Sunday, February 13, 2005

eBay Fix

I'm feeling the effects of extreme anticipation. My fab new Vaio left Brooklyn last Wednesday. I bought it on eBay, and even though this transaction went fine, it occurred to me after a few failed attempts at different pairs of $60 Tommy black leather clogs that invariably went for over $100 that there's something terribly, fundamentally wrong with eBay.

I've previously expressed concern about the impact eBay has on my health, because I'm a very competitive person and it really gets my goat when somebody else bids on something I want. I realize that's irrational and whiny, because they have just as much right to bid and win if they're willing to pay more than I am, but then I was considering the auction process and I realized that what is happening on eBay is not auctioning at all. It's much, much worse.

Yes, this is an original A crisis, but I'm sure I'm not the first person who's thought of it. The principle of an auction is that the item should go to the person who is willing to pay the most for the it, yes? However, the principle of eBay is to wait until the final moments so you don't drive the price up actually bidding against someone, then try to sneak in and outbid the other bidder at the last second. Folks, that's not an auction. The competing bidder doesn't get to say whether he was willing to pay more. So really, the seller is losing out on possible revenue. That sucks, especially since I occasionally sell my art on eBay and I want (logically) all the money I can get.

I wish they'd thought about the selling format before they set it up this way. I'm sure they did, but it seems like they were creating the system for a society full of honest, decent people. Oops. I say it might be better if an eBay auction wasn't final until a full twelve hours passed between bids. That way, bidders are allowed to bid the maximum they are willing to pay without the time running out and somebody else getting lucky enough to click and outbid them with just ten seconds left. If someone sneaks in and tries to bid eleven hours and fifty-nine minutes after another bid, the twelve hours starts over again and the original bidder gets another chance. I know, an auction could conceivably last forever that way as new bidders discovered the item. But there would eventually be a true maximum price for every item, and one person would eventually be willing to pay more than anybody else. I realize that as a concept this has major flaws, but I'm just saying. I just want justice.

I'm looking at this from the viewpoint of a seller, but I can see the other side, too. I'm a vintage tee-shirt junkie, and a sucker for anything with the word Wyoming on it, anything yellow, anything Olympus, and, obviously, I love shoes (unless they're used. Gross). I also love cheap thrills, and eBay's where it's at when it comes to paying pennies on the dollar for crap. I also love that somebody may be able to find a use for something I no longer need, and it doesn't wind up in a landfill. I'm no tree hugger, but I've seen landfills that made me want to die of shame for the way we as a society consume and waste, and I live in a state that's mostly gorgeous wilderness and I desperately want it to stay that way.

I'm not going to bombard eBay with nasty messages or start an irritating email petition or anything; don't worry. I don't really care that much. It's just interesting.


Anonymous rdharvey said...

just wanted to let you know i still read this. today was my birthday. Have you got my picture done???????

February 16, 2005 at 5:34 PM  

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