The Breweriana category of collectibles on eBay has only a few sub-categories that are not leaf categories, and we made Beer Signs and Taps to focus on two of them: beer bar signs and tap handles. It turned out to be impossible to subdivide these categories completely in such a way that it is actually possible for customers to browse the products they would like to see without looking through thousands of products.
In the case of beer signs, eBay has the category divided into 11 major beer brands, plus a catchall category called Other. “Other” beer signs currently has almost 13,000 listings, making it an obvious candidate for breaking up into usable sub-categories. By further dividing the 11 leaf categories on eBay and creating more using search queries, I made over 100 beer sign pages. I then created my own “Other” page and called it Assorted Beer Signs. That page is generated by a search query that ran up against the 350 character limit in an effort to exclude beer signs for which I had already created a page. It still lists over 7,000 items. That is easier to browse than 13,000, I suppose, but still impossible.
If eBay had not decided to eliminate the asterisk wildcard from searches, I could have excluded many more pages within the 350 character limit. Instead of typing out Leinenkugel or Yuengling, the asterisk would have allowed me to achieve the same result using leine* and yuen*, thereby saving 9 characters. Extending this technique across all of the words used in a 350 character search, it would be possible to exclude many more brands and types of signs.
A similar situation exists with the tap handles, which eBay only has broken out into three leaf categories: Budweiser, Miller, and Other Tap Handles. Using a similar approach to the one for signs, I created about 80 pages for beer tap handles, plus an Assorted Beer Tap Handles and Knobs page. Where the eBay “Other” leaf category currently has over 10,000 listings, our “Assorted” page has over 5,000.
That page is also generated by applying a short search query for words like tap, knob, and handle and an extremely long negative search term designed to exclude the listings for which a dedicated page was created. Once again, the negative query bumped into the 350 character search limit, and once again, it would have been very useful to be able to shorten some of the longer names and use the asterisk wildcard to automatically complete the word, along with possible misspellings, or the use (and misuse) of possessive forms. For example, sellers list tap handles for Foster beer, but also for Fosters and Foster’s. To exclude all of those, I have to spell them all out. Using an asterisk, it would be possible to simply type fost*.
It would be nice if eBay increased the maximum character limit in searches to around 1,000 or so, or even nicer if they simply gave us back the ability to use the asterisk wildcard to fashion searches.