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Tumultuous, and short-lived, romance with eBay

By Rosemary Abbate After glancing around my basement, I felt that sense of frustration that happens to those who grew up when Elvis Presley was King.

By Rosemary Abbate

After glancing around my basement, I felt that sense of frustration that happens to those who grew up when Elvis Presley was King.

Too much stuff.

So, encouraged by stories of successful online selling, I signed up with fabled eBay. Surely, someone out there in the world of selling stuff would want some of mine.

The first decision was what to sell. The very old Gilbert Erector Set? The very old and faded washboard? The 1940s Santa hankie book? The butterscotch FADA 652 Temple Bakelite butterscotch radio picked up at a garage sale many years ago?

That last item still looked good and worked. Decision made.

I lugged it up from the basement, placed it next to my computer, and typed "antique radios" in eBay. And there was my very model. This seller was asking $999! Tremendous, I thought. I would take $900.

Once I decided to become a seller, eBay directed me to sign up, sign in, and log in with a password and a user name. Now I needed a photo of the radio and a description. My husband took a beautiful photo, making the radio look so good that for a moment I wondered if we should keep it. But the pull to make a virtual sell was too strong.

My page was ready to go, but there were other decisions to be made. How many days should it be on sale? What price to start with? Husband had no interest, but my young friend Karen is an online selling expert. She immediately offered to come over and help guide me through the various eBay prompts.

Karen first asked me for my password and user name, which I had forgotten. As I began searching for the piece of paper where I had written it down, my husband queried: "Didn't you write it down?" "Of course. It's on a small piece of paper!" "Why is it on a small piece of paper? Write it here and keep it next to the computer." He was right, but his attitude didn't help.

I finally found the paper, and, with Karen's guidance, my eBay page was set up. There was my FADA. Minimum asking price, $299. Somewhere out there, somewhere in the vast world of commerce, it would be seen and judged. Maybe someone would want it enough to pay more than $299. The prospect was thrilling.

We decided to offer it for a week and check daily for bids. I had to look at how many views it received as opposed to how many watchers. Karen said the watchers were the ones to watch. So at least four times a day, I watched the viewers and the watchers. My eBay page also gave a countdown to how many hours were left in my auction. It was exhilarating in the beginning as I envisioned selling everything in our home. This could be a new way of life for me!

But reality soon set in. I had to set up a PayPal account. That involved more online questions, and dear Karen again served as my guide. It also required another password. I made one up. I wrote it down - in the notebook next to the computer. Then, asked what method of payment I wanted to use, I chose my checking account. I typed my bank account number, and we were ready. PayPal had my bank account number, and the eBay world was looking at my FADA. Karen said we should have a glass of champagne when it sold.

The next day, being without Karen, I checked PayPal. They asked me to verify my checking account and posted a line with a series of X's as well as the last two numbers of my account. I tried to count the X's, but, as I stared at the screen, they blurred a bit. I quickly retrieved the magnifying glass my dad always used in his later years. Holding the glass against the screen, I tried to count the X's. At that point, taking stock of myself looking at the screen with the magnifying glass, I began to laugh so hard I dropped the magnifier. Enough. I closed the computer, but not before checking into my watchers and viewers. Forty-eight viewers, four watchers.

By the seventh day - perhaps there is some biblical point in noting this - I had a buyer. Some man way out west bid for my FADA and gave me my asking price.

The thrill was great, tempered only slightly when I tried checking into my PayPal account and it wouldn't take my password. So husband, not making any comment, came up with a new one, and I logged in and he stalked away. Karen was contacted but could only comment that she had never experienced this herself. But never mind. Champagne would be on its way as soon as she came over.

We didn't actually have champagne, but I decided the Asti Spumante would do. It was chilled and ready to go, with two champagne glasses out for when Karen arrived. She congratulated me on being a new eBay seller.

The cap on the Asti Spumante was difficult to twist open, even for Karen. I handed her a nut cracker to help in the twisting and then the handle of a spoon which she used to jack it up. Success! The cap came off, I poured the wine, and we both stared. It was brownish-orange with a potent fragrance. "Is this how it's supposed to look?" Karen asked.

I made a hasty call to a relative, who exclaimed, "Do not drink that!" We poured it down the drain. So we didn't poison ourselves, but we didn't celebrate my sale as anticipated. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, as I could have taken this wine to a dinner party.

As I write, I am waiting to send my radio off to the buyer. I'll do that as soon as his money appears in my PayPal account. That is, if I can access it.

It was a tumultuous romance with eBay, but a short-lived one. Am I a wiser person for having put my heart out there? Check back after I figure out if the check has been deposited.

Rosemary Abbate is a writer in Moorestown.