Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ebay - friend or foe?

Sure, I’ve sold some things on EBay. And yes, I’ve gotten some great deals there too. But lately I’ve found myself feeling guilty about all of it. Why? Because I’m starting to see some things about EBay that I think hurt the comics industry.

Sometimes people put things on EBay and include misinformation in order to try to get people to spend more money on an item that what it’s really worth. They’ll use phrases like “ultra rare” or “sure to go up in value” to catch the eye. These phrases often get people to buy into a hype and myth that, for the most part, doesn’t exist in comics today. When I was a stock broker we would get fired in a second and banned from the industry if we EVER told anyone something was “sure to go up in value.” The only guarantee in life that I know of is that we’ll all die some day. Based on what happened in the 1990’s I would not recommend to anyone to spend $40 on a comic book primarily because someone told them that it was “sure to go up in value.” I’ll make a guarantee on that $40 book, there’s a better than 90% chance that it won’t. Buy it because you like it, or because it completes your collection. Don’t buy it because you want to retire on it some day. If you read my post from last week on worthless comics, you can see how modern comics best value is the entertainment they provide, not how much you can get for them later.

What gets me even madder is when these “padded” claims become bold-faced lies. Take this listing for example:
If it doesn’t come up, go to EBay and search for: House of M Convention. Just about any of the high priced ones will make the claim that these are “one per store” or something similar. Well, it’s NOT true and all stores should know it by now. We were notified by Marvel yesterday and by the big distributor “Diamond today. Hopefully it will be on and soon as well. Because I’ve seen these bids - $40 and up on some copies. But the truth is that every store can order up to 20 of these, we got one as a “teaser” for free and by the end of the month there could very well be 60 thousand more out there. That’s more than some regular comic print runs I think. Sure, it’s a “special” cover and so it might be more “valuable” than the regular cover, but sincerely, there’s no guarantee of that. And here are these Ebayers selling them under false pretense before the news hits regarding the actual amount of these that will show up at the end of the month. People bid trusting that this information is accurate. But it’s not. I know it, and now you do too. But these bidders are being misled. Sure, it’s buyer-beware. If you bid on something because you believe the “sure to go up in value” line then maybe you need to learn your lesson the hard way. But these people will have a bad experience with the comic book industry and they’ll remember it. They’ll tell others about it, and it makes us ALL look bad. I even considered putting our copy on eBay, but listing it with the TRUTH, knowing it probably won’t sell for much, but that hopefully it would get the word out to other bidders about this comic book.

EBay also damages values in the opposite direction. I can actually buy certain toys and games on EBay for less than my cost from the distributor. Either people have stolen them, somehow got them SUPER cheap, or don’t care that they’re actually loosing money on them. Truth is people will pay the SRP on many of these items. However, if they can find them for ½ of that, why not save the money right? Always include shipping in the costs though, because by the time you factor that in often you are paying more in total for the item than if you bought it for SRP in a local store. I can’t tell you how many people come in telling me about the great deal they got on something on EBay and then when they tell me the cost of shipping I politely point out that they’d have paid less if they bought it from me. For whatever reason people don’t look at shipping costs when they think about what they paid for an EBay item, even though it still came out of their pocket. Regardless, weather the value is perceived or actual, it hurts those of us who can’t afford to make little or no money on these items because we actually have four walls, a roof, lights etc that factor into our costs of doing business. These undervalued toys and games make it hard for brick-and-mortar stores like mine to sell what we have in-stock, making it harder to have a viable business. We’ve seriously discussed not carrying certain games and any action figures in-stock because we can’t afford to “waste” that kind of money. For figures sitting on the floor, I benefit more from donating them to a charity and tax-deducting them at full-price than I am selling them for the prices people sell them on EBay.

Then there’s the places that buy mass amounts of a comic so that they can get a variant cover or toy or something. They make a PREMIUM for these variants and sell the regular issue comic for next to nothing. If there was a world without variant covers, I’d be SO happy. Sure, I can make extra money on them, but I fell like it somehow devalues the work inside, the actual comic book. Then you’ve got these eBay nuts listing the variants as “sure to go up in value” and “extra special” and “ultra rare” but they don’t tell you anything about the awesome story that unfolds inside the cover. In the end, comics won’t last if all they are is a collection of variant covers without something good on the inside. And I get stuck with people from all over town trying to get a variant from us, who have never shopped here before and won’t pick up anything else but this variant, while a stack of the “plain cover” comic sit and sit, quality story going to waste. Many comics retailers are trying to work on having more people realize there’s actually a story and art inside these things, something full of fun and enjoyment, rather than just something to collect. We know that’s the only way for the industry to flourish. But some of these eBay stores do just the opposite, and they can do it on a far more global scale than I can sitting here in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Sure, we have an eBay store too, but the items there are sold for the same price or very close to it as what we sell them for in the store, with no false claims attached.

I don’t blame people for getting a good deal on something. As I said, I do it myself from time to time. But I also like to shop for things in brick-an-mortar stores: I can see it, hold it, ask questions about it, and take it home with me right then and there knowing what I’ve got. Sure, I might pay more for that convenience, but it’s worth it to me. Who wants to shop in a world of Wal-Mart stores, grocery stores (of which there doesn’t seem to be a low-priced on-line alternative yet), and internet café’s where you do the rest of your shopping? Not me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am one of those fools who buy varient covers, but not for an obscene amount of money. If it is reasonable, consider it mine. I will pay for it.

I really appreciate the update on that particular cover, I had not seen that in "comic book form" yet. In Chicago, they were handing out the covers for free, but without the story in them. That was when they annouced Joe Mad as signing on with Marvel.

That being said, and back to the point, I am one of the people who get varient covers, and yes, I have been burned in the past. The only good thing that came out of being burned on ebay, is that I am now a customer of a new retail store that I am really proud to be a part of.

I was burned for Astonishing X-men #1 team cover varient that I wanted, no matter what cost, because I liked the artist and the X-men. I should rephrase, I did not get burned, but I had to spend my money on ebay when a retailer would not hold a copy for me. It did not matter the cost, but I asked for it and yet there were 12, yes, twelve, copies to be had. I did not get one because I apprently did not order one. (Even though I talked to the owner directly and specifically asked for one nad his response was, "I do not know how to order it for you." But the Previews magazine said "Ask your retailer how to order your copy today.")

Any how, I had to buy it off of ebay and I spent aobut 65 dollars before shipping, and that was the cheapest at the time. Now that book goes for 20-35 dollars. So, I did not get burned, but if I would have waited, it would have came down in price. NOt the point though. I spent what I was willing to spend on the book.

I grew as a person and now I will not spend that much on a "current" or modern age book. AND, I am with a new retailer that can get me whatever I ask for at a resonable price.

Thanks you Lisa.