eBay Gum

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I don’t operate my own eBay account, and I hate to even contemplate using it, but when I do occasionally have something to sell, I use my wife’s account.

I’ve sold barely-used cycling shoes, old cameras in their original boxes, guitars, pedals, amps.

Anything involving music or musical instruments takes you into a wilderness of time wasters, tyre kickers, bullshitters, and spivsters. You get so much grief from those people, so here’s my advice.

If you have, say, a musical instrument to sell, just do this. Take the instrument, take a hammer. Go in to the back garden. Smash the instrument with a hammer. Throw it away. Believe me, this will be a lot less painful than dealing with the music people on the eBay.

I had similar concerns about bikes. They have a similar vibe about them. Largely different people, but it’s a similar combination of something that’s supposed to be fun combined with technology at different price points. So, with a guitar, say, you can be looking at something worth about £100, or you could be dealing with something worth more like £1000. But when you’re selling the £1000 item, you get all the people with a budget of £100 asking questions, trying it on, and wasting your time.

Bikes are the same. It might be 15 years old, in good nick, but worth no more than £20. It might be a £300 bike, a couple of years old. It might be, as in my case, a £700 bike a couple of years old. Or it could be a recent, carbon-framed, thing of beauty, worth thousands.

Problem is, you find yourself dealing with the people whose budget is about £100. And they do try it on.

I hate eBay because it’s still the place where people want the internet to be the wild west. They think everything should be free on there, or if not, then really, really, cheap. They also think that eBay’s quite sensible rules about payment, delivery, fees, and conduct are there to be ignored.

In this sense, they remind me of Tories. You know, people who think everything should be de-regulated, so they can piss all over other people and exploit them. Farmers complaining that they have “too many” regulations, when they’re accused of wrecking the environment. People whose natural tendency is to cheat, cheat, and cheat again.

So they want to cheat the eBay rules. They want you to end the auction early. They want you to take cash. They try to persuade you that they’re doing you a favour, and that your Buy-It-Now price is unrealistically high, that you’re embarrassing yourself. They think if you end the auction early and let them take your bicycle away for a handful of beans they’re “saving you costs”. And they probably think you’ll throw the beans out the window and a magic beanstalk will grow.

My bike was worth a minimum of £300. I knew this. I know the market, I know what these things cost. I’m not an idiot. I looked at similar bikes and auctions that had run their course. I saw the ones with unrealistic reserves that hadn’t sold. In reality, I think a 2-year-old £700 bicycle should go for about £350 – that’s a fair price. So I put it on with a £299 BIN price, and a reserve of £150.

I was immediately assailed with chancers, spivs, and cheats, offering to take it off my hands for a more “realistic” sum. I did a 10-day auction because I wanted to maximise the chance that someone looking for a bike (in these early Spring days as the weather improves) would come across it. Because I was using my wife’s account, and she has a good feedback rating, I couldn’t be as rude to these people as I wanted to be. I kept having to explain that, once the reserve is met, both parties are legally obliged by eBay’s T&Cs to complete the auction.

It feels odd, having to explain to people that, unlike them, you are honest, straightforward, and not a cheat. It’s like trying to explain something to a toddler. They’re like fucking Fast Show characters, a little bit Woo and a little bit Woa, ducking and diving.

I was a bit annoyed with the person who put on the £150 bid. As soon as this happened, the BIN price disappears. I understand why that has to be. Essentially, the bike is now sold, so somebody else shouldn’t be able to come along and take gazzump the bidder. But it’s patently obvious that the £150 bid was calculated to take away the BIN option, with the hope that the eventual selling price would be below it.

So it was with considerable gratification that a flurry of early bids, mid-week, put the selling price up to £250, pricing the first bidder out of the market. Now we were in the right ballpark, with four days to go. Overnight on Friday/Saturday, it went up to £300, a pound over my Buy-It-Now price. It eventually sold for £355 – exactly on a par with what I consider a fair price.

I could still encounter problems of course. I am touching wood. I know from experience that even after the payment has gone through and the goods have been exchanged, there are still people out there who will invent a “problem”, suffer buyer’s remorse, and try to get the final price down to a more comfortable level. This is one of the worst things about eBay. The system of ratings and reputations means that you can essentially be blackmailed by an unscrupulous person into paying a refund, or giving a discount, simply because they decide they don’t want the thing, or are feeling aggrieved that the auction process took the price “too high”.

So this all might yet happen. But to the spivs and cheats who tried to cheat me out of the fair market price for my bike, I say this. Fuck off and crawl back under your slimy rock, shitbirds.

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