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Thu July 14 2011 20:35:45

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

By: David Steiner

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For some reason, the following struck me somewhat funny (or possibly sad or ironic?) and thought it might be interesting to put it in the context of eBay as it currently exists.

As most long-time sellers are aware, eBay began in 1995 with the listing of a single broken laser pointer. According to
About.com,
"Though Pierre had intended the listing to be a test more than a serious offer to sell at auction, he was shocked when the item sold for $14.83. Pierre knew that he'd created something big as soon as he contacted the winning bidder to ask if he understood that the pointer was broken."

"I'm a collector of broken laser pointers," came the reply.

Given the extent of the changes at eBay over the last 16 years, if you had a broken laser pointer and listed it on eBay today:
 
1) Would it sell? And if so, for how much?
 
2) How much would you charge for shipping?
 
3) What Feedback and DSRs would you receive from the buyer?

4) Would you refund the customer if they returned the item because the laser pointer was not working?

Give us your version of the outcome of Pierre's broken laser pointer auction on eBay 2011. Interestingly, I found 3 items on eBay using the search term "Broken Laser Pointer" with asking prices ranging from $7.00 to $23.99. None sold.




Comments (36) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Just thinking

Thu Jul 14 21:06:47 2011

If it was the original broken laser pointer, it may garner a few dollars or a lot more. I would demand my money back, regardless of what the seller stated since eBay and Paypal are always in favor of the buyer. This would, I'm sure, bring media attention and expose eBay for how ridiculous, out of touch, unfair and corrupt they have become.

I can dream anyway.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Postie

Thu Jul 14 21:09:19 2011

Sort of a sad commentary on how far eBay has strayed from its roots.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: John

Thu Jul 14 21:32:04 2011

I don't have a broken laser pointer, but I believe you answered your question with the last sentence.

I thought the buyers response was interesting, in that they collected broken laser pointers.

We started on eBay in 98...I once sold a cabinet card image of a young boy with a steiff bear. Circa 1880s.

The buyer who was from Canada asked if they could bid, they won the auction for a whooping amount of $56 for the card, and proceeded to tell me they liked the image because of the unique  background but their preference was  collecting early images of man with their steiff bears.

When I heard that I was taken back, but realized eBay had opened a unique window for selling.

We stopped selling in 08 when we saw the playing field was being   as we saw it unfairly leveraged by eBay, and the window was beginning to close.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: burns

Thu Jul 14 21:48:59 2011

I'll bet you could buy a broken laser pointer from one of FeeBay's Chinese diamond sellers.

I wouldn't buy or sell anything on FeeBay....it's like being mugged in a dark alley and hiving a corrupt security guard help the robbers mug you.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Kal

Thu Jul 14 21:51:23 2011

I wouldn't bother anymore. eBay has seen to this with their recent changes to charge fees on shipping.

I'd sell the pointer for 99 cents. I'd be charged 9 cents for the sale. My profit so far 91 cents.

I'd ship the item for $5.25 priority mail, I'd be charged 48 cents for the shipping. My profit 42 cents.

Paypal fee another 48 cents. My profit, no wait, my LOSS, 6 cents. I pay eBay 6 cents to sell it. The American dream.

Eat $htt eBay, you too Pierre

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Y.D.D.D

Thu Jul 14 22:08:50 2011

If it sold in 2011, buyer would file a dispute, even if described accurate, then rate the seller with low 1 star ratings, even if leaving positive feedback

Then win their money back and probably get to keep the broken laser

OR the buyer could just skip the dispute and tell the seller "HEY I AM NOT SATISFIED, IT IS BROKEN, HOW ABOUT A PARTIAL REFUND, AND I WON'T LEAVE BAD FEEDBACK OR RATINGS"

Then buyer could get money back plus cripple the seller if they played their cards right

ebay 2011 = YUK ; (

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Jul 14 23:34:39 2011

Who would bother?

