Against Ebay

One of the major sources of customers for TC is Ebay. Every week, we put 3-400 auctions up there, which not only bring in a good amount of cash, they also introduce a lot of potential clients to the awesome stock of beading supplies which is www.trashcity.com. This is because each of our auctions have a link to our website, allowing the users to see other items in which they might be interested, and assure themselves that we are not some dodgy fly-by-night operation. [Or at the very least, some dodgy fly-by-night operation with a spiffy web site] This seems natural and fair, and aids both us and our customers.

Ebay have, however, wised up, realising that anyone leaving their site might lead to them not getting their thirty pieces of silver, since they could - gasp! - buy things elsewhere! Naturally, this can't be permitted. So, as of the end of the month, they will no longer allow us to link from items to external sites, although linking to Ebay subsidiaries such as half.com is still permitted! And - what a surprise - Ebay will shortly be offering their own storefronts to users; at a price, of course. Who will buy my lovely fresh air?!

Needless to say, this will make for a lot of work, since all of our auctions have to be altered, one at a time, to remove the offending link. Or at least, revise it, since Ebay - in what seems like a sop to defuse the loud protests from their users - will still continue sellers to link to their sites from the "About Me" page which each user has. Needless to say, this loophole allows a column of tanks to tap-dance their way through, and so our About Me page is virtually a clone of our home page at trashcity.com.

It remains to be seen how long Ebay will permit anything that hints at the possible existence of other places to buy and sell goods. They already seem to be realising the possibilities, and are imposing restrictions on the 'About Me' page. These are, however, making things even more complex, witness this quote on a discussion board from one Ebay staff member:

"For instance, you can say "click here to visit my website" from the About Me (not the Listing Page), but you can't say "To view my other jewelry, please click here to visit my website.""

The reasoning by which one is entirely permitted, yet the other is completely unacceptable, is unclear to me, but would appear to be as tortuous as a pretzel specially baked for a convention of contortionists.

Ebay make the legal claim to be no more than an intermediary, in much the same way as a newspaper takes no responsibility for trades done through its classified ads. I suspect this position cannot remain tenable, in the face of a continuing welter of restrictions and regulations: you can't advertise this way, you can't sell this product at all. A perfect example of the latter is their all-but-complete ban on a number of things which came into effect yesterday, including serial-killer items and Third Reich memorabilia. I couldn't give a damn about sad Manson- or Gein-worshipping geeks, or a bunch of historo-retards who've not realised who won World War II - but it's still pretty blatant censorship.

This change was, as you've probably guessed, in response to whinges from the usual sources (to whom I'm not going to give any more publicity), and to protect their precious markets in France, Germany, Austria, etc. where the sale of such things are forbidden. I note, with a deep sense of irony, that France and Austria currently have the two of the most popular extreme-right wing parties in Europe (Jorg Haider of the Freedom Party almost became Austria's chancellor!), while Germany has perhaps the worst racial violence of any country in Western Europe.

It's clear that attempts to doublethink the past into oblivion doesn't work, and it's equally obvious that Ebay's caving-in to a vocal minority will have no positive effect. It's nothing more than a purely mercenary decision made under the guise of morality, and deserves to be condemned as such.


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