There are very few things in life that prepare you for that inevitable day when you awake from the night before, wearing nothing more than an ‘I love Barry White’ t-shirt and a pair of novelty, boxing glove shaped slippers, stagger to the computer and discover that you have indeed won 47 tactical combat knives upon that odious and pernicious auction site known as Ebay.
As lock-down continues into its third month, we are now all at that stage where the only excitement of the day is to see what on Earth the post person will deliver after a boredom-induced shopping spree weeks ago, or to find out if we were indeed the winning bidder.
‘Congratulations’ reads your Ebay message in mocking knowledge. Blind panic, of course, now envelopes your body as the real life consequences of such profligacy hit home. How do I tell the bank manager why my account has suddenly delved into the red? How can I justify the purchase of enough weaponry to start my own militia? Christmas presents maybe? Or do I try in vain to fool myself that real investors place their money in cold hard steel?
First, however, I thought it prudent to step back and take a long, hard and rational look at the situation. How had online auctions, cheap bourbon and lock-down collided in such a horrific fashion? It was time to admit I was an Ebay addict.
The genesis of the problem
It had all started innocently enough years ago with the purchase of the odd Christmas present here or birthday present there, but, I am now aware, that was where the seed was planted. As a 46-year-old man, it is of course imperative to own retro-styled Adidas tracksuit tops. Yet there before me, on this wonderful site, lay thousands of them to choose from. The first seven tops came with such ease that I hardly even noticed the time spent on their acquisition, or the expense.
After a total of 14 tops had landed upon my welcome mat the problem should have been very apparent, but I insisted that a fit, healthy, man owning so many sports casual garments would, in some circles, be an affirmation of vitality, or simply a keen and fastidious attempt at fashion.
The bank manager, however, had other ideas. There is no describing the terror a mere mortal feels when you stand in front of a financial God and explain that the reason for the declined direct debit and unauthorised overdraft is due to an outrageous need to purchase 1970’s styled tops from an online auction site. Would it be possible to pull in the reins on this Ebaying frenzy, I wondered.
Beginning of the end?
With shops closed, online ‘window shopping’ was the next best thing to do during isolation but the need for an Ebay-winning fix came on hard and fast, rivalling that of any narcotics user. I was quickly reminded of those beautiful last 15 seconds of watching an item you had a bid on and nervously hoping you wouldn’t be out-bid by some other Ebay addict.
The thrill of seeing the item briefly disappear only to be instantly replaced upon the screen now donning the headline ‘Congratulations’ you are the highest bidder for item xyz. This all now had to be achieved rather more frugally with the purchase of less valuable items, and so began the next phase of my Ebaying saga, and things started getting weird, really weird.
The first such item bought under the new and revised parsimonious restraints was a set of 10 bumper stickers that read ‘I love Dairy Alpine Goats’, and indeed who doesn’t, for a total of only £3.25?
Subsequent purchases included a set of four SpongeBob Squarepants drinks coasters for a reasonable £4.50, and, during a particularly quiet Ebay night, with both tiredness and desperation looming, a Bart Simpson-shaped piñata for a bargain £4, a cheap but satisfactory thrill.
The end of this bizarre odyssey, however, came at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, three weeks into lock-down with the purchase of a Bros Limited Edition 7’ single for £2.75. What sort of sick animal puts a Bros single online in the small hours of a weekday morning? Ebay pushers that’s who – a lowly cabal of twisted individuals hunkered down over filthy keyboards, lurking in the darkest recesses of the web along with perverts and Star Trek fans, who will, without warning, sell you any old crap at any time of the night because they know someone, somewhere out there is desperate enough to buy it, and I was in their grasp.
As with any physical or mental addiction, over time the highs are harder to come by, the drug needs to stronger or the risk taking greater. Coming first place in an auction of goat memorabilia at 1 a.m. on a Monday morning just wasn’t giving me the kick I needed. Surprising as it may seem, there are not that many bidding foes for goat paraphernalia in the early hours of a weekday morning – it was indeed a hollow victory. This is when the final and most disturbing aspect of my Ebay addiction began to take shape; chicken bidding.
Do you have the nerve?
The idea is to bid upon something you don’t want and can’t afford in order not to win it, but only just. Much like jumping out of the way of an oncoming train, the thrill comes with just how close to death you dare take yourself. Death wasn’t going to visit me by chicken bidding but it was a risk and a thrill all the same, and if played correctly would cost nothing.
I started carefully with, as it turned out, a woefully inadequate bid on a bass guitar. An instrument I cannot play, but nevertheless bid a crazy £120 for. The winning bidder bought said guitar for almost double that, so I persevered with items I had some fiscal knowledge of.
Next came a bid on a Boss in-car stereo system which I neither needed nor could afford, I bid £87 and was only out-bid in the last three minutes of the auction – an incredible rush. I upped the ante and next bid upon a complete home tattoo start-up kit. This was the closest shave yet and subsequently the biggest rush from chicken bidding I would ever get, I was outbid by a single five pound note during the last 12 white-knuckle-ride seconds, the item finally going for £142.
My luck, however, had to run out and my next two chicken bids went south, earning me two Sony MP3 players in one auction alone and a cheap in-car stereo that I still did not need in the other. I had learned from the financial near miss of the tattoo kit and only had to pay out a total of £65 for all three lots. The end was nigh, however, the bells were tolling and I was only one more bid away from facing up to my addiction in the cold light of day.
I have always been an admirer of knives, not in any mean or violent way but a connoisseur of their workmanship, history and variety. So there it was, a collection of 47 of the beautiful blighters, Bowies, hunting, folding, butterfly all with cases and a retail value of over £260. Wow. I put a modest bid of £100 on them but that was soon beaten with over two hours of the auction remaining. So I increased the bid to a massive £163. How I came up with the amount is a mystery but it sounded on the money for a close and thrilling shave. I went to bed not able to stay awake long enough to witness the climax, but safe in the knowledge that I would arise and have an early morning buzz from nearly winning; the rest they say is history.
I no longer allow myself to go online unless with the sole purpose of buying a specific item, I have in all senses of the phrase gone cold turkey. Ebay and I are, however, once again soon to collude as I have decided to become an Ebay pusher. I have the time and some rather nice bumper stickers to shift in addition to a raft of murder weapons to find homes for, not to mention that bloody Bros single. Will anybody buy such crap? Of course they will, they always do…
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