Your contributor first tried using eBay in its early days and was not very impressed. The experiment was not repeated for several years.
However, a combination of desperation for a particular item and the persuasion of an acquaintance with a more successful experience led to the internet auction site being given a second chance over the summer – with such positive results that there is a danger of addiction.
eBay has come of age – for reasons that should bring joy to all supporters of free markets.
First, it is a perfect example of how supply and demand can be seen to be setting a fair price. If you are looking for an item that comes up fairly frequently, and are in no hurry, it is worth taking the time to watch the closing prices of auctions. There are exceptions, when someone gets caught up in the heat of bidding, or picks up a bargain while no one else is watching, but, more often than not, prices for items of the same type usually settle around similar figures.
Second, it illustrates how open markets with a free flow of information are better at improving quality than any amount of regulation. When most business was essentially local, reputation was the key to quality. One of the drawbacks of globalisation was that reliable information about reputation became harder to obtain. However, that is less of a problem on eBay now that their rating system is well-established. Most sellers, and buyers, are proud of their scores and will go out of their way to avoid them being reduced by a single negative rating.
Operations like eBay and Amazon Marketplace point the way to how most businesses will operate in future. Some products and services, by their nature, require personal contact, but, for the vast majority, the global marketplace is already a fact of life, and international marketing and sourcing the norm. This will be increasingly tough on businesses, like the proverbial corner shops, whose focus has been exclusively local, but even such businesses may profit if they take the opportunity to develop an online operation that synergises – using that word properly for once – with their existing work.