The absolute eBane of my life

C**t has outbid you! Would you like to bid again?

Yes, I bloody would. I really want this White Leather Sexy Must-Have Rhinestone 70s Catsuit. Actually no, I really need it. I can already feel it, this is going to become one of my most-worn, most-loved, staple closet items. It is going to be the flagship piece, the jewel in the crown, of my new capsule wardrobe. In fact, I think I’ll wear it to Park End this Wednesday, and then to my Old English tutorial the day after, and then to go as Gary Glitter to the Bad Taste bop, or, failing all that, I’ll just wear it in bed. In fact, maybe I won’t even wear it in bed. Maybe I’ll just hang it up on my wall and stroke it. I don’t care what the Fire Warden might say; if it’s a fire hazard, it’s my fire hazard. I’m going to tell everyone who sees it the story of how, in the last nail biting seconds, C**t bit the dust and I triumphed as The Highest Bidder. She came, she saw, and she took that bitch doooooown.

C**t has placed a bid of £178. Would you like to bid again?

My fingers stroke the keyboard. 48 seconds left. The red ticking time bomb in the centre of the screen makes me start to panic. I mean, when you actually think about it, numbers are just, like, squiggles, aren’t they? Like, what do they actually mean? At that moment, I have a brief out of body experience. I look down at myself. It’s 4.08am, and the milkman is delivering. I’m hunched over my laptop in Mr Men pyjamas, my leg is jigging up and down like a need a wee (I do, I’ve been glued to this auction for the last 53 minutes), and I’m talking to myself about Gary Glitter. Can you really do this to yourself, Rebecca? What would your mother say? What would the domestic bursar say? What would NatWest say? I sigh, click ‘cross’, and buy a consolatory pair of pineapple shaped earrings for 99p. Welcome to eBay.

The phenomenon of eBay is changing the way we shop. Since its start in 1995, there is no longer any need to leave the house. Who needs daylight anyway, when you can just as easily buy a 2001 Mega Sun Used Sunbed from cosmo2tan in India? EBay is a nowhere world, that is, paradoxically, fast-paced and frenzied, but also lonely and silent. It is an auction room of a billion, and just one. Bidding on eBay is like fighting in a retail war-zone, where you never see the faces of the people you shoot down. This cyberspace of cut-throat haggling and anonymous bitchiness is a place where speechless negotiation, soundless transaction and the electronic shaking of hands occur across the world by the second.

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I find it highly distressing that I cannot see the person who has just outbid me. I’d appreciate a personal profile: you know, Favourite Colour, Favourite Food, Reason Why I’m Such a Dick etc. EBay cunningly obscures bidders’ usernames with the asterisk, presumably so you can’t hunt them down and kill them, not that the thought had ever crossed my mind. EBay does, however, permit you to take a look at their recent Bid History. This provides endless hours of fun, as the further you delve into someone’s bid history, the sharper the psychological portrait that materialises in the minds-eye. Take, for instance, bidder f******r, who has just, at the very last possible second, outbid me on a 1980s Oversized Lady’s Missoni Cardigan. A few clicks reveal their life and being. This is what I find:

Crafts > Glass Art & Mosaic Supplies

Home & Garden > Major Appliances

Collectibles > Collector Plates

Dolls & Bears > By Brand, Company, Character

I make up my mind that bidder f*****r doesn’t get out much. She (or he?) probably isn’t even going to wear my Missoni cardigan. She’ll probably use it to polish the collectible Lady Di memorial plates I decide she hangs in the downstairs toilet. That is, when she isn’t making hideous things out of Hobbycraft-style mosaics and then passing them off as Christmas presents, or operating heavy machinery in the Home and Garden. A real personal vendetta can develop. I contemplate trawling though each of her 31 bids, and outbidding her at the last second every time, just to really piss her off. I see she’s been looking at Kitchenware too. Now, hang on, that’s what I reeeally need, a spice rack, or, oooh, a hostess trolley, yeah? Then I forget about it all and move on to something else.

A closer look at the Seller can also divulge an alarming sense of character. I have decided to buy a Vintage Ralph Lauren Navajo Jacket from borntoride22 for a price that I cannot afford. Paypal and I both know that this isn’t in my account, but borntoride22 doesn’t, yet. Just before hitting ‘Buy It Now’ in a moment of fuckitall recklessness, I pause, my mouse drifts, and I click See Seller’s Other Items, just out of curiosity. I see they are also selling a set of steak knives, a ‘designer’ 3 pack of Primark trainer socks, a novelty pvc apron, an M&S cardigan, and a Clearasil face wash, marked ‘used’. In the Details section, there is written simply, ‘no haters please.’ My confidence falters.
Money ceases to be money on eBay. Student loan? What student loan, this is eBay, the UK’s biggest online marketplace, the land of flowing milk and honey, the Promised Land. No notes, no coins, just clicks, simple, harmless clicks. The dizzying expansion of British eBay to an international scale only compounds the problem. Everything is dealt with in dollars. What even is a $? A dollar to me will only ever be the symbol on the end of Snoop Dogg’s chain. I find myself staring blankly at the screen, coming to the mental conclusion that, basically, you just, like, take whatever number it is in dollars and divide it by, like, half yeah? No. Suddenly everything becomes doubly unreal; different currencies float around my brain and electronic money flits through cyber space like bats out of hell. A further critical sign of an unhealthy relationship with eBay is when you start to treat it like a person. It is taunting me. It is deliberately making me feel stupid. No, it is not. It is not a human, it is not real. But the infuriating messages it sends often seem to suggest otherwise. Having been thankfully outbid on a penis shaped tin opener (a drunken eBay rape, the new Facebook rape, don’t you know), I received the patronising, consolatory message “Don’t worry, this one got away but there’s plenty more fish in the sea!”. It is as if eBay is trying to give me a cheer-up-sonny pat on the head after an embarrassing dating failure. My hung-over self did not appreciate. Equally, the message “congratulations rebeccaholdsworth1! You have won!” has a nasty, mocking undertone which I do not care for. Have I won? Really? I’m starting to think that this cellotaped Annie Hall poster I bought, complete with biro-d on third nipple, means I’ve lost. Or that I’m a loser. Take your pick. When you finally bring yourself to log out of eBay hell, the departing message is the salt in the wound:

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You’ve signed out. See you again soon.The bastards, they know they’ll see me again soon. It’s like crack, but with the added faff of Paypal.

So what’s stopping you? Sign up today! Hello Cherwellreader675! Welcome to eBay! One of the UK’s strangest shopping destinations. Waste time and money! Huge selections of rubbish on eBay. Don’t Shop Now!