Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I do some merchandising at a small grocery store. Since the pink-and-white commercial holiday has arrived, naturally we ordered in a number of useless trinkets to sell. The box they came in had this label:


Sic, and all that. It's like spam, only, we ordered it. And, it isn't email, or generic viagra.
Ebay, criminal records, and a seller's market:

eBay is great. It's also really, really weird. People talk about all the good deals you can get on eBay, and I will admit that sometimes you can; I got a pair of $1,000 Campagnolo Eurus wheels that had been used on literally ONE ride for $400, but that is mostly because the seller made some bad choices on her listing.

But, really, it's great for selling things. I've amassed a solid 300 feedback rating over the past 7 years, all of it positive, and so my auctions get plenty of attention. I sell a lot of bike gear on ebay, because I'm impatient, and, because that's what you do when you get team prices -- sell last year's gear that you got on discount, get new gear on discount, and you often aren't out much.

I'm sometimes shocked at what people are willing to pay. Most glaring of this is used cycling clothing. I recently sold some off-brand bibshorts that I had used for a year. I got 'em on clearance, so their retail was $75, I paid $40. They sold for almost $20. I mean, sure, maybe someone would think, "Hey, I got a $75 item for 20 bucks!" But, I'm kind of surprised that people would buy used shorts, especially from a stranger: you don't wear underwear under these things, folks. Couldn't you find a sale on a new item?
That reminds me of another thing with eBay: feedback ratings. It's a really great feature of ebay, essentially permanent and indelible feedback. But, eBay has been around a long time. Your credit record holds black marks for 7 years; bankruptcies for 10. Depending upon juristdictions, the statute of limitation on many crimes (bar murder) is 5 or 7 years. I'm pretty sure infractions on your driving record remain for 7 years. I'm pretty sure eBay didn't really think of this when they invented the feedback system. I completed my first eBay transaction in 2000, and the feedback from that sale is still on my record. As far as I can tell, it will never go away

One quick way to rate a seller that eBay has added is to check their percentage of positive feedback: a seller will say, "Johndoe, 150 feedback, 99.5% positive" and you will know he's pretty legit, just one negative along the way somewhere; probably a misunderstanding. I was recently buying from a seller with a couple of negatives, so I searched to see what the problem had been: apparently, he had reneged on some bids a while back. A while, as in, 1998, when eBay was just getting started.

What will happen in 2025, if we are still ebaying? Will 30-year-old hits still affect us?



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