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Rachel

Fri Jul 15 00:03:46 2011

I would not list anything that was broken because even if you state that on the listing the buyer could file for a refund and power trip on the seller for DSRs. No longer are unique items built up by collectors. It's like if you have a watch that has does not operate, and you state "as is' there is no "as is' or all sales final. Even in outlets like Neiman Marcus there are all sales final so eBay is really messing up it's niche Amazon is not the same but now they will both be the same and eBay just copies them with no innovation. Pierre, you had an idea and used common sense and this is something that eBay has forgotten.

I think it is great now if you are buying a NEW item that is supposed to be perfect, you should be able to file a claim if it smells and has cigarette burns in it or if a person says something is by a designer and it is not, the old ebay would allow the seller to say "well it's better so it's more valuable, caveat emptor" However, for unique items when the seller describes the item perfectly and the customer says wrong color when that is not the case, or not new when it is like the laser pointer, that is not correct. If the seller say all sales final and it is as described, it should be on the buyer, particularly in an auction which is a game of chance, to have to abide by the description.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: gonefromebay

Fri Jul 15 00:37:50 2011

Those wonderful, eccentric collectors have fled ebay, or perhaps those odd items are no longer found since disruptive innovation wrecked the site.  

I used to sell broken items on ebay, and stated all the defects in the listing.  They would sell for good money and I got positive feedback.  I wouldn't dare do it now because too many buyers have been trained to get something for nothing and trash the seller as a bonus.  I sure miss the good ol' days.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Rich

Fri Jul 15 01:19:43 2011

Welcome to Ebay 2011....A 2 person bidding war would drive it up to $104. Neither bidder would have read title and description and noticed it was broken.  Shipping would be free as mandated by Ebay.  Of course the buyer who didn't read would leave a neg and a 1 for as described. Of course, the buyer would receive a refund and keep the broken laser...Ebay 2011

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Xander

Fri Jul 15 01:42:52 2011

Back then, ebay was a venue, they didn't micro manage the seller which allowed anyone who had something to sell, to list on ebay. Buyers would read the listings more carefully as they knew they should fully understand what they were biding on. In today's market, buyers know they don't need to read or comprehend the listings as they have other avenues of getting their money back; ebay buyer protection and paypal ''Item significantly not as described''.
I'm not sure which one is worse, ebay policy or some of today's younger generations for using policy protection as a way of correcting for their purchase mistakes.
Mom and pop shops have been on the decline for the past 30 years, ebay offered a method of national distribution which extended the life of these mom and pop shops but now, these families are dead. Not because they were ready to retire but because they were once again, squeezed out by more powerful bureaucracies and company policy. Back then it was local taxes and business permits/fees, next came ebay's draconian policies followed by local, state and now federal tax collection responsibilities.
Now when you go to ebay there's a noise in the background... the sound of suction, very much like the sound a toilet makes when emptying the bowl.

Large corporations like ebay are all part of a race to extract as much money from as many viable sources as possible as they know if they don't, some other company will so they might as well do it before their competition does.

Many of the long term sellers have adapted to the changes the best they can, the result is more ''safe'' items being sold and less unique, the ''diamond in the rough'' can no longer be found as veteran sellers know it is a risk to offer anything less than a perfect product. At least those who have been around a while know their limitations as to what they can safely offer.

Most of us really miss the days of old but things have changed for the worse with no possibility of it ever returning to what it once was.

Evolution or retardation? You choose which one suites your view best.

Xander

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Chaz

Fri Jul 15 03:30:05 2011

I use Terapeak to research odd items before listing.  I'd see what Ina saw and would toss the item in the trash.  As regards collectibles in general, ebay still has buyers, but not the depth it used to have.  Auctions are more risky today than they were in the good old days.  Ebay is easier to use than it was a decade ago, and 3rd party tools help out as well.  But they should place greater emphasis on technology improvements than they do today.  The biggest mistake they made, in my opinion is going to the detailed seller ratings and eliminating neg's for buyers.  Ebay used to be a community held together by mutual feedback.  It's not a community today and that is a big economic loss for ebay itself they they don't realize.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: just askin

Fri Jul 15 03:50:14 2011

Shouldn't that be an image of a Morlock up there instead?

