Back in the 1960s, Arlo Guthrie sang, "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant." I've never met Alice, nor have I been to her restaurant, so I don't know if that's true. But if it's legal, or the seller claims that it's legal, and you can't get it at Alice's Restaurant, you can probably get it on eBay.
A little while ago, Victoria, the editor of this column, suggested that some of the crazier things on eBay might provide fodder for a good tirade. I had already read about a guy who used the site to auction off advertising space on his forehead, so I decided that Victoria was right. It was time for me to dive into eBay.
This is not a plug for eBay. The company hasn't paid me anything to write this. I have no reason to believe that anyone who works there knows or cares that I exist. I've never bought or sold anything on eBay. What's more, during the couple of times that I looked at the Web site in the past, I became quite suspicious of a few of the sellers flogging their wares there. But now that I've spent more time wandering around eBay in order to write this column, I'm even more suspicious.
Does anybody really buy all of this stuff?
I found listings for all of the things that I, after having implemented a hierarchy of three (that's right, three) different spam filters, now only occasionally see ads for in my email inbox. What are some of those things? Let's just say that if you want any of your male or female, as appropriate, body parts enlarged or firmed, this is the place to look. Propriety and the publisher require that I leave to your imagination the specific details of the enhancements promised by these lotions, potions, gadgets, and gizmos, but you get the picture. I'm not offering an endorsement, but I've heard that there's a sucker born every minute. If you're one of them, feel free to buy any of these body enhancers.
A couple of eBay listings offered to ordain me as a minister. One carried a price of just $9.99. It said that the fee is not for the ordination. Oh no, no, no, they wouldn't be that crass. The ordination and shipping are free. The fee is just a processing charge. The other listing carried an even lower price of just $6.00. The $9.99 seller promises to send an official-looking document certifying my ordination. Since the cheaper version doesn't mention anything about official documentation, the extra $3.99 could be worthwhile. After all, someone might ask me to prove my credentials when I perform the weddings, baptisms, last rites, and other religious ceremonies that the sellers say I will be allowed to perform once I become ordained.
Maybe I'm being unfair since the listings didn't say it, but I suspect that neither of them would be particularly fussy if told them that I was an atheist unwilling to forgo atheism after my ordination. In fact, one of the listings said, "We believe that anyone who wants to become an Ordained Minister should be able to do so." It didn't put any limitations on "anyone," so I guess we're all welcome to preach the word of God regardless of whether we believe in God or not.
Ordination could be lucrative. One of the listings enumerated the possible benefits, including $100 to $800 for every two-minute to 15-minute wedding ceremony, clergy discounts at hotels, and donations that people will happily give my new church.
Considering the monetary potential, I decided to add ordination to my mental shopping list. Next, because I've taken a number of management courses in my time, I began to think about what business strategy gurus call "vertical integration." I found a couple of eBay listings by people offering to sell their dating Web sites. Those sounded like they might fit the bill.
Then I found someone who wanted to sell a part interest in a wedding chapel business in New Orleans' old French Quarter. The minimum opening bid was $60,000, which was a trifle more than I wanted to invest, but then I noticed that the listing said that the chapel's reverend had retired. Perfect! If I get ordained and buy a dating service site and the chapel, I'll be able to introduce couples, marry them, and provide the wedding facilities. I tried to find someone looking to sell a divorce law or marriage counseling practice. I wasn't successful, but who knows? Listings come and go on eBay all the time. If I can pick up either or both of those practices in addition to the dating, clergy, and chapel businesses, I'll be able to generate a steady stream of recurring revenue from a limited customer base. Sweet!
There's just one caution if you're thinking of getting into the ordained minister business yourself. I also found a listing on eBay for "Clergy Abuse Complaint Intervention Services." For just $50 per hour, this individual will help you formalize and present your complaint of abuse by a member of the clergy to the appropriate ecclesiastic authorities. Therefore, if you do decide to become ordained, be careful to be nice, but not too nice, to all of your flock. You've been warned.
If I've frightened you off ordination, but you'd still like to make some money, you might consider buying a $6.00 e-book that will tell you how to Make $40,000 or More A Year On Ebay (sic) 100% Real No Scam. I didn't buy the book, so it's entirely possible that I'm completely wrong, but why is it that I get the feeling that it would tell me that the best way to make a lot of money on eBay is to scam an enormous number of people into paying $6.00 for an e-book about making money on eBay?
Like me, you may be uncomfortable despite the "100% Real No Scam" in the listing's title. Don't worry. There are other money-making opportunities. Someone wants to help you earn money by just loading some software and leaving your computer running and connected to the Internet. Yeah, right. That's a piece of software that I want running on my computer. Definitely. My suspicion was first aroused (if not my suspicion, then something completely different) by the fact that the seller felt the need to promote the listing by including a picture of a woman who was naked except for her long, black boots. (The photo was shot in profile, with the woman posed so as to hide the naughtiest bits.) Because that picture doesn't seem to relate in any way to the software, I can't help wondering about the integrity of the seller. He or she is obviously using the provocative image only to attract me to the listing. (It worked, but I still didn't buy the software.)
If a bad credit rating is preventing you from investing in any of these money-making ventures, relax. You can buy a manual (normally £4.99, but discounted to £2.99 for this week only) that describes how to not only repair your credit rating, but get a whole new credit record. You may be wondering how the seller wants to be paid. Simple. Pay with your credit card. This strikes me as somewhat unwise on the part of the seller. If I were selling something to people who have utterly destroyed their credit ratings, I think I'd want cash--in advance.
Getting off the money-making kick and back onto religion, have you ever wanted to pray to a religious icon that mysteriously appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich? Probably not, but if you have, someone is offering to try, just try mind you, to give you the chance. The seller will make "195 tries to cook the image of the Virgin Mary or the Pope or anything that by chance might look like something in a grilled cheese sandwich." As I read this listing, I couldn't help thinking that Douglas Adams' ghost had taken over this person's body and was using it to pull our collective legs. Douglas Adams fans will know what I mean.
If the seller does succeed at creating a recognizable image, he or she will send you the resulting sandwich to do with as you please. The failed attempts will, at the seller's discretion, be either donated to the homeless or eaten by the seller. If none of the attempts succeed, the seller offers to melt cheese between two postcards that were purchased at the Vatican. At the time of writing, the bid for this incredible opportunity was just $3.43. That sounds like a heck of a deal to me. $3.43 wouldn't even cover the cost of the bread and cheese, let alone the electricity or gas to grill it. And who knows, you might even get something holy out of it. That sounds priceless to me.
I was surprised by the number of people trying to sell pictures of themselves. I didn't do a detailed analysis, but the vast majority seemed to be women. The couple of listings that I looked at clearly stated that, in keeping with eBay's rules, the pictures are not pornographic. I don't know who gets to decide what is and what is not pornographic, but it got me wondering. I'm going to get labeled as a sexist, a dirty past-middle-aged man, or both for this, but what I don't understand is why people would want to pay so much as one cent for non-pornographic pictures of women who they don't know and who, based on the one sample included in each eBay listing and by my admittedly subjective judgment, were only moderately attractive.
One woman is trying to sell pictures of just her feet and legs, both covered and uncovered, to people with foot fetishes. Go figure.
I'll end this column with the demeaning exploit--sorry, entrepreneurial spirit--that induced me to consider writing it in the first place: advertising on body parts. I found a few people willing to rent forehead space and one woman who wanted lease out the space just above her rather ample cleavage, which she suggested she was willing to expose as much as the law would allow, but the one that particularly raised my curiosity was a woman who wanted to rent out advertising space on her legs.
You're probably thinking that renting space on legs is much less provocative than renting space above exposed cleavage, but what caught my attention was that the leg lady's listing said, "My daily career wardrobe consists of short skirts and stiletto heels every day, Monday thru Friday." OK, get ready to tar me with the sexist label again, but I really have to wonder where this woman is employed. That certainly wasn't the female dress code anywhere I've ever worked.
There were plenty of other weird things on offer at eBay, but it's hard coming up with a tirade topic every week. I think I'll save some for a future column in case I run dry.