3: People with better taste in music have voted. Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody topped a UK poll looking for the best pop songs ever recorded. Sadly, the Hoff failed to make the cut.

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