In practice, eBay does its best to remove auction listings that are clearly illegal, against eBay rules, or on which bids have clearly not been serious. A "world's most boring french fry" listing that starts a bidding frenzy, for example, might be pulled if bid amounts begin to reach into the thousands, simply on the assumption that nobody actually plans to pay for the item, or for the closing fees associated with such a high closing price. Auctions that involve things like human body parts, controlled substances, dangerous materials, or anything on the banned items list are pulled whenever eBay finds them, and such auction transactions are considered legally null and void even if eBay doesn't find them before they close.
Sometimes, however, people really do pay hundreds of dollars for fruit pits with the faces of religious figures on them, thousands of dollars for seemingly insignificant or unusual memorabilia, or dozens of dollars for the chance to throw a pie at someone. Remember, if it's rare, one of a kind, or unusual, eBay is probably the best market in the world for the seller to get his or her price, and the best market in the world for interested buyers to find it.
Your own weird auctions? Think twice.Coverage of unusual auctions in recent years has prompted a kind of flood of strange and creative listings from me-too sellers and copycats, some legitimately interested in finding out whether a one-of-a-kind item can generate thousands of dollars and some just trying to get a laugh.
While it can seem like a good idea to post your own strange or funny listing, you should keep a few sobering facts in mind:
- You still owe the fees. You'll still be responsible for listing fees and final value fees if the item closes with a winning bidder—whether they ever pay you or not. So if you sell "the world's most beautiful piece of styrofoam" for $24,000.00 and the buyer (shock or no shock) decides not to pony up the cash at the end of the day, you'll still owe eBay a decent percentage of that fortune in fees. Sure, you can simply refuse to pay—after which you may be suspended from eBay indefinitely.
- Illegal is illegal. Some kinds of auctions, such as those for human body parts or dangerous items, don't just run afoul of eBay policies, but of the law as well. Creating such a listing can get you suspended from eBay, yes, but it can also lead to door-knocks from local or even federal law enforcement—hardly what pranksters are usually looking for when they create joke listings.
- You have to use eBay, too. Before you're tempted to clutter eBay with unusual listings, keep in mind that when those unusual listings appear in or begin to crowd more typical search results, it impacts eBay usability for everyone, including yourself. So the next time you think about listing something, ask yourself if you really think that anyone will ever actually be interested in searching for and buying it or you're instead just trying to get a laugh. If the latter, use your better judgment and keep it in your personal collection.