Meredith C. Carroll: If eBay were a class, Id get an A++++++++
Meredith Carroll is taking the week off to focus her attention on getting the rest of the snow to melt. This column originally ran on March 24, 2006.Possibly the only things more intriguing than some of the items for sale on eBay (scratch-n-sniff salami stickers for $7.99, a used Pontiac GTO for $2,000,100, two size medium pairs of used mens black underwear for $5.99, an empty Coke bottle guaranteed to be full of honesty for $0.99) are the people selling them.I made my first-ever eBay purchase last September, with four subsequent acquisitions to date. I contemplated a sixth purchase this week, but the $5.50 shipping price for a Steve Prefontaine DVD with a starting bid of $3.26 thats likely worth no more than a buck seemed a bit askance. While browsing the site looking for an alternative-running film selection, an e-mail in my My eBay account alerted me that Ive been delinquent in leaving feedback for magicmatt635, the seller from my most recent transaction.I typed in that the item I won arrived on the date and in the condition promised. A few minutes later, the little number in parentheses to the right of my screen name increased from four to five, indicating new feedback had been left about me. It was from magicmatt635, who had apparently waited 35 days since the sale closed at the end of January for me to make the first feedback move. Wussy.Regardless, I dont want to brag, but Im a great eBayer. Everyone says so. Or at least the five people with whom Ive exchanged money for stuff.Swedemom and eastcoastpubman both regard me as a top-shelf buyer thanks to my prompt payment. Dallasannie raved that I am an excellent buyer because of my easy, pleasant transaction. Chicken_little22 gushed that I am a true pleasure to deal with in no small part because of my great communication and lightning fast payment. And despite my delayed feedback submission, magicmatt635 cooed that Im utterly perfect. Three of the five sellers rated my performance as a buyer as not merely A+, but A++++++++. And at the risk of tooting my own horn even further, I have been welcome back anytime by two of the five sellers.I pity other buyers who havent fared as well, feedback-wise. But lets be realistic with more than a million transactions daily, not every eBayer can expect to receive marks as high as mine.That became evident when I looked to see the feedback exchanges between my five sellers (or, as I now refer to them, my biggest fans) and their other buyers. One of the sellers accused a buyer of not paying as requested and then ignoring e-mails and invoices. The buyer hissed back that the seller was new and jumped the gun leaving negative feedback. A third party (Lord eBay?) ended the altercation by declaring the ratings had been mutually withdrawn with buyer and seller also jointly agreeing to withdraw feedback for the item.Much like Alcoholics Anonymous and kindergarten, respect and communication are the cornerstones of the eBay community. Fundamental values (explicitly posted on eBays website like the Ten Commandments used to be displayed in former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moores courtroom) exist by which the members are expected to adhere: People are basically good. Everyone has something to contribute. An honest, open environment can bring out the best in people. Everyone is recognized and respected as a unique individual. Everyone is encouraged to treat others as they would want to be treated. (Also like at AA meetings and in kindergarten, booze is not permitted on eBay.)If it doesnt already exist, it cant be too long before a dictionary of the eBay lexicon is published. Extraordinary words and enthusiastic descriptions are used to illustrate mundane objects and dealings. Buyers and sellers heap generous servings of praise on each other at the completion of the most simple, ordinary transactions. And eBayers dont hesitate to swap deliciously catty, snarky barbs when scorned.Whether an item buys or sells for a quarter or a quarter-of-a-million dollars is seemingly irrelevant. What appears to matters to the hierarchical clique of eBayers whose livelihood depends on others nostalgia for pouches of grape Big League Chew bubble gum is that the rules are respected. (Nowhere does the site mention how eBays principles apply to the actual eBay storefronts popping up around the country serving people like me who would otherwise be far too lazy to do the work necessary to sell their own junk online).Five purchases certainly dont make me eBay elite. But an e-mail in my My eBay account yesterday let me know that Im off and running with five positive feedback comments. In fact, Im halfway to earning my Yellow Star and have been encouraged to keep up the good work. But certainly the most meaningful passage in the e-mail expressed appreciation for my help in reinforcing eBays value that People Are Basically Good.My parents will be so proud.Aspen resident Meredith C. Carroll writes a Friday column. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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