Thriller: eBay sends 18,000 to Great America Amusement Park
By Lissa McGrath
I never thought I'd be sitting next to Marie Senese (eBay ID: JayandMarie), both of us screaming as the wooden roller coaster hurtled us around corner after corner. We were on the Grizzly at Paramount's Great America Amusement Park for the eBay and PayPal Community BBQ, where attendance Friday night would reach 18,000 eBayers including eBay employees and families.
I caught the 5:30 p.m. shuttle from outside the McEnery Convention Center to the amusement park. eBay would be running these shuttles back and forth every 10 minutes until the park closed at 11 p.m. I found no problems with the transportation at all and was glad I hadn't taken the car since I'm sure I would have got lost.
Once inside the park, eBayers mingled with the general public on the various attractions. Top Gun (billed as a suspended "jet coaster" complete with a zero gravity roll) seemed to have been the most popular--it was also the ride the winning bidder of “a ride with Bill Cobb” chose. (See the related article on the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PESA) auction.)
There were two BBQ areas set up--one inside the Paramount Pavilion (renamed PESA Community Pavilion for this event), the other located on the opposite side of the park. Only eBayers could access these areas which offered free BBQ food all evening. On the menu were BBQ chicken, hot dogs, potato salad, BBQ beans and even tomato pasta for the vegetarians amongst us (like me- thank you eBay!).
I had the pleasure of eating with Jay and Marie Senese (who have the highest feedback rating on eBay). Modest as ever, Jay told me that they are actually number two now. But as I understand it, the new #1 is a multiple user account, so in my mind it doesn’t count and Jay and Marie are still number one.
We were sitting next to a group of young Australian guys who had never been to eBay Live before. They struck up a conversation with Jay, first asking if they are sellers and then asking if they have a store. Both Jay and Marie happily talked with them, not once mentioning their celebrity status. As Colin Rule told me later in the evening--there is no better example of eBay spirit than Jay and Marie, and I agree with him.
Maximum capacity in the Pavilion location was reached quickly, and then exceeded, and finally cut off, causing logistics problems for the PESA charity auction since bidders not already present couldn’t get into the facility.
Even though Jay and Marie were on the auction block themselves (and sold for $500), Jay was also the winning bidder of the ride of his choice with Colin Rule, eBay director of online dispute resolution and well-known “pink." Rather than go himself, Jay sent Marie and me, which was probably the coolest thing that happened so far for me at the convention.
Later, I got to spend two hours going around the park with self-proclaimed amusement park enthusiast Colin Rule and a slightly nervous but still willing Marie. We talked about eBay, the music industry, movies and everything in between. We first went on the Vortex (which was terrifying in a standing up going over loops and through corkscrews kind of way) and then walked across the park to one of the “real” roller coasters--The Grizzly. This is a 1970s wooden coaster. I must admit, having never been on a wooden ride, and particularly one that was built before I was born, I was a little nervous. It was two people to a car, so Colin went first, and Marie and I went on the next cycle.
I think the highlight of the evening definitely was screaming (literally) around the roller coaster with Marie. It was so much fun just feeling the exhilarating speed of this ride. Both of us are a little nervous about roller coasters; it's been six years since I've ridden one, and never in the U.S. We thought a wooden coaster ride would be relatively sedate. Let me reiterate--just because there were no loops doesn't mean it wasn’t incredibly fast and breath-taking.
After the Grizzly, we took the cable cars back to the Pavilion. Looking out over the park, each ride lit up in its own ethereal style, Colin pointed out all the rides he takes his kids on (he has a season pass) and which are the best/scariest, etc. When we got to the other end, he tried to convince us to go on Top Gun with him, but we both had to decline since we had people waiting for us.
It was a great evening. I don’t think the general public was ever removed at 8 p.m. as planned, but it didn’t really matter. The lines weren’t too long and everyone I spoke to was having a wonderful time. I think this was definitely a successful event for eBay. I can’t wait to see what they do with the Gala Saturday night.
About the author:
Lissa McGrath is the author of three eBay books, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to eBay" 2nd Edition (Alpha, 2010); "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to eBay Motors" (Alpha, 2008); and "20 Questions To Ask Before Selling On eBay" (Career Press, 2006). She is also the editor of eight other eBay books.
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