"My name is Joey and I'm a recovering eBay scammer." While that is not a direct quote from the author of this article in The Atlantic
, those words sum up the premise of his piece.
Joey, a young man now teaching English in China, describes how he began selling love spells, tarot card readings, and other spells on eBay in its metaphysical category. Not believing himself to be a fortune teller, he was a college student "just looking for a little bit of beer money," he says.
"Breaking into the business wasn't difficult," he writes. "The formula for selling was easily deconstructed, and subtlety was unnecessary and rarely practiced.
"The column of listings was a cascade of buzzwords and bawdy illustrations as sellers tried to outshout each other. For example, picture an angel - eyes closed, head tilted, serene in her heavenly backdrop - posing beside an all-caps tagline: "RARE SPELL - GAIN ABILITY TO SPEAK WITH AN ANGEL UP TO 3 TIMES FOR 1 SPELL!" That was one of mine."
The author describes his experience of building up his eBay business. "I was troubled by the idea of making thousands of dollars from scamming people," he wrote, and said once he had figured out the market, he made $150 a month on listings ranging in price from 99 cents to $12. (It would be interesting to know his hourly income, though reading people's intimate problems may have also provided a perverse form of entertainment.)
Despite the confessional tone of the article, there are also justifications, such as his statement, "I made a point of giving firm advice that would help these people move on."
How many online sellers make similar justifications as part of their online selling practices? Have you ever tried to take shortcuts in building your feedback or exaggerated the quality of the products you sell? Many sellers have likely been tempted to shill bid on their auctions just to get the bidding going.
Looking for redemption for your own misdeeds? The confessional (comment section) is now open.