Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Too posh to push

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

In my home suburb of Manchester I'm used to seeing hair-brained, it'll-never-work enterprises spring from nowhere, only to vanish again as quickly as they arrived. People get fed up with kowtowing to their superiors and decide to become their own boss. Rather than research the market to find out what goods and services the local community really need, or at least really want, they set up shops that cater for the limited number of people who happen to share their own fascination with one niche hobby or another.

Unsurprisingly enough there aren't enough customers interested in, for example, solar-powered, Peruvian model aeroplanes of the 18th century to keep these businesses afloat. I assume that, after these dream-fulfilling forays into proprietorship fold, the misguided owners go crawling back to their ex-bosses to beg for forgiveness... and their old jobs back.

The latest addition to my highstreet is one of these new-fangled eBay shops. I think this one may just outlast its predecessors, but sadly for all the wrong reasons.

When I say 'eBay shops' I'm referring to the likes of Auctioning 4 U, SellStuffEasy and iSold It; companies who either pick up or take delivery of items you wish to get shut of, list them on eBay and then pass the final sale fee onto you once sold... minus their exorbitant, money-for-old-rope, between 20 and 40 per cent cut of course.

I did a double-take when these shops first breached my cognizance. I mean, could eBay beeee any easier to use? ...which is I'm sure what Chandler Bing would have to say on the matter. Why are these shops even necessary? Who on earth uses them? You Google the tech (or otherwise) specs of your junk, copy and paste them into your advert and submit it. Wait for 7 days to pass, ship the goods to the winning buyer and you've made a decent return on stuff that was just littering up your home gathering dust.

Even if you go the extra mile to describe the condition of your items and post a picture, how difficult is that? How lazy can people get? eBay is such a colossal, world-wide brand I expect they employ people who's sole purpose it is to newbiefy the selling process to such an extent an ADHD-suffering, mentally retarded rhizopod could get to grips with it. They do a first-class job as far as I can tell - if you laid out all the pages which encompass the eBay help section it would stretch half way around the globe. These burnt-out eBay spoonfeeders must cry themselves to sleep at night knowing they're flogging a dead horse where some people are concerned, poor souls. Is it that the customers of these eBay shops give up before they've started, claiming it's all too complicated for them, without so much as reading the first sentence of an introductory how-to guide?

Money-making aside, I've always thought DIY eBaying was a worthwhile experience in itself. You lovingly sculpt your own listings, answer potential buyer's questions, watch the bids accumulate and finally wait to hear what the recipients of your unwanted items think of them. Your smelly old sock, purported to have belonged to Madonna back in the 80s, could sell for tuppence or thousands of pounds. The winning bidder could be over the moon to have been given the opportunity to get their grubby mitts on the one and only Atari 2600 games console prototype in existence. The uncertainty and interaction is all part of the fun, cultivating a positive 'reputation' page is a matter of pride.

I don't understand who these eBay shops are supposed to appeal to. Highly paid execs with mad, rush-rush-rush lives and little time on their hands don't need the cash so are unlikely to bother. Poverty-stricken types will clearly seek to maximise their income and therefore won't be inclined to throw away up to 40% of the final sale fee of their goods through paying a third party to do something they could do themselves in five minutes with minimal effort. So who does that leave? Poor, stupid, computer-illiterate people? If so, why don't they ring up their local newspaper and place a free ad instead?

It's no good; I can't stop my befuddled mind from wandering. At the moment it's straggling in the general direction of a vague recollection I have of a comedy sketch I saw many years ago. It was one of those *clears throat* 'social commentary vignettes' Hale and Pace had such a talent for scripting.

Somehow one of their many slobby caricatures manages to talk a sexy lady into going to bed with him. In the next scene he's shown hovering above her, while she lies prostrate in bed, held by some kind of makeshift hoist. Red-hot, passionate sex is on the cards, but oh no, it's all too much effort to thrust! What is one to do faced with such a trifling dilemma?

Why, have the hoist automatically raise and lower him onto his partner at a steady pace of course.

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