Sitting on the Dock of eBay

Members only article

Its two o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting with a mug of milk at a laptop with a broadband connection in our upstairs middle bedroom alternating between writing this magazine article and waiting to bid for a magazine on eBay.

The middle bedroom is the most indeterminate space in our house and struggles to function variously as an office, spare bedroom and transit room. It’s cluttered with washed up domestic debris awaiting dispersal to the attic, the charity shop or the recycling centre; holiday luggage, boxes of Christmas decorations and the sloughed off snake skins of outgrown children’s cloths and abandoned toys. To get near the desk I have to first pick my way past a little tikes truck™, a tub of Duplo and a pile of Gap tops and Oshkosh dungarees.

This is the very stuff of eBay, the endless unwanted items that sellers around the world are trying to pass off and turn into cash and that buyers are keen to snap up at bargain prices. EBay proclaims itself to be ‘an online person-to person trading community on the Internet’ and since its first inception in San Jose in 1995 has recruited senior management figures with experience in developing the brand identities of companies such as Hasbro, PepsiCo and Disney. By 2000 eBay had over 22 million registered users and has since secured an 80 percent share of the global person to person online trading market with sites in North America, Europe and Asia. It models itself on the American yard sale at which, on an agreed day, neighbours would put out for sale the surplus contents of their attics, basements, garages and spare bedrooms. The language of the self regulated community is firmly embedded within its business practices and corporate image.

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Published in Photoworks Issue 2, 2004
Commissioned by Photoworks

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