Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"I bought it on eBay!"

Every once in a while I haul out some books and put them up for bid on eBay. I've been doing eBay business off and on--mostly off for the past couple of years--since 1999.

Back then I had a pretty good little business going, and I made enough every week for extra spending money, which sometimes I spent on eBay. But like a lot of novelties, eBay wore off for me and I stopped looking at the listings.

In those days it was easy for someone to win with a high bid and then not pay. Buyer's remorse was a real possibility with every transaction. The only real power sellers had over non-payers was to threaten negative feedback. Some people just didn't care about their feedback, but I did. I never got anything but positive feedback and I'm proud of that. I wish my customers would have been as conscientious about completing the transaction as I was.

Nowadays that threat to the buyer has been removed by eBay. A seller can't give a customer negative feedback, only positive or no feedback. How fair is that? A buyer who stiffs a seller loses nothing, but the seller has to go through the process of contacting eBay so they can get their seller fees back.

And that's another thing, the fees. In one way I think eBay is the most brilliant business idea of all time. They have a large staff, but they don't have to have any warehouses, unless you count all the bandwidth it takes for the listings as storage space. They don't handle anything directly. But they take, hooooo, Lordy, do they take! It costs a seller to place a listing, and the kind of listing can make it escalate in price; the seller is charged a percentage of the winning bid; if the seller gets paid through Paypal--owned by eBay--then a fee is assessed on the transaction. It's a triple whammy.

eBay doesn't have to do one damn thing except provide the means, and then they rake in the cash.

There's another thing that bothers me, and that's how easy it is for an unscrupulous seller to manipulate an auction. All he has to do is have a friend join in the bidding to inflate the price. The winning bidder wins, but who knows how much he's paying extra because of chicanery on the selling end?

Looking around my house I can see a couple of things I bought on eBay that I am happy I got, but I can also look around and see things I should just send to a thrift store or put out for the garbage pickup. I must've been caught up in the thrill of an auction. I wouldn't have bought the crap if I had seen it in a store.

Here's Weird Al Yankovic's take on eBay:

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