The other night, I got sucked into a vortex of eBay shopping.
It happens from time to time. Although I rarely buy anything, I love to window shop. I’m always one bored moment away from starting a new and useless collection of something.
I’ve written about my love of eBay before. Not only do I find it a far superior method of shopping, in comparison to malls and mega-stores, but it’s also one of the last bastions of the free market.
Merchandise always sells for exactly what it’s worth.
An item priced too high will never sell.
An item priced below market value almost always gets bid up until the final sale price is the exact value of the item.
Many brick and mortar businesses have turned to eBay as a price guide for merchandise. They check the online value, mark up the cost a bit to compensate for what the buyer would spend on shipping, then add a little more for the peace of mind a consumer feels for being able to see, touch and test an item they are buying.
As a child, I had Beckett and Wizard magazines to tell me the value of baseball cards and comic books. Now, just tap eBay into your smartphone and find out exactly how much a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is worth (between $2,000 and $80,000 depending on condition).
EBay studies should qualify as a basic economics course — it might be one of the simplest ways to understand and analyze supply and demand.
But what got me thinking about this column wasn’t something you’d buy in a traditional brick and mortar retailer. My attention was grabbed by a man who was willing to tattoo a company logo across his entire back — a living billboard, he called it — for the rest of his life.
His starting asking price was $45,000 — probably a reasonable sum for a business, if you can factor in a period of at least 10 years. His hope, he said, was not unlike the American Dream so many of us have. He wanted to pay off his bills, restore his 1968 muscle car and spend some time traveling the country before he gets too old to enjoy it.
“I would still have to work of course, just not as much,” he said.
I was pretty amused to find this “item” for sale, but I think it also showed a sad side of the world we live in. Nowadays, all spaces are fair game for some corporation to shell out some money and slap their logo across it. We’ve gotten accustomed to seeing advertisements all over sports stadiums, including the multi-million dollar naming rights, buses, park benches and more.
But that’s just the beginning of where advertisers can put their stamp.
Garrett Rudolph is the managing editor of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.