In the spirit of the holidays, I’ve decided to share with you my fantasy PR job. I’m a journalist, but from time to time I’ve wondered, if I was in PR, which Internet company I’d most like to work for. Leaving aside questions of pay, stock options or long-term career prospects, which dot-com would offer the greatest fund of ever-changing material to work with, with the odd crisis thrown in just to keep one’s skills honed?
In the spirit of the holidays, I’ve decided to share with you my
fantasy PR job. I’m a journalist, but from time to time I’ve wondered,
if I was in PR, which Internet company I’d most like to work for.
Leaving aside questions of pay, stock options or long-term career
prospects, which dot-com would offer the greatest fund of ever-changing
material to work with, with the odd crisis thrown in just to keep one’s
It’s eBay (www.ebay.com). eBay is not just an auction site, or even the
world’s biggest flea market. It is compelling entertainment. For some,
it can be an addiction - and no wonder. A quick browse before writing
this piece turned up the usual diamonds, watches and photos of the
Dallas Cowboys. But there was also a 1991 Mercedes 420 SEL (bidding
started at dollars 1,000 and had reached dollars 12,500), some human
pheromone oil (’As seen on TV, attracts women like magic,’ dollars 11.95
after one bid) and a jacket signed by Michael Jordan (minimum dollars
7,500 but no bids yet). There’s even a ’fully operating Web business,’
Sensualtouches.com (’Your personal guide to LA’s adult entertainers,
strippers, models, escorts ... adult clubs and much, much more’). Sadly,
after 10 days bidding it had only gone from dollars 25 to dollars
eBay can also be sobering, however, just as walking around a flea market
can be a melancholy experience, with the passions, interests and
detritus of people’s lives spread out for everyone to see. You wonder
not just what change of circumstances or personal disaster caused some
owners to put their treasures and junk up for sale, but also what
possessed them to acquire the things in the first place.
If you have an overdeveloped sense of the politically correct or are
easily appalled, then eBay is not the place for you. It’s all there -
the genuine, the tawdry, the deluded, the hoaxes and a fair few
practical jokes. It has become something of an Internet sport to be the
first to spot the weirdest stuff on eBay. Whattheheck.com has a nice
list (with links to the archived pages) of some of the choicer items
that have gone on sale. These include such gems as a half-used tube of
toothpaste, a ’genuine porcupine poop paperweight,’ a pair of Asian
slaves, a bobsled team, an ’Alien Baby Fetus Preserved In Bottle,’ a
’young man’s virginity’ and grandma.
With more than two million items on sale at any time, it shouldn’t come
as any surprise that eBay gets in the news a lot. Sometimes that’s
because it hasn’t been working. One of the most heavily trafficked sites
on the Net, it is no surprise that from time to time eBay has been
swamped under the weight of its own popularity. And then there have been
those auctions - the ones that have got the law enforcement authorities
interested - the notorious human kidney incident, and several attempts
to sell small children. I never saw either myself, but the kidney
reportedly attracted bids of dollars 5.7 million. Appalled eBay staff
naturally pulled those down as soon as they were made aware of them.
After all, there are laws against that sort of thing. PR spokespeople
swung into action to point out yet again that eBay has no way of
screening auctions before they are actually put up on the site. But the
more appalling an auction, of course, the more people come to eBay to
see what all the fuss is about and get hooked.
It’s almost enough to make a loyal employee want to create an
’interesting’ auction or two. I am not suggesting even for a moment that
anyone in eBay’s PR department would ever stoop to such a thing. But
here’s the real reason why I wouldn’t mind working for eBay: I would
never know, until I found myself there, whether I could resist that
- Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution magazine.