I'm in another “eBay Phase,” which means that I have found myself spending unusal amounts of time looking for That Perfect Thing (or, as they call it in their new ads “it“).
it was an original subway poster from Woody Allen's 1972 movie “Take the Money and Run,” but I was outbid at the last minute while I was at work last night.
I haven't bought anything through eBay in a couple of years because I was so pissed at the people I was dealing with. They have rules about deadbeat users that apply only to bidders. If you get three negative feedbacks, you lose your right to use the service. However, thousands of sellers use the service who have tons of negative remarks because they can't keep up with the volume that they're selling, they don't actually have the things they're selling, and they don't bother to refund people's money.
My worst experience was about 4 years ago. I decided I wanted to take up the violin again and was searching around for a good student violin that didn't cost too much. I found one through this seller whose feedback I didn't really bother to look at it. That taught me a valuable lesson – always look at feedback. He had several hundred negative comments, but had sold thousands of products. It turns out most of the people unhappy with him had the same experience as I did — we got crappy products that were in bad shape. I received the violin in a box without any kind of padding, and the whole thing was in pieces.
I emailed the seller and asked if I sent it back to him and I paid for the shipping, would he refund my money or send me an instrument in better packaging that wasn't broken apart. I believe he eventually responded by saying something incredibly nasty. Not very professional.
I then tried to do some sort of conflict resolution through eBay but the guy wasn't having it. I was stuck with having paid about $70 for a bunch of pieces of wood and some string. Even the rosin was hard as a rock and the bow was a piece of crap.
Eventually I decided to leave my first negative feedback for him, stating that I'd been ripped off, he responded in kind, but called me stupid, saying I knew nothing about violins. If I'd known absolutely nothing about them, I wouldn't have been able to try and put it all back together, now, would I?
After looking through his feedback, I realized he never bothered to give any unless he got negatives. What a jerk. [See The Onion for an embarrassingly accurate protrayal of my feelings after my perfect rating was blown.]
The next thing that happened to turn me off was that someone managed to get into my eBay account and my Hotmail, change my password, and start listing things for sale. I was irritated with both services after everything was said and done because neither of them would do anything. I know both of them log IP addresses when passwords are changed because I've received email notices with the information in them. But neither of them would do shit about this kid who was listing fake DJ equipment under my username. I even asked if they could just send me the IP address. They wouldn't do that, either. I just kept getting form letters forwarded to me about what to do in case my account was hacked. Gee, thanks.
It surprises me that so many people can use this service and find it's a lucrative way to make money and have a business. Some people have told me that buyers will bid on wholesale lots of clothes and pens and whatnot, then turn around and sell them individually. That seems odd.
I vaguely recall the days when you could find interesting little items for decent prices because there weren't a whole lot of people using eBay to buy stuff. Then it morphed into this all-consuming Web site that serves as a place for people to sell things at regular prices – and addicts like my friend's sister will pay anything just to have something delivered and call it “convenience” – and where businesses like Circuit City or chain furniture stores sell their overstock crap that no one else wants. Now there are services that sell stuff for you (I saw a brick-and-mortar store on the west side a few weeks ago).
The worst stuff is the things that get advertised by news and radio shows, so everyone thinks they can make a quick few grand with a catchy idea. For example, the woman who sold her deceased father's cane for $65,000 (saying her son thought it was haunted by his grandfather and she had to get rid of it so it wouldn't bother him. She couldn't just give it away, huh? Just had to sell it on eBay?), or the ex-stripper who was sued for getting violent during a lap dance, then sold one of her offending implants for $16,000. And what about the pregnant women who had a hotel's name painted on her belly for eight grand, or the piece of toast with the face of Mary on it that was won for $28k.
Wait . . . come to think of it, I think this is all stuff bought by the same Vegas hotel and casino. But it's the copycat sellers that irritate me more than anything. A man trying to sell a wedding dress with photos of himself in it, along with some ridiculously long story claiming their former fiancee walked out on them. It gets on CNN or something, only to determine that none of the story is true, but that doesn't stop 341 other dudes from doing the exact same thing.
I think eBay indicates a greater problem in our society. Perhaps even greater than greed or materialism. I just don't know what it is yet.