Investing

Will the Last One to Leave eBay Please Turn Out the Lights?

I have bought a lot of stuff on eBay over the years. I even bought a Jeep on there and had it shipped from New Hampshire. The site used to be known as “America’s Garage Sale” but lately it has devolved into “just another shopping mall.” Heck, I’ve even bid on keyboards I thought were being sold by individuals only to find out they were from Newegg.com.

My New Years resolution was to finally clean out the “spare parts” which have accumulated in my office over the past 20 or so years in IT. My goal was to have at least one entire bookshelf (preferably two) completely empty by the end of March. Complicating this goal is the fact I have been working remotely 6 days per week on a contract so I only have a few hours on the weekend to take photos and list the items. I wasn’t trying to make money with this stuff. I put the initial bid at what I believed the postage would be and offered free shipping. If someone could use it that would save me a trip to the electronics recycling drop off.

As luck would have it, I now need to travel to my client site for a week. I had gotten notices in the past about things I was bidding on when the seller went on vacation, so I thought I would try it. After half an hour I finally had to endure a call to customer service. The only way you can notify bidders you are out of town is to open a store. That is why eBay has become just another shopping mall, eBay is forcing it in that direction.

I made a few phone calls to people I know. Nobody uses eBay anymore. Even though Craigslist has the public image of “the place where serial killers shop for prey” they have all moved there, and just for the shopping mall reason. Personally, I never used Craigslist because I viewed it as a place populated by people too cheap to pay for shipping, but now I understand.

Both eBay and Amazon are on the wrong side of a sea change occurring in the public mindset.

Ethics: Think globally, buy locally.

It has been in the works for a long time, but is finally snowballing. It started rather simply with some “buy American” Web sites. Then we had ABC News doing a “Made in America” series which was echoed in other shows to various degrees. The Republicans spurred it along by offering up Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. (Someone I personally believe has directly or indirectly off-shored more American jobs than Obammacare ever could.) Even American Express has been on this band wagon for years with their Small Business Saturday initiative.

We should have all read the writing on the wall when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act institutionalized this with a “Buy American” provision. Many didn’t. An MBA has to actually _have_ ethics to purchase things which are best for the country instead of their numbers for this quarter. Every person in America has not only heard about government entities being broke, they have been personally impacted by it. The blame spreads far and wide. Every person who buys on-line avoiding sales tax is “off-shoring” local retail jobs though they want to believe they are “just saving money.” Every Wall Street darling corporation has been burying profits in tax havens off-shore to avoid taxes. You have all heard about the “Double Irish” tax scam, but it seems that story about certain large corporations being allowed to create entities which have no country of origin keeps getting quieted. If you cannot do the math, “No Country of Origin” means there is no country able to tax their profits. 99-percenters, feel free to howl. When you are done howling though, find out who voted for those bills which became law and vote them out of office!

How many of you have noticed the 13 or so year agenda currently embarked on to change the mindset of America? The one which _will_ stop them from buying on-line just to avoid taxes and _will_ stop them from buying a cheap foreign knock-off at Wal-Mart. You heard all of the news reports, you just didn’t look down the road.

When I was a child on a family farm we knew where our beef came from because we raise most of it ourselves. Eggs came from “people up the road” unless the hens hadn’t laid, then they had to come from town but the little store in town bought them from a big chicken farm not that far away. In short, we either raised it, knew the person who raised it, or knew the farm it came from if it didn’t come in a can or jar. Someone told me the bulk of the food (dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables) produced in the Midwest were consumed within 60 miles of their place of growth. In my personal world it was true so I never questioned it. Whether true or not it was believable to many because that is the way they lived.

I point out the “barefoot in the snow” tail because this is now being institutionalized by state, local, and federal governments. The mindset is good for America and it will grow with each graduating class of school kids. This “fast buck at the expense of all” mindset which became prevalent in the 90s (think “Greed is Good”) has made a train wreck of the global economy, not just ours. It is slowly and surely being snuffed out starting with the school lunch program. Not only are school lunch programs begin directed to purchase locally grown food, some of those schools are actually passing along the knowledge about where food comes from. After years of knowing where the food you eat comes from, the leap back to “it came from somewhere” because difficult.

Before you dismiss this as a rant take a look around at the growing number of eateries serving customers who want free-range, organic and/or locally grown. People who live in Washington and Oregon have made BurgerVille  rather popular. Perhaps you don’t live in those states, but you probably don’t live too far from a Chipotle which has made a stand with the battle cry “food with integrity.” Even if you have lived under a rock this past decade you still had to buy groceries at some point and you _had_ to notice the ever increasing size of the organic/free-range section of your favorite store.

This is a mindset which starts with your food and continues to the rest of your life. People who eat like this start taking notice of where their clothes are made. They ask where their car is made. (The automotive magazines have been making this information available for years now.) Eventually it comes back around to the quality of local schools, fire, police, etc. Eventually it those stats people have heard about the percentage of a dollar spent locally staying in their community, like the ones from American Independent Business Alliance come home to roost.

So, as soon as these final auctions end, I will be closing my eBay account, and my PayPal account. I will finally have to figure out how to create an account on craigslist because that is now is “America’s Garage Sale” and it’s “local.