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February 20, 2008:

I COME TO DAMN EBAY

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I come to damn eBay, not to praise it. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I come to damn eBay, not to praise it. Oh, I used to praise it, oh, yes, I used to praise it, but not any more. I came to eBay pretty early in the game, when it really was being run by a handful of people, and their site was growing daily by leaps and bounds. In those days, there was no eSnipe, and there was little protection from buyers and sellers leaving bogus negative feedback. Very few items had their listings pulled, but if you saw something that was breaking the law, you could report it and actually get a human response, not an annoying automated form response. And, of course, you could get some real bargains in those early days. I got great deals on original art, I got some fantastic deals on first editions, I got classic board games and 50s toys and menus for a song, same with CDs and ephemera. Of course, it all changed quickly. Why? The dealers found out about eBay and then getting things for a bargain price was done, because these dealers simply would not allow it. They would just bid everything up, and if they won the item they’d be back listing it for three times the price a week later. In the old days, if you wanted to snipe something, you had to be there when the auction ended and whoever had the most guts, waiting till the last minute-wise, was the winner. Of course, eSnipe and other such sites changed all that. Other than certain things that only I could love and/or desire, eBay has basically lost all interest for me. Why? Because it’s not fun anymore. It certainly used to be fun – it was fun to hunt down things and then hope you’d be the high bidder. I got amazing things in those long ago days. That wouldn’t be possible today, not without spending humungous amounts of money for items that simply aren’t worth that kind of dough. Last night, I decided to search through first editions, just to see how bad things have gotten. Book-wise, eBay has been a huge boon to book dealers, because the rampant stupidity of buyers has suddenly given dealers the opportunity to sell worthless books for huge amounts of money. No reputable or intelligent book collector would have such crap in his/her collection, but that doesn’t stop the rubes. And it certainly doesn’t stop disreputable and ignorant sellers from listing books incorrectly or making them seem like they’re worth something when they’re not. One fine day, these idiots who are buying these worthless books are going to have a rude awakening when they try to sell them or get them appraised. They’ll scream, “but they told me it was rare” and the appraisers or dealers will just shake their heads and laugh and say, “Don’t believe everything you hear or read.” Before eBay, if someone had a rare book without its dust jacket, it was worth basically nothing – just a few dollars. Last night, I saw a first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird being sold for just under $1000 with no dust jacket. Pre eBay that same book would have fetched maybe $10. I saw the usual cries of RARE FIRST EDITION and prices that were so outrageous as to defy credulity, but when you actually looked at the listing you’d see not only the RARE FIRST EDITION but the additional line SECOND PRINT. The fact that any printing subsequent to the first is also worthless doesn’t seem to mean anything to these people. They ACT like it’s worth something, and yes, there are rubes who fall for the con. And it is a con. I went through twenty-three pages of listings before I got to prices under $300. I believe in the first fourteen pages of the highest priced books, only three actually had bids. There was one reasonably rare book being sold for a not too bad price of around $800 – not too bad until you looked at the listing and found that it was an ex-library copy, with tape marks, stamps and missing end papers. In days of old, ex-library copies, no matter HOW rare the book, were considered reading copies only and went for virtually no money. Today, they get listed on eBay for $800. I suppose one can still occasionally find a reasonably priced LP or CD or some piece of movie memorabilia, but those deals are the exception, not the rule. Given eBay’s new policies going into effect, I should think that perhaps it’s time for some enterprising person to start a rival site, and maybe target very specific items – remember, eBay started out as a Pez only auction site. So, once again, something that used to be quite fun and even exciting, has turned into something that, for me, is basically reprehensible, overrun with sellers who don’t know what they’re doing and who don’t care and who just charge outrageous prices, and dealers who lie and sell junk and then turn around and buy up any bargain that might slip through the cracks. There, I’ve said it and I’m glad. I have damned eBay and now can move on to the notes.

Speaking of the notes, yesterday was a pretty okay day. I got a good night’s sleep, got up, packaged up quite a few things and got them shipped, then had a very nice luncheon with Miss Merissa Haddad. After that, I did a few errands, found a bookstore I’d never seen before (apparently it’s been there for two years, but the owner only got around to putting a sign up a few months ago) – he was having a fifty percent off sale, and he had a few cheap paperback movie-tie ins that were fun, so I bought a few of them. I then came home, did some work at the piano, then on the computer, then proofed a few more chapters of the new novel. After all that, I finally sat on my couch like so much fish.

Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below before I decide to damn eBay some more.

Last night, I watched a motion picture on DVD entitled The Return Of The World’s Greatest Detective, a TV movie from 1976, starring Larry Hagman and Jenny O’Hara. Mr. Hagman plays an inept cop whose motorcycle keeps falling over. It ends up falling on his head, and then he suddenly thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes (his real name is Sherman Holmes, and Miss O’Hara’s character’s name is – yes, you guessed it – Dr. Watson). I suppose Roland Kibbee and Dean Hargrove had liked James Goldman’s They Might Be Giants, but sadly this TV film never rises above the mediocre in any way. Mr. Hargrove directed, and the film is shot all around LA, and yet, like most bad directors, he doesn’t know how to have fun showing the city off. Why film on location at all? Mr. Hagman isn’t really very good as Holmes, and Miss O’Hara’s character is badly written. It certainly wasn’t one of the classic 70s TV movies. I was given the DVD that contained the film by someone at last weekend’s show. It was from a mid 80s TV broadcast in those long ago days when networks showed late-night movies instead of infomercials and talk shows.

Today’s luncheon was moved to Friday, so I’ll be able to proof for the first part of the day, and then I have to attend a music work session with Mr. Spirtas and Mr. Boswell from three to six, after which I’ll grab a bite to eat and then come home.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, proof, have a work session, and then watch a DVD or three. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Ask BK Day, the day in which you get to ask me or any dear reader any old question you like and we get to give any old answer we like. So, let’s have loads of lovely questions and loads of lovely answers and loads of lovely postings, and also feel free to damn and/or praise eBay.

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