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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

eBay goes wild

By Andrea Deanovic
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 17, 2004

I made my entrepreneurial debut in the fifth grade. In the same month that I stopped documenting the day of the week with my underwear, I sold the class hamster, Elmo, to my neighbor.

It was a slick transaction. Shannon, a year younger and still waiting for her molars, eagerly accepted my terms. In exchange for the ungrateful ball of fur capable of alarmingly sadistic grunts, Shannon handed me two wrinkled ten-dollar bills.

I admit the transaction, while ingenious, had its flaws. I knowingly sold a stolen rodent to a pathetically impressionable youth, a fourth grader with a craving for junior high responsibility. I sold her more than the hamster I had fondly taken to calling Elmwhore, (given that he had impregnated three caged hamsters in five months)  I sold her celebrity.

With the growing popularity of online auction houses like eBay, commodity has given way to celebrity. Gone are the days when Harriet the Housewife filled her afternoons with online bidding for pedestrian products. A Tiffanys lamp, a Home Shopping Network exclusive Suzanne Sommers thigh firmer, a stainless steel colander at half of Williams Sonomas retail price: these items are petty and juvenile. Instead, or perhaps now in addition to these, Harriet must catch her breath before bidding on celebrity novelties such as, say, gum chewed by Britney Spears.

Its happening. Someone is buying Britney Spears gum. And someone else is buying Paris Hiltons handmade lost dogs signs.

But who are these people who find it necessary to own Britney Spears saliva? How many days will pass until the new owner of a hot pink lost dog poster, handmade by Paris Hilton, on which she offers a $5,000 reward for her Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, stands back from the wall where it is framed. Will it be hung long enough before the person looking at it realizes that they are standing before a framed and hung lost dog poster?

What about the 18 year-old woman from the United Kingdom who put her virginity up for auction on June 22? Her highest offer was 10,000 pounds, or about $18,000. What does this say about us? Is there a Harriet The Housewife in all of us, just a mouse click away from achieving an all time low in which we pay for a piece of someone else?

The eBay epidemic reaches beyond American materialism, because materialism is just about possessions. Instead, the new wave of eBay trading, I fear, threatens the very identity of those dissatisfied with mediocrity and anonymity.

Harriet the Housewife easily becomes Harriet the Housewife With a Twist upon purchasing one of Beyonce Knowles hair extensions. eBay has capitalized on the with a twist part.

But dont get me wrong  eBay, though peddling disgusting and sometimes amoral items and ideas, maintains moral ground. Not only does eBay hold bidders and sellers accountable to five fundamental values that read more like a sign on an elementary school playground than a company policy, but it restricts the sale of 73 items it deems illegal.

For example, selling recalled items is prohibited. Its a shame, really. Last year, a publisher recalled 5,400 copies of Candle and Soap Making for Dummies because the instructions for one recipe called for an incorrect mix of ingredients which caused the solution to bubble over and burn candlemakers. Whats a health hazard or two if I can achieve soap making greatness for $9.99?

One cannot sell a human organ, and, to me, this makes sense logistically and in theory. No matter how much I appreciate bidFanatics online business demeanor, I dont need to walk around with his kidney inside of me. Lines are crossed when eBay not only becomes ones life but sustains it as well.

So draw the line. Draw it after the lawn gnome and before the crack cocaine, andprotect yourself. Protect yourself from lies about worth, value and identity.

Until then, however, Im selling a No. 2 pencil Ive been chewing on for the last few days. If you act now, Ill throw in the ashes of a hamster named Elmo. Bidding opens tomorrow.

Contributing writer Andrea Deanovic is a first year from Eden Prarie, Minn. She majors in English.

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