June 03, 2007

Musings on eBay

As I prepare for moving from Florida to Massachusetts, I am in the process of selling off a rather sizable collection of books and works of art on eBay. I don't mention this in the hopes of finding buyers, but because of my experience with it over the past couple of weeks.

eBay has been both boon and bane for me. Due to the sheer number of items I'm selling in going from a small house to a small apartment, the process of listing items, answering inquiries, boxing things and shipping them off eats up far too much of my time. I find it a rather tedious process, truth be told.

Then again, I'm amazed at the amount of money eBay buyers are willing to fork over for the sundry books and artworks I'm auctioning. Two examples: one book that I bought for about $40 back in 1995 sold for over $500 and a second, which I bought for $15 and which one could purchase elsewhere (with some minimal research) sold for over $200. When all is said and done, the money I raise on eBay will pay for my U-Haul truck, all of the gas needed to drive it 1300 miles, and probably my first month or two of rent at the new location. It's as if some divine being were standing in the sky above me and casually dropping $100 bills on my head.

An old roommate of mine some years ago described eBay as "a service for people with too much money and too little brains." I don't necessarily agree with that 100%, but still I do feel a little guilty at times for raking in as much as I have been, and then reminding myself that this kind of spending is voluntary on the part of my buyers. Of course, the armchair psychologist in me wonders if there might indeed be some kind of compulsive behavior involved.

Then I remind myself that this money is making it possible for me to reach a goal I've wanted to achieve since the age of 5 — to become a scientist. The people who are buying what I list on eBay only think they're paying for books and statues and such. Unbeknownst to them, what they're doing is investing in my dream and, if it all works out, contributing to fundamental research.

I wonder what would happen if I simply listed that as an auction item. Would people invest in this manner if they knew right up front what it was they were paying for? Hmmmm...

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