Skip to comments.I Was An eBay Voldemort (A Hilarious Account Of Auctioning The Last "Harry Potter" Tome Alert)
Posted on 07/19/2007 5:05:59 AM PDT by goldstategop
Wednesday evening, Atlanta It all started about 24 hours ago, when I found a plain cardboard box on my doorstep. I was surprised to see my name on the label, as I wasnt expecting anything this week. My surprise increased exponentially when I opened the package to find a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows within.
With no disrespect meant to J. K. Rowlings innumerable devotees, Im not a particularly big Harry Potter fan. But Id read two or three of the early books, and being as susceptible as the next guy to the hype for the last book in the series, I placed an order a few weeks ago at DeepDiscount.com, the store that was offering the lowest price. Ironically, I didnt even spring for expedited shipping.
The first thing I thought upon seeing the book was, Boy, somebody screwed up. Hallows is famously scheduled for release at midnight on July 21, more than four days after my copy arrived.
As youve probably guessed by now, my second thought was, Hey, this things probably worth more than 18 bucks between now and then. It was a matter of minutes from that thought to taking a blurry digital photo of the book propped up against my computer and composing a brief ad on eBay.
To be perfectly honest, I only half expected to actually sell anything. I didnt want to take some kids lunch money, so I intentionally set the reserve price at $175, well beyond the book budget for any sane parents child. On a total whim, I also put up a Buy It Now option at an astronomical $250, figuring I might find either an adult Potter geek overwhelmed by the desire to be first! or perhaps a media organization looking for an advance copy.
Keep that last bit in mind. Itll come up again.
The ad didnt get much notice that evening, but when I got up this morning, an e-mail was waiting from a nice fellow offering me $175 if Id cancel the auction right then and sell him Hallows, off the books, as it were. eBay hates this kind of thing it robs them of their sale-end fees but it happens all the time.
I almost took him up on it. $157 is a pretty darn good profit on an $18 investment.
But hey, I thought, if this guy is willing to pay that much, somebody else might go for the whole thing. And besides, canceling the auction would negate the other reason why I put the book up for sale in the first place: I figured itd be fun to watch.
So off I went to work, and as far as I can tell, the ad didnt get much notice during the morning. At lunchtime, I found a number of e-mails from people who were apparently interested, but didnt really believe that I had a copy for sale (there were also a few from folks who thought I was nuts for trying to get three figures for a book thatll be worth less than $20 in three days).
Fortunately, my house is short distance from work, so I grabbed a copy of todays Atlanta Journal-Constitution, drove home, and snapped a couple of pictures with Hallows in view of the date and headline (VICK INDICTED). I posted the pictures to my ad, and went back to work.
Then things started to get weird.
No sooner had I clocked a couple of hours of vacation time to make up for my Potter errand-running than my desk phone rang. A pleasant-sounding woman introduced herself as being with Scholastic Books, and my jaw hit the desk at something approaching supersonic speed. She said, We understand you have received a copy of the new Harry Potter book from DeepDiscount.com, are you a Harry Potter fan?
To say that I freaked would be a bit of an understatement. My desk phone number isnt published anywhere how the hell did they find me? I hung up without responding, and now I regret it. I should have at least chatted with her.
After Ive had a chance to think about it, I assume now that DeepDiscount was pressured into turning over contact information on the people who received early copies of Hallows. At least thats my best guess Im not discounting the possibility that Ms. Rowling did a little conjuring when she heard about the eBay ad.
The newspaper pictures were what really set off the firestorm this afternoon. After Id provided proof that I actually had the book, today, the e-mails started flying: questions about shipping and questions about whether I were actually a minion of the Dark Lord ran about 50-50 each. By about 2 P.M., the ad got its first bid, for $123. A few minutes later, my e-mail buzzed again with the notice that the Buy It Now had been accepted for $250 plus shipping.
Im not ashamed to say that I blurted out, CHING!
To my great amusement, I soon found out that the buyer was Robin Lenz, the managing editor of Publishers Weekly. According to an e-mail from Lenz, I'm the person who shelled out the big bucks for you early copy of Harry Potter. I'm an editor at Publishers Weekly and we're writing an article on early shipping, the embargo, spoilers, etc. this is huge news in the publishing industry. (and if there's is any way you could ship it today, I'd pay extra).
Well, this was great stuff. Not only did I make a very nice profit, I got the best of all possible outcomes: Instead of taking a desperate Harry Potter fan to the cleaners, I got to fleece a media organization. I will sleep with a profoundly clean conscience.
The story wasnt quite over after I dropped the book off at FedEx, of course. The Associated Press ran a story about the books release, noted my ad, and falsely claimed that Id declined to respond to a query. Thats a lie: Even as I write this an hour or so after the APs story, I have not been contacted by them in any wayand if they actually try theyre going to get hung up on; lie about me and you lose interview rights.
Ive already seen a few snippy pieces in the press about the eBay sale. Thats fine, people can say whatever they want. Theres no law against scalping books, and as far as moral issues, I dont feel any guilt.
I could have done a lot worse than selling a book, folks. I could have read the last chapter and posted what I found there at VodkaPundit, a high-readership weblog where I guest-blog from time to time. Even worse, I could have done what some floor-flushing nerd with too much time on his hands did earlier this week, and posted actual pages scanned from the book.
Thats not cool. As I told a Publishers Weekly reporter who interviewed me a few minutes ago, that would have been like somebody walking out of a theater in 1980 and telling a then-eleven-year-old me that Darth Vader was Lukes father. Un. Cool. I didnt do that. I wouldnt do that.
But I did have a heck of a fun 24 hours. For that, and for the nice dinner Im now obliged to go and buy my wife, Ms. Rowling and DeepDiscount.com both have my sincere thanks.
Oh, and I ordered another copy for myself from DeepDiscount. I doubt Ill see it before next week, but I do like to give my business to companies that provide good service.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
Hmm. I’d like to see an article on DeepDiscount’s willingness to share customer information with corporations.
I’ve been a customer for years and this appalls me.
They run a virtual 50% off retail pricing on DVDs twice a year but what are they telling the companies about my buying habits, name, address, etc. and how willing are they to give out my phone number?
Kudos to the guy, I would have done the exact same thing if given the chance.
Good for him!
I heard yesterday on the radio that in order to carry the book, a retailer had to promise not to sell them early. In fact not ever to disclose whether they had them in or not.
DeepDiscount was in deep doodoo with shipping early. I don’t think they did this willingly. It was either, tell all or Scholastic Books would own them.
Yeah, but with all luck, you would have had it early.
That’s worth it, isn’t it?
(I’m so glad I never got into these)
>> The Associated Press ran a story about the books release, noted my ad, and falsely claimed that Id declined to respond to a query. Thats a lie: <<
I suspect it isn’t, but the lie was from the AP woman who said said she was from “Scholastic Books”
First I would’ve called in sick for work and read the book non-stop until finished, then and only then I would’ve set the buy-it-now price at a grand.
I am hoping that my copy doesn’t arrive before we leave for crochet class. It’ll be WAY hard to put down.
AP reporting = Fake, but Accurate.
My niece walked into Walmart at Christmas time and heard an announcement that they had four Wiis.
She bought one and made a $250.00 profit on E-Bay.
(Don’t worry- there are no spoilers!)
Well now, there's a shocker.
Self ping for later.
I prefer knitting
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