Humor on eBay

It’s a sale of a wedding dress… It’s a rant about ex-wives from the ninth circle of hell… it’s a tattooed gent being the model for the dress… it’s at $31,900 and 10 hours left to go, and over 2,000,000 hits on the counter.

Check it out. Expect a made-for-TV movie to appear next season.

Update: in the 15 minutes since I wrote the above, the price has gone up to $600,100.00. I am not making this up.

Another update: price is down to $331,952.00. The other bid must have been retracted.

April 29th: It looks like a carnival of bid cancellations occurred. The final winning bid on the wedding dress was a somewhat less insane $3,850. The hit counter stands at 6,905,664. The fellow selling the dress says there will be a web site set up about the experience. I still expect the made-for-TV movie to follow.

Obviously, selling stuff on eBay is a social phenomenon, not just an auction. The intrinsic value of the item in this instance comes nowhere near the winning bid price. But the high bidders apparently believed they were participating in something more than just the sale of a wedding dress in this case. Whether they were making a statement of support for divorced men having bad experiences in marriage or were just trying to claim a part of the attention that this event has generated isn’t clear.

I’ve been planning to sell various things on eBay, and this incident argues strongly for including information that I previously would have considered irrelevant to an eBay ad for an item. Maybe it will do no good, but perhaps it will.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

One thought on “Humor on eBay

  • 2004/05/02 at 11:16 am
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    All sales are social phenomena, of course — conversations. The seller attempts to signal various aspects of their own trustworthiness and the value of the goods. eBay encourages creativity among sellers because it channels their signals through just the text they use to describe the auction item, and as a result differentiation becomes very important. Humor. Wordiness. Things that would seem unrelated to the item, but which in essence actually say something about the seller themselves.

    That said, a nice big parallel channel is not a bad thing, too. All you really need to do is start people passing your item along to one another, as in “Hey, look at this crazy dude here selling X.”

    I have to say, though, that as a result one is not selling stuff so much as the “performance” itself — the auction listing, not the item.

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