Like my fellow writer, Gary Sattler, I'm a pretty big fan of eBay. Over the years, I've watched the site grow. I've used it to raise money, get rid of junk, buy presents for my wife, and generally just drool. In the best of times, eBay has represented a sort of capitalist utopia, where buyers and sellers work together to find the best price for an item, exchange stuff, and generally keep the US Postal Service in business.
Of course, like Gary, I've also watched as my capitalist utopia has grown to represent the dangers of any unregulated market. Predatory sellers offering substandard crap to unwitting sellers, predatory sellers withholding money or threatening ratings, counterfeit items, incomplete descriptions, and a devil's roll-call of other tricks that undermine trade and pit users against each other have all conspired to transform my eBay from the best store in the world to a substandard back alley where getting cheated is not just a possibility but a probability.
I've had to become very cautious; nowadays, before I put down a bid, I read every description like it's a legal document, searching for the loophole that my opponent -- excuse me, seller -- is going to use to cheat me. In the process, eBaying has lost a lot of its fun.France's courts have decided to fight back. Earlier today, a French court ruled that eBay must pay approximately $63 million to French companies whose products have been victimized by the online marketer. The plaintiff, LVMH, which represents several French luxury brands, argued that its business has been hurt by eBay. In addition to allowing counterfeit copies of Vuitton and Dior bags to appear on the site, eBay was attacked for permitting actual bottles of Dior, Kenzo, Givenchy and Guerlain perfume to be sold, as these are only supposed to be marketed under the direct supervision of a specialist dealer.
Personally, I don't know where I stand on this. On the one hand, I've been burned a couple of times by dishonest dealers on eBay. On the other hand, my wife is a perfume junkie, and I appreciate the fact that I can pick up her favorite fragrances for a fraction of the retail price. While there's no question that eBay needs to take a stronger hand in policing its dealers, I'm not sure I want to be left to the not-so-tender mercies of "specialist dealers" the next time I decide to buy my wife a bottle of Cannabis Rose!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's spent years looking for the next eBay. Still looking...
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