|Sat Dec 20 2008 12:54:41|
Scarlett Johansson eBay Auction:Looks Like a Booger but It's Snot
By: David Steiner
The headlines go something like this: "Scarlett fever spreads through eBay tissue," "Scarlett Johansson Gives a Snot About Hunger" and "Scarlett Johansson - Bioterrorist?
When I first spotted the stories for the Scarlett Johansson "Tissue" auction, my first instinct was to let it blow over. However, 1) being a guy 2) never trusting my first instinct and 3) seeing the rare opportunity to use the word "booger" in a headline, I had to jump in with both fingers. (for typing, that is…)
A little background: ScarJo, as the Hollywood paparazzi have anointed her, appeared on the Tonight Show last week, with a cold that co-star Samuel L. Jackson had given her. After sneezing into a Kleenex offered to her by host Jay Leno, the snot rag was promptly put up on eBay, with the proceeds going to one of Johansson's favorite charities - USA Harvest - an organization that feeds the hungry. I'm sure that USA Harvest will appreciate the donation - I'm not sure how they feel about what Johansson harvested to raise the money.
Actually, I find something disturbing about a star hawking their "hockings" for charity. Besides the obvious health issues, much of it has to do with eBay's schizophrenia about the type of site they want to be. Are they a serious ecommerce site, or a freak show? I also take issue with eBay's convenient definition for what is appropriate to put up on their site. Is it determined by the number of page views that a high-profile listing like this is likely to generate?
EBay doesn't allow the sale of used underwear or body parts on its site ("Examples of prohibited items include, but are not limited to: organs, bone, blood, waste, sperm, eggs"), and I have no idea if items like soiled undergarments or "biohazard tissues" can be shipped by any carrier. Maybe you have to be a celebrity of a certain magnitude to put your used thong up for bid. Recently, a Pennsylvania man had his testicle pulled by eBay (now maybe he knows what it's like to be a seller) shortly after it was listed. Perhaps it was because he was just a lister - not an "A-lister."
If this is the type of PR that eBay is seeking, brace yourself for an onslaught of "affluent effluence" auctions. Imagine the street value of, say, Barbra Streisand's celebrity discharge, for instance. That nose has got to be a goldmine! And taking it a step further, just think about what George Michael or Hugh Grant could bring to the table. On second thought, don't.
EBay typically takes down many of these auctions before completion, (at the time of this posting, this auction was still live) but not before the press has had a chance to plaster the company' name on just about every newspaper and web site in existence (including this one). eBay's unique visitors and page views have been dropping lately, but is the company that desperate for press and traffic?
If these types of auctions are allowed on eBay, charities will be praying for an outbreak of dysentery in Hollywood. Yeah, I know, this isn't the first time we've seen this on eBay - or probably the last, so why start with Scarlett Johansson's nose?
I guess at some point, you just have to pick your battles.
Update from Ina: About 20 minutes after David posted this, an eBay seller wrote to say she had listed an auction for her own "snot rag" this morning, and said it was pulled for a listing violation, "selling human body parts or remains". She went on to write, "The little guys are expected to follow rules that don't apply to others! I'm attaching screenshots of my auction, and the listing violation email from eBay, along with one of the Johansson snot auction."
While David and I like to see charity auctions, eBay has played Grinch many times in the past, pulling similar charity auctions when they violate policy. I'm sending an inquiry to eBay Public Relations to see why it is featuring an auction that violates its policy right on the eBay home page, and why it is enforcing the policy for non-celebrity sellers.
Update 12/23/08: See today's AuctionBytes Newsflash article for an update on this story.