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Keep it simple stupid

Fri Jul 15 04:10:59 2011

If you had a broken laser pointer and listed it on eBay today:

1) Would it sell? And if so, for how much?

Given that the sell through rate is 0, I would assume it would not sell. I sure as hell wouldn't list it for a penny like I used to do in the old days (when things would always get bid up to a good, often great ending price).

2) How much would you charge for shipping?

It would be the actual cost of shipping plus a small handling fee, as I have always done. I don't play games with my shipping. I feel like sellers have a right to charge a small (under $1.00 handling fee). Plus buyers should be aware of the real costs of shipping.

3) What Feedback and DSRs would you receive from the buyer?

I don't think there would be a buyer because of the sell through rate. If there was, I would hopefully expect postive and five stars. I don't care so much about the stars though, because I barely list anything these days.

4) Would you refund the customer if they returned the item because the laser pointer was not working?

Not willingly (and this is if my description was very clear about the condition issues). I would correspond with my buyer in a calm proffessional manner, despite how truly pissed off I would feel. I would stand my ground in any disputes.

I see where you are going with this train of thought, and it is sad what ebay has become. I have severly limited my selling, listing only items that have a 100% sell through. I start all auctions at the lowest I would accept for the item. I take tons of photos and spend a lot of time on each listing description, and I still worry endlessly about the things that could go wrong.

A bid comes in, and I have to wonder if this is someone going to pull something on me. The auction is won, I have to wait and wait and wait and wonder if I will ever get paid. The payment comes in and I ship same to next day, well-packaged item, with DC. Then as I'm at the PO, I'm thinking... I wonder if this package will arrive, or maybe some of the contents will magically jump out of the box or someone will have buyers remorse. Then if they leave positive feedback, I know I can still be taken. I know they have 45 days with PayPal and hell, even longer with a CC Chargeback. So the whole ordeal just gives me stress and worry, and I never quite feel that the money is safe. I NEVER ONCE FELT THAT WAY IN EBAY Pre-2008.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Chris UPS

Fri Jul 15 07:30:46 2011

Just a thought. Could it be that the demand for broken laser pointer pens was exhausted in that first sale? There isn't too much demand for them.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
Web Site

Fri Jul 15 09:11:53 2011

1) Would it sell? And if so, for how much?

Probably would sell after the 5th listing and having dozens of low ballers email and ask if I would take 10% of the price.

2) How much would you charge for shipping?

Shipping would be free BUT the cost of the shipping and the fee on the shipping would be rolled into the opening bid

3) What Feedback and DSRs would you receive from the buyer?

Actually I have 100% with 5 stars across the board because I am extremely careful about what I sell.  No more parts machines, repair lots or damaged goods - just best of best with appropriate prices.  That said, if a competitor bought it, I'd get positive feedback with single stars.  It happened and took over a year to get back to 5 star.

4) Would you refund the customer if they returned the item because the laser pointer was not working?

In the past I would but now I don't have to because eBay will do it for me - another reason to not sell there.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: MR ME

Fri Jul 15 09:48:22 2011

eBay initially was a brilliant concept... an online site where individuals could buy and sell to each other with an "auction" format.
It was a fun, unpredictable venue , where members were allowed to create their own terms. A feedback system was in place to keep members in check . A lot of eBay relied on the honor system.....
Today eBay is a sleazy online shopping mall, with "merchants" and customers. Strictly retail, the "fun" and UN-predictability is long gone, the original "honor system" is long gone, bad buyer behavior runs amock..... it one really wants to see what people think of the "new" eBay, take a look at the "Special Discussion Board" for the fall seller updates .
Sure eBay stock may go up slightly, as their evil twin Paypal finds ways to squeeze money out of people... but this has nothing to do with the original eBay , RIP eBay.
The good news.. eBay raises fees, overall prices on eBay go up, I can sell on other venues for 15-25% below eBay and still make a good profit.
If one wants a "taste" of eBay past , visit etsy or audiogon ... 2 "fun" venues.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: stillunaware

