Of Moose and Men

Shopping for solutions to eBay addiction

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2007

At this point in time, I doubt seriously there is a living soul who isn’t familiar with the idea behind eBay. Basically, eBay is the world’s largest garage sale/auction, available 24 hours a day, via the Internet. If you want it -- with the exception of firearms, explosives, certain body parts and babies -- there is very little chance that it can’t be found and purchased on eBay. The only limiting factor is how much you’re willing to pay.

At first, watching my wife do the eBay thing was kind of fun. She would find things and bid on them, and it was entertaining to see her face light up when she won something. It didn’t take long, however, before a disturbing pattern began to emerge.

“Nice lampshade, Babe.”

“Thanks, just a little something I picked up on eBay.”

“Are you starting to collect things with a wizard and dragon theme, or was this something for somebody else -- I hope?”

“Well, it’s not really something we’ll be able to use, but the seller was offering free shipping, and there were only two other bids, and it wasn’t very much, and I just thought I’d help the seller get a better price, and ... well ... my bid was the only one placed in the last ten days of the auction.”

Realizing that millions of people are perfectly happy with their eBay purchases, maybe my issue with the electronic auction house is just that: my issue. However, by way of personal experience, I believe there is a solid reason most of the goodies are for sale on eBay: the current owners don’t want them. And judging by some of the stuff that has taken up residence at our house, there are very sound reasons the items are longer wanted. In fact, it might be an accurate statement to say items end up on eBay because the owners are too embarrassed to either haul them to the dump, or set them out for public display awaiting the garbage collectors. All transactions are made with pseudonyms, so anonymity is assured. More to the point, Georgia’s eBay adventures are a twist on that old saying, “One man’s junk is another’s treasure,” except the phrase should be, “One man’s junk will end up on our doorstep.”

The preoccupation with eBay can go beyond just an alternative way to shop and evolve into what, at best, could be described as an alternative lifestyle. At worst, it could be described as an addiction, similar to gambling.

Last week, one of Georgia’s co-workers provided a good example of eBayholism. Over lunch, he described his eBay guerilla tactics.

“We were going neck and neck, see?” he explained as his eyes grew glassy. “I’d up the bid by a buck and the other guy would up it by fifty cents. We got right down to the last half hour of the auction, and I noticed a pattern in the other guy’s bidding. It only took him about 40 seconds to post his bid. There was no doubt about it, that bum was pre-typing his bid, based on my habit of raising a dollar, and just punched it in as soon as he saw I bid. So when the auction got down to the last minute, I slid in my dollar bid, and padded it by fifty-five cents. Oh yeah, I nailed him!”

With that, he jumped up for a little victory dance, which proved to be somewhat embarrassing because the restaurant was rather crowded.

“So, how’d you do on the price?” I asked.

“Well,” he replied, shrugging as he sat back down, “I paid about four times what it was worth. But that’s not important. I won!”

Things just may be getting out of hand at our house, too.

Any time I mention that I’m thinking about buying something, Georgia rushes off to her computer and starts tapping away. Her home page is eBay.

Georgia uses a laptop, and to ensure total convenience, our son-in-law set us up with a wireless Internet connection for it. It was supposed to ensure total convenience. Instead, it enables Georgia to eBay nonstop throughout the house, at any time of the day. I half expect to find her huddled over her laptop in bed at two in the morning, chortling to herself about final bids and counting down the minutes on items located on the East Coast.

She has every time zone in the country, and a few overseas, memorized. I caught her surfing eBay for watches the other day, and asked what she was doing.

“I’m looking for a good buy on digital watches with alarms. I need to keep track of when various items are going to expire, so I can check on them. Hey, look! This guy has a gross of Chinese digitals up for grabs. I’m bidding on that!”

We’ve also forsaken all other kinds of entertainment.

“Hey, Babe, why don’t we go out for dinner and catch a movie?”

“Can’t ... ” tappity-tappity, “I’ve got three live ones due to finish up in the next three hours.”

Shoot, I don’t run to the dump to get rid of garbage anymore, I go in order to get rid of all the shipping boxes from eBay purchases so we can pull the cars into the garage.

It’s time for some intervention. I’m thinking about getting some sort of self-help program for breaking habitual behavior. Maybe I’ll mention it to Georgia; I’m sure there’s something like that on eBay.

A.E. Poynor is a freelance writer who lives in Kenai.

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