Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Story of eBay

The Story of eBay


In 1995, when a software developer, whose company was called Echo Bay, put an auction on his homepage for a broken laser pointer, he was astonished by the level of interest. After a number of bids, he contacted the winner to check they understood that the pointer was broken and the purchaser simply replied “I collect broken laser pointers”. The idea for eBay was born!

In recent years, alongside the explosion of online distribution companies, eBay has expanded to include businesses with the Buy it Now function for conventional purchases and eBay shops – dedicated minisites for prolific or commercial sellers. Many people realise their entrepreneurial enthusiasm or have responded to the employment crisis by running online businesses out of their garage, their kitchen table and their spare room.

Even a site as practical and straight-talking as eBay is sometimes swept along with the reality entertainment trend, so that personality and amusement factor trump actual value. The auction of a used wetsuit, in March, is an example of this. The seller’s entertaining pitch featured promises never to have urinated in his wetsuit and solemn oaths that, unlike his friend ‘Gaz’ whose wetsuit was sadly neglected, he rinsed his wetsuit in fresh water after every use. The cult popularity of this listing resulted in an online raffle that raised thousands for the Red Cross.

school bazaar, secondhand jewellers, jumble sale, vintage boutique, carboot sale – rolled into one online

The initial success of eBay rode the wave of a turn-of-the-century nostalgia and strong attractions to vintage value. In the late nineties, there was suddenly an appetite for reuse and resale, with unusual secondhand finds swiftly becoming the acme of cool. Now, consumer demand is just as focused on new items – BNIB and BNWT are common ticket descriptions (Brand New in the Box and Brand New With Tags). An eBay shop is often a kind of ‘outlet’ store, with the seller buying in bulk and passing those savings on to a consumer buying individual items, thus undercutting the high street. Buying like this may not have the thrill of winning an auction, but it can save consumers serious money…

over the last fifteen years, the auctioneer’s hammer may not have grown a tail, but it’s definitely a mouse…

So, eBay, once an ambitious little .com startup, has spawned a shoal of ambitious little startups. It is now a global business with an estimated worth in excess of $43 billion. eBay provides an ideal online outlet for home-based businesses, is easy to use and is searchable by Google. This is where self storage comes in – customers run their eBay business from a laptop on their kitchen table. They can store their stock in low-cost self storage in Hampshire or the Highlands to take advantage of bulk buy opportunities, without losing the spare room under a tide of boxes. They’re still able to load the car up to head off to trade fairs and expos. Sometimes nothing beats a face to face with your customers…

This post was written by Ruth Woolfson of

ebay The Story of eBay
License: Creative Commons image source


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