Fri Jul 15 11:13:08 2011

I got a laugh out of the ''Kal'' example of a 99 cent sale... I would never sell anything for that price but it is not far from the truth for any low dollar collectible... with all of the fees (now really, isn't the FVF on shipping just about the last straw?) it will only be a matter of time before collectibles under $10.00 dry up on eBay as the fees by eBay and PayPal have just about taken away any incentive to offer items at that low price. I just sold a ashtray for $7.99 with $2.99 added for shipping. By the time I added up the 5 cent listing fee for my $49.99 monthly fee eBay store (and the small percentage of THAT fee attributable to this sale), the regular final value fee, the shipping final value fee, the PayPal fee, the actual shipping USPS charge, the ''cost of goods sold'' (what I paid for it) and figured in a modest amount for a bubble mailer... well I am now the proud owner of enough money to buy a couple of White Castle hamburgers (of course none of this includes my labor... I did not figure that in at all!). EBay is making more for the entire transaction then I am! I am not going to cry in my soup and blame anyone, I am a businessman and will do what I need to do to survive but I am afraid that means no more ''inexpensive'' collectibles available from me on eBay and I am sure there are others who feel the same way. What amazes me is that many eBay buyers are oblivious to the high fees that we as sellers incure... I take EVERY opportunity to educate buyers about my costs as most have no idea what I have to go through in order to offer a $8.00 or $9.00 item to them. NO buyers that I have communicated with in the last two weeks were aware that eBay was charging sellers a fee on the shipping cost of a item. They just don't have a clue as to the costs involved and I ask them nicley that if they want to continue to have a wide selection of collectibles on eBay to choose from then as buyers they had better start joining sellers in complaining to eBay about fees... or else all they will be able to buy on eBay is Chinese mass produced junk or VERY expensive items.... the small ''fun'' collectibles just won't be worth selling anymore!

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

by: Rich

Fri Jul 15 11:27:20 2011

I'd only list it if I could use one of the 50 free insertions. It would get 10 page views and 2 watchers. It would not sell, but I'd relist it 3 more times since I had nothing better that would sell either. Auctions are dead.

Traveling in the eBay Time Machine   Traveling in the eBay Time Machine

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Fri Jul 15 12:07:36 2011

Who lost out in this deal was humankind.

The old ebay functioned as a utility, and provided a very badly needed service. At the time it hit big, paper want ad magazines filled the gap, very poorly at that. You couldn't see all across the country who had what, because they were regional.

When ebay came along, it was a smash hit. Overnight, antique shops and classified rags dried up, often referred to as the Ebay Effect.

What ebay did that was tragic was replace all those other ways of buying used stuff off private parties almost to extinction... then turn its back on that market, causing it to collapse.

People could no longer list easily, have their items seen, and strike a fair price with the buyers. I believe this had an adverse effect on the economy.

I know for a fact it TRASHED the postal service. If they had any balls, they would hold ebay liable.

Craigslist comes a close second, but it too is regional.

When people know they can sell their unwanted items at a fair price, they become less afraid to buy new stuff, and the economy benefits. Without this confidence, people return to their old, cautious ways.

There are many legitimate reasons to sell a broken item in an honest and upfront manner. Replacement parts, or combining two or more dead units to form a new working one, come to mind. That's all gone now- the new ebay is heavily skewed to have these items 'mistaken' for new, i.e. stolen from the seller.

Just so a couple clowns could pocket a few million extra bucks.

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