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Ebay, Get Off My Back


I’ve gone a little nuts with the Ebay thing.

My auction insanity has deepened along two separate vectors: the madness of buying and a deep addiction to selling. Both activities keep me consistently logged in to the service, checking and rechecking MyEbay for any action, any infinitesimal shift in the bidding price of items.

The buying is easy to explain. There are any number of great deals you can finagle if you sweep in to the right auction at the right time, but there is more at work than mere frugality. The strength of Ebay lies in man’s greed and avarice. There is something tremendously satisfying of feeling like you are taking advantage of some poor sap who put his treasure out into the stream of commerce without a reserve and with free shipping. I enjoy the notion that I am swindling some sucker from Palookaville out of his hard-earned trade paperbacks. At the same time, the nature of the auction format ensures that I nearly always end up paying just slightly more than I wanted to but still less than the items would retail for. I work hard to restrain my competitive impulses and for the most part I am successful. But not always.

And the selling aspect of my addiction funnels into the buying. The items that I sell (primarily my comic books) go for less than I paid for them, but the income feels like found money. When a buyer pays me, the money sits in my paypal account. The convenience of using those funds to  pay for my next purchase is too tempting to ignore. The proceeds of my sales rarely make the transfer to my bank account.

Selling my possessions feels good. There is something liberating about shedding the barnacles that attach as I age and getting rid of my worldly goods. The feeling is addictive. The more I think about the unlikelihood of rereading my Eternal Champion novels, replaying Doom 3, or rewatching my Sopranos dvds the greater the pointlessness in leaving them sitting on my shelf. I have been a student for far too long to amass any serious material wealth but my geekier tendencies has filled my bookshelves with all manner of books, comics, games, and knickknacks. All of which I have enjoyed, none of which will ever serve me again in the future. So I commit them to the internet, letting Ebay find them an appropriate home. It feels better than simply dropping them off in a box at Goodwill, and offers some monetary compensation for my years of rampant consumerism.

I wouldn’t say this urge to purge has reached the level of compulsion, but it could progress that far. As it is, I now frequently buy book lots, read them, and then almost immediately post them for resale. Generally, I break even or lose money on the deal. I just chalk it up to the pleasure of reading the books and consider it a rental fee, which is a bargain for the hours of entertainment I get. Occasionally I  make a profit.

But I’m not accruing anything, no tangible objects of my culture. In my younger days I would look at my sprawling stacks of comics and books with a sense of pride. I would even sort of show them off when people came in my room. Although, I did make an effort to hide my comics when I thought I might be bringing a ladyfriend back to the boudoir. Ah, the insecurity of youth. At any rate, even as I enjoy clearing space and ensuring that my next move will involve carrying fewer boxes I feel a tinge of regret, an inescable shudder of loss. It makes me think about the nature of media, and how it is changing. It also makes me want a Kindle, under the theory that if I am not keeping the physical objects I might as well not even bother buying them and make the shift to digital media. But that feels like something that smarter men than I are already thinking about. But that is a post for another day. For now, I need to check on my auctions to see if there’s been any action since I last refreshed ten minutes ago.

The Rundown for Sunday, June 7th 2009

Mistress Internet reveals her hidden delights in response to my tender ministrations:

  • The Busy Person’s Guide to International Relations Theory
  • Harvard Professor Stephen Walt compiles a greatest hits of articles to help you understand the modern world.
    Filed Under:[politics international theory academia international-relations ir ]

  • Top Ten Foreign Affairs Articles
    And the Lone Gunman handily makes (most of) them available as .pdfs.
    Filed Under:[foreignpolicy politics international ir ]
  • 54 Tips For Writers, From Writers
    Vonnegut, Stephen King, and others share their advice.
    Filed Under:[Writing tips ]
  • Lifehacker Pack 2009: Our List of Essential Free Windows Downloads
    Some essential and some not so essential applications.
    Filed Under:[free downloads tools lifehacker software productivity ]
  • A hundred million mistakes: Microsoft’s Bing search engine
    Filed Under:[google microsoft internet ]
  • California First Amendment Coalition
    A guide to getting info under the public records act.
    Filed Under:[california law journalism government ]