Tuesday, February 26, 2008

eBay and Mexico

Dear Reader,

Sometimes I think that there are some things that are impossible to master. I'm pretty sure that one of them is eBay. You know the deal; anyone in the world can sell anything they want in the site, and anyone else in the world can bid to purchase it. So you've got the benefits of finding things that you could never find anywhere else, such as a vintage ad featuring Lucille Ball selling cigarettes. What a find. And since you bid for your prices, you have the opportunity of paying less than you would otherwise, if you have the skills. Years of experience have proven to me that I don't.

I have the sneaking suspicion that I just might be stupid.

When I had the opportunity to go to Mexico, I had previously heard that sellers there had the tendency to haggle, which would be great for us because we could bargain for dirt-cheap prices. PetiteSoeur was especially enthused, as she has an affinity for small shops which sell hand-made crafts (like soap and Amish furniture) and has had some haggling experience at these venues. Little did we know that we were in for a great surprise. It turns out, Gentle Reader, that sellers are in it for the profit (who would have guessed?), and they are used to the American tourists and what they are willing to pay, especially in the really touristy areas where we were. They also know your weaknesses, which is an added hazard. They know that you're a stranger in a strange land, and that if you have ever haggled at all, it was with a kind old lady at a bead shop who let you take two dollars off a pair of earrings because there was a visible flaw. They also know that you are used to shops where you are always right, and you approach the merchandise before anyone approaches you. So the vendors there who make the most money do so by shocking you with their bluntness and misunderstanding of the concept of personal space, and while you're distracted trying to tell yourself that it's the culture or what not, they fool you into paying a lot more than you have to. A lot of them will lie to you then, if the initial shock isn't sharp enough. They'll call you pretty or compliment you on your Spanish (which they did to PetiteSoeur and HermanaMayor, respectively. No one complimented me.), and they'll tell you they bought it for five dollars so they couldn't possibly sell it for less that six. In my experience, they're mostly like the jalopy dealer in The Grapes of Wrath, and if you've read it, you'll know what I mean.

So, I realize that eBay isn't Mexico, and it's not a used car dealership, but it's probably the closest thing we have on the World Wide Web. Someone wants to sell something, and they want to make a profit, and you've got nothing but a picture and a description to tell you what you're in for. Of course, eBay is a kind of ocean of deals and vendors—while most are minnows, you always run into the sharks. I've run into them. Then there's also the competitive aspect of it all. You see the Lucy ad, and you think it's probably worth having, but you know you can do without it. Until, of course, you realize that someone else wants it. So then comes the frenzy, because it's only okay to not have it when the other guy doesn't have it either. And then there are the people who want you to pay by check instead of online (TRAP!) and the people who are actually selling Asian pirated whatever. Somehow, I just don't see that much of a difference between Mexico and eBay, where people attract you with the illusion that you are getting something for nothing. It's too complicated for me; there's too much risk and skill involved. So I've abstained, for the most part. I don't even have an account anymore, and I think that the next time I go to Mexico, I'll leave the spending money behind. Instead, I go through channels where the prices are set and non-negotiable. What bothers me is that I know that if I really wanted to, and if I had enough courage and know-how, I could really get a bargain on eBay or in Mexico. I just can't bring myself to do it.

I guess we just aren't raised to take charge with our prices.

Regards, best wishes, and economic prowess,

-Cecily Jane

1 comment:

Molly&Charles said...

one time I bought a video on Ebay for two dollars, and then the seller emailed me and said it wasn't American, so I wouldn't be able to play it, so he refunded me. He didn't have to do that, but it was nice.