eBay refugees, rejoice!

Once upon a time, in 1995, a new “auction website” sold its first item: A broken laser pointer for $14.83. Shocked, the site’s founder, Pierre Omidyar, actually emailed the buyer to make sure he understood what he was buying. He replied and said he was actually collecting broken laser pointers!

And so the eBay insanity began:

  • A group of four men from Australia auctioned themselves to spend the weekend with the promise of “beers, snacks, good conversation and a hell of a lot of laughs” for AU$1,300.
  • In May 2008, Paul Osborn of the UK listed his wife Sharon for sale on eBay, alleging that she had an affair with a coworker.
  • An Australian newspaper reported in December 2004 that a single piece of the Kellogg’s breakfast cereal Nutri-Grain sold on eBay for AUD$1,035 because it happened to bear a slight resemblance to the character E.T. from the Steven Spielberg film. Apparently the seller went on to make even more money in relation to the sale for his appearance on a nationally televised current affairs program.

(Thanks Wikipedia.) The deeper you dig, the weirder it gets. Yes, eBay, has saved a LOT of trash from going to the landfill, and made a LOT of people happy in the process. Anytime anyone has anything working, very-not-working, or looking-like-a-deity-or-movie-character, he can almost certainly make some money by selling it on eBay. My entire college income came from selling people’s stuff for them on eBay, including but not limited to: Vintage loudspeakers, a 20 lb. digital camera prototype used in the first Gulf War, and even a ball of dryer lint, for which I garnered $1.20. I still have no idea what these are used for, but last week I got $99.25 for them:

As the next decade rolled around, eBay went from novelty to necessity, as millions of stay-at-home moms, lazy college students, and small businesses began to rely on eBay as a primary source of income. That’s all well and good, but when you have a single point of failure, a unique organization aware of its own solitariness, things have the potential to get ugly. Angry eBay sellers are found all too often on sites like PowerSellersUnite, protesting tightening controls on sellers, such as prohibiting them from leaving negative feedback for deadbeat bidders. Sure, eBay just means well and wants buyers to have a safe online shopping experience, but some feel they’re getting a little Andrew Cuomo on us.

There are many instances of eBay brutality toward sellers, such as banning you on a whim (and the subsequent emails to ALL your buyers, warning them that you may be a potential threat to the community, destroying all your auctions in progress, and paralyzing your business…), but the point is, complaining doesn’t help. All the governmental intervention in the world wouldn’t help. It’s competing sites that will keep eBay on its toes. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Two-year-old auction site founded by a former eBay PowerSeller. Features daily auctions (a la Woot), regular auctions, the Salvage Mall, and a TON of unknown-condition iPods and DVD players for RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP. We’re working with them now on some of our video card lots, and they’ve been very receptive to seller feedback.

Retired as of 2007. Yahoo realized it was the only competitor with great potential to rival eBay, and so they… gave… up. Sigh.

New auction site, mentioned as an alternative every time eBay rate hikes are in the news. A home to many frustrated former eBay sellers, but not enough buyers. You can get some real deals here.

Currently the closest thing to eBay here in that it has the highest percentage of random items, such as “The 300 Pound Cat.”

A very old site (pre-dot-com boom) that somehow survived all these years with minimal site improvements (still runs on some ancient Microsoft platform). Oriented toward commodity items as opposed to balls of lint and/or Cornflakes, so it’s for small businesses as opposed to home sellers. Ridiculous deals on refurbished LCD televisions, laptops, and watches.

In conclusion, there are plenty of great auction sites out there. (Rumor has it Google’s going to walk into the party someday and knock the auction world upside down, with some sort of friendly-intuitive-yet-eerily-unsettling new system.) The point is, each of them needs to advertise to buyers a bit, making them realize they’re not limited to eBay for finding great deals online.

Happy Black Friday everyone, and happy bidding!!!




The Wayback Machine




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