Question on Ebay policies in regard to a silly auction
February 3, 2005 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Recently on eBay, I put up for auction something I think is an obvious joke. Naturally, I've already received a question asking me something that, if answered honestly, I feel would give the joke away. Sort of. You know, it's the whole power-in-myth thing. The only way I can describe it short of posting the URL is that it's something I've created (I thought that was obvious in the picture), but given certain current zeitgeist, the impression is that it happened naturally or under strange circumstances. I checked eBay's policy page on this, but wasn't satisfied. I'm not trying to piss anyone off or get in trouble, I'm just trying to make some comedy (and maybe a little money). How creative can I get with my description?
posted by hellbient to Computers & Internet (31 answers total)
Apparently pretty creative.
posted by odinsdream at 2:45 PM on February 3, 2005

something I think is an obvious joke

Just how obvious? Will 90% of people recognize that it's a joke? Not good enough. 99%? Still probably not good enough. 99.9%? Well, maybe.

There are some pretty stupid people out there. There are a lot more people who are smart most of the time, but have occasional moments of stupidity, myself included. If just one stupid, or usually-smart-but-occasionally-stupid, person bids on your item, missing the joke and thinking they're actually bidding on what you've described, and wins, it'll cause all kinds of problems. Hurt feelings and negative feedback at best; lawsuits and fraud charges at worst.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:53 PM on February 3, 2005

Just show us the auction and we'll decide.
posted by knave at 2:58 PM on February 3, 2005

I'm reminded of the auction where some poor sap paid $425 for the empty box a PS2 came in.
posted by crunchland at 3:03 PM on February 3, 2005

Go ahead, sucker the poor folks who thought they got a divine copy of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich....
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:07 PM on February 3, 2005

it's pretty obvious, but the fact that someone has asked me a serious question about it is proof that it's probably not 99.9%. The thing is, it's not the description that's made up (there is a picture - they'll get exactly what they see), it's how the thing came to be that I'm considering making up. I guess putting a ; ) at the end isn't enough either, huh?

Really, should I show the auction in this forum?
posted by hellbient at 3:07 PM on February 3, 2005

The mere fact you are asking the question suggests it is unclear--not only to you but others--I doubt you would have needed to research their policy if you were clear in you own mind as to the propriety of your listing--it is one thing to inject humor into business but quite another to have fun at the expense of someone
posted by rmhsinc at 3:11 PM on February 3, 2005

If everyone does not get the joke, it's not funny (when money is involved). Keep the straight and narrow for transaction sites, go crazy elsewhere. eBay isn't a vehicle for wit, it becomes dilution and fraud.
posted by sled at 3:15 PM on February 3, 2005

Show us the damn auction.
posted by pwb503 at 3:37 PM on February 3, 2005

It's obviously a religious icon in food situation, I'd bet.
posted by abcde at 3:38 PM on February 3, 2005

You say it's an obvious joke, yet you also imply that you don't want to "give the joke away" to some potential bidders. ?!

Which category have you listed the item in? Is using that category adding to any misunderstanding?
posted by gluechunk at 3:43 PM on February 3, 2005

I don't think it would be a good idea to show the auction, as then this thread appears to be a ploy for traffic/sales.
posted by mathowie at 4:03 PM on February 3, 2005

odinsdream, the flat screen TV auction and subsequent comments is hilarious!
posted by Specklet at 4:10 PM on February 3, 2005

I'm dying to know. Email me. gummo007 at yahoo
posted by gummo at 4:15 PM on February 3, 2005

I think Cockerham's example is a good one to stick with - go ahead and do the funny stuff in describing (or showing) the item, but play it straight in the comments. You're gonna have to give in eventually, or someone (buyer / ebay) will end up unhappy.
posted by lpqboy at 4:28 PM on February 3, 2005

Well, there was a time machine auction, the "bid to let my cat scratch you" and Chewbacca's grilled cheese sandwich from years ago. Is it similar to that (and the aforementioned Virgin Mary grilled cheese?)? And I guess the other thing is what catagory you listed it in. I know the everything else is where a lot of fluxus/ joke/ surreal auctions go in the everything else. Even if it is a joke you might still have real questions on it since, after all, it's still an auction no matter if you think it's a joke. You're auctioning off the idea as well as the product in my mind so you better be ready to answer any questions seriously.
posted by rodz at 4:32 PM on February 3, 2005

Just to let you know, if you do this three times you'll have the joy of fighting with nobody at eBay to get your account unsuspended. Took me 3 weeks including a call to the president's office.

