It was so exciting when eBay first started, a final reckoning with the fact that we all, between us, had enough stuff. We just had to keep it moving around so that it felt new to someone, and life’s defining itch-scratch-itch cycle – earn-spend-earn – would be broken. All that would be left to destroy was private property, and wham, we would reach Arcadia (the state of simple pleasure, not the doomed fashion business).
Then, it turned out that no one wanted my stupid stuff. I’d end up with a closing bid of £1.28, having gifted myself administrative posting tasks that would reach into the following month. My reputation was soon scorched as a seller, and I took to using the site only for buying vintage dog cufflinks, which never arrived. At least I wasn’t banned from selling, unlike my Mr, who had his card marked early on as a potential money launderer. I have been round these traps a lot, and scoured Breaking Bad and Ozark many times to find out how money laundering works. I can find no reasonable explanation for the suspicion, except that the quality of his goods was too low for the possibility of honest exchange.
And so, years in, I’ve finally posted something for sale that people want. I had no idea this item would be in any kind of demand; I was a hair’s breadth from putting it out on the street. I can’t tell you what it is or you’ll all want it, and I’ll just make this problem a thousand times worse. Instantly, people were going round the back, messaging privately, playing hardball. One guy tried to persuade me that it was in such bad condition that I would be better off just giving it to him, and said he was happy to come and collect right this minute. “Dude,” I replied, “your eBay name is the item +69. I know exactly how much you want it, also, how old you are.” Relationships build up; one concerned bidder is worried that I’ve low-balled the postage, and haven’t a hope in hell of getting it to Stoke-on-Trent for £12.90. I don’t know if I can enter into any more correspondence, there are just too many emotions. Finally, I have figured out what old-school capitalism had going for it – frictionless trade.
Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist