An addictive search for elusive e-bargains

At first, it was just curiousity. I had heard so much about eBay and all the odd stuff that was available. I figured I’d just drop in and see what there was to be seen. Little did I know I’d turn into a full-fledged eBay-oholic.
See, I have a small collection of Hamm’s memorabilia. My grandfather used to work on the advertising account, I remember the commercials and I’ve got a thing for the Hamm’s bear.
Anyway, I did a quick search for Hamm’s collectibles and — ta-da! — up popped a list of more than 150 items. All Hamm’s, baby, and all of it for sale. Hamm’s neon signs. Old Hamm’s cans — unopened, even. Hamm’s coasters. Hamm’s bottles. Hamm’s banners. Hamm’s serving trays. Hamm’s ashtrays.
I didn’t last more than 15 minutes before I had to — absolutely had to — place a bid. I said I’d drop $26 for a ceramic Hamm’s bear beer bottle, dated 1972, with the head that slips off and the original cork still in place. I figured it was a good deal, considering I paid $50 for the same thing a couple of years back (although that one was still full of 25-year-old beer).
My wife, amazingly enough, was cool with it. Normally I’d expect her to be skeptical of a process in which you drop a check in the mail with virtually no real guarantee of getting what you paid for in return.
Once I got that first bid out of my system, I should have been satisfied. I shouldn’t have pressed my luck. But as I said, I was on the verge of full-on eBay addiction.
Later that evening, after espousing the wonders of eBay to my somewhat unimpressed bride and seeing her off to bed, I plugged in the first few letters of the URL and there I was … rummaging through lists of more than 2,000,000 items — most of them completely worthless, of course, but riveting nonetheless.
Minutes turned into hours. I came across so many wonderfully kitschy things. Art deco chairs. Pet supplies. Scuba gear. Car parts. Cars.
And then, the unbelievable flashed across my screen: Two round-trip tickets to London. Eighty pairs available. Bids starting at $25.
Twenty-five bucks for a trip to London? Are you frickin’ kiddin’ me? There’s got to be a catch somewhere, in the fine print, maybe? … hmmm … nothing there … check the feedback profile? … everything looks good there … well? … click, whirr, BANG! I’m in for $25. I’m gambling. I’m feeling good. No big deal.
And then, three days later, after the initial excitement had long since passed, an e-mail message arrived in my inbox. Well, three messages, actually, because I placed three bids — London, Hawaii and anywhere-on-this-list-of-cities.
I was the high bidder on all three. Suddenly, I was the owner of six round-trip tickets to tourist destinations at home and abroad, and I was only $75 in the hole! Not bad for an eBay rookie!
I still have yet to send off the checks, but I’m growing terribly anxious to do so. Part of me can’t believe I’m about to throw down $90 (with shipping) for travel certificates that could very well prove to be worthless. Another part of me is worried I’ll have to travel between the dates of Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, 2006, and sit in the cargo hold, and forego the bagel and cream cheese, and stay at a hostel in a London ghetto for six months.
Still, there’s that part of me that believes I have a chance to pull this off. Maybe everything the small print said was true — that my wife and I really did just pay $12.50 each to go visit a bunch of cheeky limeys, no strings attached, in a well-maintained, fully apportioned jetliner. With seats and meal service. And we don’t have to pass around a bottle of Jack Daniels if we want a drink.
Ah, yes, the wife. This time around, she wasn’t exactly “cool” with my purchase. “Ridiculous” is one word that I seem to remember hearing. “Unbelievable,” was another. Oh, and then there was “stupid.” There’s just something about the way that word rolls off her tongue.
Maybe I had it coming. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned. Or maybe, just maybe, I could still score that lighted Hamm’s “Land of Sky Blue Waters” motion sign, in mint condition, still in the original plastic, for a decent price…
Aaron Kirscht is the Daily’s editor in chief. He welcomes comments at [email protected]