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July 27, 2012

Ebay is such an interesting place. I probably made my first ebay purchase a good ten years ago now or so when ebay was still a bit of a novelty. It was exciting and a bit scary too. What if it was all one big hoax and I paid my money but never got what I ordered? What if I got something other than what I ordered….something of far lesser value or quality? What if my item came smashed to smithereens? And then there was the process itself….online bidding! How did all that work, etc. etc. etc? Anything new on the computer has always intimidated me initially but as with most things in life, once you do it a couple times, it becomes old hat. So it was with ebay, and now some 750 purchases later, ebay is as much a part of my shopping life as is Wal-Mart and my local grocery store! Maybe more so than my grocery store, as my husband does all the grocery shopping in this house. Yes, I know……I’m a lucky woman!

I am also pleased to tell you that in those 750 some purchases only once did I not get what I ordered and only once has something arrived broken. In the first instance the gentleman was running a scam. He listed items that he either did not have or had no intention of selling and took the money and laughed all the way to the bank, it seemed. Many of us who purchased from him made formal complaints and he was banned from ebay. I never did get my money refunded on that one, but at least he is no longer out there prowling around and stealing from potential customers. As for the broken item, the seller refunded my money immediately and apologized profusely although she had no need to apologize for the US postal service who no doubt threw her package around more than once as it made its way from her house across the country to mine. So yes, I am an avid ebay shopper and a very satisfied one at that.

But then came the day when I decided to try and sell something on ebay. A whole new adventure! Again there was the learning process of how photograph one’s items, how to describe them with enough detail and interest to attract that potential customer, and how to list them correctly so that they actually showed up online, etc. But aftter one or two listings none of that was difficult and I was off and running. When the entire world is potentially out as your customer it is tantalizing. At least it is for me. I have become a regular seller and actually plan to make ebay a part of my supplemental income once I begin to draw social security in a few months. I remember my first sale. It was a vase…..a piece of Roseville pottery made in the 30s or 40s and highly collectible among the pottery fans in America. I like Roseville myself, but this was an ugly piece in my eyes. Kinda muddy brown overall with not so pretty flowers on it, but in excellent, like new condition with nary a chip, crack, or loss of glaze on it. It had been a gift so I wasn’t sure what it had cost but I did a bit of online research and found its current value to be approximately $225. That seemed outrageous to me and I thought that most customers would feel the same. So I priced it at $125 and crossed my fingers. After all it had cost me nothing! I listed a few other smaller, less significant items that first time as well and went to bed that evening not even thinking about ebay.

The next morning, as is my habit, the first thing I did after brushing my teeth was to check my email. I am a confessed addict, as you all know! Lo and behold there was a notice from ebay saying that my ugly brown vase had sold to a lady in North Carolina and that I should ship it to her. Woohoo! Unbelieveable! I got out my handy dandy special flat rate box from the post office, some bubble wrap and packing peanuts and wrapped that thing up in a hurry and practically danced my way to mail it that morning. I also included a very cute thank note. I insured my box, got a delivery confirmation slip, and arrived back home happy as a clam. (Are clams really happy? Subject for another blog I am sure!)

Since that first sale a few years ago I have sold many, many items on ebay. I abhor the work involved in setting up a yard sale and have made ebay my own personal yard sale to the world. It’s been fun. I’ve made more than a few dollars here and there and have recently become a thrift store browser sniffing out treasures to resell for fun and profit.

But there is an angle to all of this that never dawned on me and to this day never fails to surprise me. We all know the term “social network” first attributed to Facebook and Twitter, I believe, but applicable to countless online destinations where people communicate for one reason or another. I have found ebay to be its very own “social network” as well. I have made friends on ebay! Yes, real, live people who have written to me from far and wide and become regular email buddies. A rather recent ebay friend is a gal in Phoenix, Arizona who makes and sells custom tiles using the old world method known as “Cuerda Seca”. I have been learning to do that myself and after a few classes had bought the basic supplies needed to do them and purchased some of those supplies from her. I admired her work greatly and sent her an email asking for more details about some of the supplies. She responded immediately and we have continued to communicate regularly. Not only has she become an artistic mentor to me, but we share family and other common interests and so chatter away in emails to each other often. Someday I hope to be in the Phoenix area and pop into her studio and surprise her!

Another good friend from ebay is the wife of a gentleman that I bought from three years ago. I was looking for something very custom and unique as a Christmas gift for my husband who is an avid fisherman. I was browsing ebay and came across a fellow in Alaska who hand carves exquisite fly boxes out of exotic woods from all over the world. We struck up an email conversation as he sent me pictures of various options, etc. and I did indeed purchase a lovely box from him complete with a brass plate with my husband’s name on it. My hubby loves it! In the course of our emails however, we must have mentioned hobbies, etc. and it turned out that his wife is a cross stitch addict just as I am. He turned his email over to her and we struck up a conversation leading to our our ongoing sharing of patterns, new ideas, and coffee time girl chatter! I am a huge lover of all things Alaskan as well, so much of our “conversation” is me oohing and aahing over the beautiful photos she sends and the Alaska lore that she shares. Again this is a woman I hope to meet someday.

My latest ebay friend is Dutch! She lives in rural Netherlands with her husband and a regular zoo of animals….goats, sheep,  cows, bunnies, dogs, cats, birds. You name it, she has it! She purchased a small silver and glass alpaca figurine from me for another of HER ebay friends that lives in Denver! They struck up a friendship over their own ebay transactions and now I have done the same with her. Oh yes, it is a small world indeed. I probably will not ever get to meet Maryo, but we enjoy chatting nonetheless, and a European river cruise from the Netherlands to Hungary via the Rhine and Danube Rivers IS on my bucket list, so you never know. I just might meet that gal yet!

Ebay….a place to find new friends! Who knew?

Here’s to a great week end to all of you and happy friendship making experiences wherever you find them.

Chatty Grandma


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