I had never placed a bid on eBay (or listed anything for that matter) up until a couple of weeks ago. My first bid was on a mantle clock made in the 19th century. I like old-style mechanical clocks, particularly ones that are somewhat ornate, and this one appealed to me. But why did I go to eBay in the first place after years of basically ignoring the service?
I guess the answer is that I’m not a bargain hunter, and that is always the demographic eBay struck me as being focussed on. If I want a gadget, I want it to be in pristine new condition: not nearly new, not lightly used, but new. And eBay has always struck me as being sort of like a garage sale: lots of other people’s junk.
But this time I was intentionally looking for something old. A mantle clock made in 1995 is pretty boring, probably plastic, and almost certainly crappy. But one that was made in 1895 will have real materials crafted in age where “mass production” meant 50 guys working at the same bench. I didn’t really know initially whether eBay would have any quality antiques at reasonable prices, but my first few visits to the site opened my eyes. Some of the items available are crazy: things like 2000 year old bronze swords and first century gold necklaces from Persian royalty (pre-approved buyers only, please- at over $20 million, I guess so 🙂 ).
I’ve found that the whole bidding process preys on some deep, lizard brain part of my mind. Once I see what I want, I don’t want to give it up. I start picturing the item in my house, and in my life, and whenever eBay says “you are no longer the highest bidder”, that dawn-era lizard brain flicks its tongue and scuttles around frantically, making me hit the “increase your bid” button.
So far I’ve been good: I set a maximum threshold, and even went the extra mile and set my initial bid significantly below that threshold. But it was difficult: when someone else bid over my maximum on my first eBay item I had to really fight to not raise my bid. And I succeeded! But I’m back on eBay again, bidding on another clock, and watching Bidder 4 keep raising their maximum to try to take it from me awakens the fight/flight response in that ancient brain.
I think I can understand now how some people become eBay addicts.