One hundred and thirty-four

eBay is an online auction and shopping website where people buy and sell goods around the world.   Here are a few interesting facts about eBay’s origins and operations:

  • Beginning in 1995, eBay was originally called AuctionWeb and hosted on the same site as software developer Pierre Omidyar’s page on the ebola virus.
  • The first listing was a broken laser pointer which sold for $14.83 to a collector of broken laser pointers.
  • eBay is short for Echo Bay, the name of Omidyar’s consulting firm.
  • eBay went public in 1998.
  • There are now more than 94 million active users globally.
  • In 2010, the total worth of goods sold on eBay was $62 billion — more than $2,000 every second.
  • More information on, and
Here are some unusual items offered on eBay:
  • In December 2005, a brussels sprout cooked on Christmas Day was listed by “crazypavingpreacher” (Andrew Henderson of Darlington, England). It sold for £99.50 on January 4, 2006. The sprout had been frozen and was sent by first class post in insulated packaging to the buyer.  The proceeds of the sale were donated to Tearfund, a major Christian relief and development agency working in the Third World.
  • In June 2005, the wife of Tim Shaw, a British radio DJ on Kerrang! 105.2, sold Tim’s Lotus Esprit sports car with a Buy It Now price of 50 pence after she heard him flirting with model Jodie Marsh on air. The car was sold within 5 minutes, and it was requested that the buyer pick it up the same day.
  • Water that was said to have been left in a cup Elvis Presley once drank from was sold for $455. The few tablespoons came from a plastic cup Presley sipped at a concert in North Carolina in 1977.
  • Coventry University student Bill Bennett got £1.20 for a single cornflake
  • A man from Brisbane, Australia, attempted to sell New Zealand at a starting price of A$0.01. The price had risen to $3,000 before eBay closed the auction.
  • A group of four men from Australia auctioned themselves to spend the weekend with the promise of “beers, snacks, good conversation and a hell of a lot of laughs” for A$1,300
  • In 2004, a partially eaten, 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary sold on eBay for $28,000.
  • In January 2008, four golf balls were auctioned on eBay after being surgically removed from the carpet python that had inadvertently swallowed them whilst raiding eggs in a chicken enclosure. The story attracted considerable international attention and the balls eventually sold for more than A$ 1,400. The python recovered and was released
  • In June 2008, Ian Usher put up his “entire life” on auction. The auction included his house in Perth, belongings, introduction to his friends, and a trial at his job. When bidding closed, his “life” sold for $384,000.
  • In August 2009, a mother of six from South Arkansas auctioned off the legal rights to name her unborn child.
  • In November 2008, a Swedish man put a digitally hand-drawn picture of a 7-legged spider onto eBay. The picture stemmed from an article on the site wherein David Thorne claims to have attempted to pay a chiropractor’s bill with a picture of a 7-legged spider, which he valued at $233.95. On eBay, the bidding price started at $233.95, with bidding ended at a sale price of US$10,000.
  • In late 1999, a man offered one of his kidneys for auction on eBay, attempting to profit from the potentially lucrative (and, in the United States, illegal) market for transplantable human organs.  
  • More on Wikipedia here

One hundred and thirty-three

The inconvenience of online shopping  

My back bike light broke.  The one that is red and flashing and keeps me visible to cars when it’s dark out.  The light that I legally must have and personally like to have as it makes me feel safe.  The light that is easily purchased at Mountain Equipment Co-op.  In any normal circumstance, I would go buy another one and would have it right away.  This month is a different story.  I bought two on eBay (I will talk more about eBay tomorrow) to see which one I get first – and it’s always good to have a back-up.  They were super cheap, too. But now I’m in a bind.  Do I stop riding my bike at night?  Do I ride without a light?  Or do I try to rig the light so it works (the light part still works, it just keeps falling apart and won’t attach to my bike anymore)?

2009 online shopping statistics from Statistics Canada:

  • Canadians used the Internet in 2009 to place orders for goods and services valued at $15.1 billion, up from $12.8 billion in 2007.
  • About 39% of Canadians aged 16 and over used the Internet to place more than 95 million orders.
  • About one-half (51%) of Canadians aged 16 to 34 purchased a product online in 2009. Men (42%) were more likely than women (37%) to have made an online purchase.
  • The top online shoppers (that is, the top 25%) spent an average of $4,210.
  • The most common types of online orders continued to be travel services; entertainment products such as concert tickets; books and magazines; and clothing, jewellery and accessories.
  • In 2009, 52% of Canadians went online to “window shop,” that is, to research or browse products, up from 43% in 2007.  Among all window shoppers in 2009, 69% reported subsequently making a purchase directly from a store, up from 64% in 2007.
  • More than one-half (55%) of users with five or more years of online experience made an online order in 2009 compared with 23% of those online for less than five years.