Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Death of Ebay

I was an Ebay nut. I have the “collectors” gene in me which causes me to collect things. I have a coin collection, shot glass collection, mug collection (of shows I’ve gone to), Lord of the Rings memorabilia collection, Egyptian Ushabti collection, Lord’s Supper art work collection, Archeology and History Magazine collection, and probably a navel fuzz collection on me right now. One of my dreams would be having an “antique” Bible collection. I keep looking at an original 1607 Geneva Study Bible that is in Bauman’s Rare Books at the Venetian Hotel but it doesn’t get much cheaper than the $5000 they want for it right now. Still a dream. But now, my main source for my collections: Ebay, has died.

In 1846 an Irish immigrant named Alexander Stewart opened a store in NYC unlike any that Americans has ever seen before. Stewart started many innovations like in-store fashion shows, street level windows for window shopping and a lavishly decorated store to appeal to shoppers. But his most important innovation was that all of his products came with a price tag. You see, before Alex got involved you had to haggle your price with the merchant which, as most of us know, can be a frustrating dance between the two parties and rarely do both go away happy with the transaction. So Alex marked everything with a fixed price, pay it or don’t, it is up to you. MANY decided to pay it and made Alex one of the most successful retailers in NYC in the mid 1800’s.

A century and a half later there was another innovator by the name of Pierre Omidyar. His new store was unlike ANYTHING that Americans had seen before. Pierre’s vision was to have the world’s largest open market, which would sell ANYTHING to EVERYBODY, where the small guy could compete with the huge corporations and where shoppers could find all kinds of products they never dreamed of buying. He called his “store” Ebay. Pierre’s greatest innovation was in pricing, just like Alex, but is replaced fixed prices with auctions. The prices were to be set by the ever changing supply and demand. Customers responded and made Ebay the world’s largest retailer and business experts called it the “perfect store”.

But Pierre’s model, just like Alex’s has been run through the cycle of changing technology and scam artists. Bidding on Ebay items used to be fun, but now it is not, with “snipers” electronically putting in the last bid in milliseconds to take that beanie baby you were hoping for. Winning a bid on Ebay no longer seems to be a bargain like it used to be or you would win an item for a good price and the shipping costs would kill you. Ebay, as originally intended, has died. Now auctions are a distant second to the “Buy it Now” button price. Shipping costs are set by Ebay based on distance to keep the scammers at bay. But the novelty has simply worn off.

It was fun while it lasted but my collections will have to grow in other ways. We grow, we adapt, we adjust, we move on. The problem is clingers, those who valiantly try to cling to past innovation while the world moves on. The buggy whip is no longer for sale other than as a novelty. The Minivan pushed out the Station Wagon which is gave way to the SUV which is now under attack by the Crossovers. Those of us clinging to land line phones will find that they will no longer be in service. I just heard that Amazon now sells more books electronically than it sells books that are actually made out of paper. Are you ready?

We MUST grow, we MUST adapt, we MUST adjust, and we MUST move on. The alternative is not too pleasant and potentially dangerous. So does anyone have hookups for a rare Bible for me?

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