Before eBay

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From the early 2000s to the present, eBay has become a household name in the auctioning and purchasing of almost anything online. Through this internet giant, people can snag cheap, exclusive deals on anything they want from individual sellers across the globe. Whether used or new, eBay offers an endless variety of goods that competitors surely find difficult to match. 

The success of eBay as an ecommerce platform parallels the slowing obsoletion of offline alternatives, however. Advertisements, yard sales, charity stores, and flea markets, all of which offer economical options to brand new, store-bought goods, have lost momentum to the user-friendly, convenient online store, eBay. Instead of leaving the house to peruse an open-air market or to browse an auction, people can get their purchases completed online from the comfort of their homes. What this rapidly growing platform represents to the consumer market is convenience. The opportunity cost gained by saving hours of time and gallons of gasoline venturing through a crowded, noisy market seemed a great advantage in time management and a trendy hobby that made people appear “modern” a decade ago. 

Especially at the turn of the century, there was increasing social pressure to modernize and transition into an age dominated by the World Wide Web; and eBay became one of the early iconic platforms that spearheaded the charge. Predictably, ecommerce services such as eBay and Amazon have assimilated as part of people’s daily lives in the present day. With convenience claims such as Amazon’s one-day shipping, the expectation of the consumer is at an all time high. In comparison, the eBay of today appears secondary next to the most successful ecommerce giants, supplying inexpensive, used products as an alternative to the brand new, reliable brands repeatedly advertised online. In a social sense, eBay appears to cater more to the frugal buyer with an identity projecting good value, lower-priced products without compromising much quality. 

Especially with the auction option, customers are given a chance to swipe an item for a much lower price than retail in bidding wars. Perhaps the accomplishment of scoring a killer deal draws people to use eBay, but however the method, the site has built a strong foundation over the years as a dependable, diverse shopping giant. While eBay itself does not create the supply of goods, it has produced a massive interconnected network of shoppers, bidders, and buyers. Combined with ad revenue that in turn attracts even more potential customers, the platform is a machine of ongoing productivity, not only for its employees and salespeople but also the millions that use its services.

Given the sheer volume of transactions the website processes, eBay is able to service many people with minimal manpower. While a traditional market would struggle to accommodate large volumes of buyers, automating the purchasing process plays a large role in facilitating the consumption of eBay’s goods. Though the fee is only a small fraction of an item’s selling price, through the massive amount of transactions it can handle, the company can still turn a large profit. Especially with computers handling most of the labor, workers earn more money and there are more funds dedicated to the company’s expansion. 

Despite its popularity and success, however, the concept of inexpensive online shopping certainly has its drawbacks. As mentioned earlier, secondhand, inexpensive products do not project an image of quality or prestige. Human beings are easily influenced into spending money on new brand name products that are perceived to be socially acceptable. Even though the products may be equally functional, the higher price of status and recognition appears more attractive. Furthermore, there is a general distrust surrounding eBay not only due to lack of quality, but also fear of being scammed. Partly due to a larger availability of selection amongst consumers, vanity plays an increasingly large role in society, and the demand for superior, well-regarded products will only continue to grow. 

Though not as widely known today, the aggregate organization known as eBay can certainly be considered a lynchpin in the dynamic transition of humanity’s lifestyle towards convenience and simplicity.

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