My suggestion: Screw eBay. :-D
posted by shepd at 4:41 PM on February 3, 2005

This last weekend I went out with a woman who apparently once sold a leftover CNC shaving as "sculpture" on eBay for over $30.

The recipient wanted to know if the artist had other pieces like it.

eBay's an interesting place.
posted by weston at 6:57 PM on February 3, 2005

Okay, abcde is pretty damn close. That and looking in "paranormal" should give you enough to figure it out. I'm not being coy, I was going to show it after reading "(note: it's ok to link to your own things as comments in threads, if it adds to the discussion and/or saves space because you're written a reply elsewhere)", but Matt called it. I will post it after the auction's over, if anyone cares. I assume that's okay?

I'm reminded of the auction where some poor sap paid $425 for the empty box a PS2 came in.

it's nothing even close to that, but if someone bid $400 on it, it'd be there own damn fault (for auction in question - not as a blanket statement).

You say it's an obvious joke, yet you also imply that you don't want to "give the joke away" to some potential bidders. ?!

Sorry, I think it would make sense if you knew what it was. If this had a disclaimer on it, don't you think it'd lose some of it's punch (btw, I understand that it's not an auction)? But I honestly don't understand how someone couldn't get it. If he's asking how the thing was made, I suppose as a seller I have to assume this information is important to him and his potential bid. I do suspect he's just curious though. I'm probably being too anal and arty about it, but I was interested in giving him a whole story with it, to make the auction more appealing, fun, etc. And I was going to make my reponse public/part of the description.

I really don't care how much the auction goes for, I'm more into the Boggsian aspect of it - giving the buyer a whole experience/story around the transaction. It's also got much great potential resale value, if the buyer is smart. And it's a one-shot - I'm not going to mass market them, though I may consider t-shirts, mugs, pins and thongs.

thanks all.
posted by hellbient at 7:58 PM on February 3, 2005

is it the ghost in a jar?
posted by crunchland at 12:05 AM on February 4, 2005

Just stay on the right side of honesty, all right? I'm pretty sure you're not intending to defraud, but only to be creative and humourous, but as was mentioned above.. there really are a lot of gullible people out there.

Your buyer had better be in the market for an "experience", rather than a product, or you may be seen as duping them. Performance art as an auction sale should probably be not so opaque that the buyer doesn't "get it" until the transaction is complete..... unless the whole point is to take the piss on a rube?
posted by reflecked at 3:54 AM on February 4, 2005

If it's this, you're fine.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:49 AM on February 4, 2005

Your buyer had better be in the market for an "experience", rather than a product, or you may be seen as duping them.

Rather, you are duping them. I frankly don't understand the whole "eBay as performance art" thing, but that's OK, there's a lot about the world I don't understand. I do know that anyone who sells a piece of shit to someone else who's been misled into thinking it's worth a lot, then justifies it because it's performance art and the buyer should have known better, is an asshole. I trust you're not that anyone.
posted by languagehat at 7:59 AM on February 4, 2005

I think you're right, reflecked, if I had something to add, I should have done it initially in the description, but I went for the minimal approach instead. I suppose I'll leave it up to the buyer to frame the print out or whatever...

and no, it's not the ghost in the jar. But having seen that, I'm sure I'm fine.

And languagehat, I may be an asshole, but I don't think it'll be because of this. Check back here in a week or so and decide for yourself.

thanks Ask Metafilter!
*CH"i"PS-style freeze-frame smile with thumbs-up*
posted by hellbient at 8:08 AM on February 4, 2005

It's the aquarium ghost, isn't it.

I spent waaaay too long on eBay last night sifting through the paranormal stuff. What a strange little world we live in.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2005

sorry Gravy, that's not it. I'll email you.

And sure enough, I'm getting a response from one person now saying I shouldn't have put it in "paranormal", that "people believe this stuff..."
posted by hellbient at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2005

hellbient: Check back here in a week or so and decide for yourself.

I know I'm curious. Is it over yet?
posted by nobody at 2:26 PM on February 14, 2005

CunningLinguist wins.
Now to see if the guy actually pays up.
posted by hellbient at 4:36 PM on February 15, 2005

so, am i an asshole?
posted by hellbient at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2005

No, just silly. (I don't really see how you're worried this constitutes fraud. The implication is that your toaster created the image without your intervention?)
posted by nobody at 10:09 AM on February 17, 2005

The implication is that your toaster created the image without your intervention?
That's what one person was insinuating...It seemed obviously scraped to me.
I guess an analogy could be a Dr. Scholl's ad that showed people walking on clouds with a disclaimer underneath: "these people are not actually walking on clouds". Kinda ruins it.
posted by hellbient at 1:44 PM on February 23, 2005

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