Earlier this week, I did a Ebay listing for a spinning wheel that was being sold for charity. Which sold, within two hours, for a price the previous owners didn’t dare dream of, to a lady who has got a great bargain. And as you do (well, I do) I thought I’d have a little peek at what else was around locally; something I don’t normally do any more, in order to avoid temptation. I was amazed to find the next closest listing was for a wheel that I myself had had for sale down in Molly’s Den, which had still been there that very afternoon. Normally I’d have been delighted to think I’d sold it on, but it had been listed at a very high price with what I felt was a very misleading description; it was described “very old” and made of “oak or walnut” when in fact it’s from the 1980s and whilst bits of it may be oak and/or walnut, the base is MDF. The problem with that was that it was pictured on my stall… I really didn’t want any of my regular, knowledgeable customers associating such a misleading description with me! So I messaged the seller to point this out & asked them to change the picture. Nothing doing; no reply…
Next morning I trotted down to Molly’s with some new stock, and was amazed & appalled to find the wheel still there, unsold. The blighter had listed MY wheel for sale, without my knowledge or consent. I have no problem with a) people selling things on behalf of other people, I do it myself sometimes, or b) people buying items from me, then selling them on at a profit; that’s what we’re all doing and it’s fair enough. If they can get a higher price than I can, no problem. But I do have a problem with someone selling on something of mine that doesn’t yet belong to them, at a huge profit & with a misleading description; apart from the element of fraud, to me it’s completely unethical for a number of reasons. Eventually I did get a fairly incoherent response from them, telling me to “get a grip(!), you get your money & I get mine, where’s the problem?” The problem is, mate, you are selling something that’s not yours to sell, with a misleading description & without the owner’s knowledge or consent, and if you can’t see what’s wrong with that, the problem is with you. Anyway, I’ve physically removed the wheel and he has “removed” the listing (eventually, under pressure, and by dropping the price drastically & presumably getting a friend to “buy” it) but the story’s not over yet as far as I’m concerned.
But I’ve found it rather interesting to see & hear other people’s reaction to this. Half of them have understood instantly why I’m outraged, but the other half have been unsurprised & basically said, “Erm, what’s wrong with that? It’s what our bankers do all the time! And if he can get more for it than you can, well…” And it’s not the split I would have expected, with other traders being unsurprised and everyone else being appalled; most of the traders have been horrified (and rushed off to see whether he’s listed anything of theirs) but some of my perfectly-nice friends have failed to see why I’d have a problem with this. I’m still trying to get my head around this; not sure whether they just haven’t taken on board the implications, or whether my entire worldview is hopelessly old-fashioned & innocent. But at the very least, it has huge implications for anyone who regularly buys from Ebay; no wonder some sellers are so vague & unhelpful! And – why is it so hard to report a genuine problem to Ebay?
Would be interested to hear what my regular readers (OK, any readers, really) think of this conundrum: is it morally OK to offer for sale goods that aren’t yet yours, without the owner’s knowledge or consent?