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Dodd also says it’s common to find professionals using eBay as a hook to woo bidders to their own porn sites. In such cases, sellers list just one item on eBay. But inside their auction description, they‘ll mention that the goods are available immediately on their personal Web sites should the buyer not want to wait five days for the auction to run its course. By getting people to click over, the sellers avoid eBay’s commission prices.
”EBay‘s listing fees are so low -- 25 cents -- it’s worthwhile to use it as advertising,“ Dodd says. ”And on the off chance you sell something, it‘s great.“
One dominatrix e-mailed me that she uses this approach to lure people to the S&M dungeon she runs in NYC. (To avoid eBay’s wrath, she also requested anonymity.) ”I use [eBay] more as a way to get information to people than actual selling,“ she says. ”It‘s a cheap way to do that, and I link to other Web sites.“
And this is just one way sellers take advantage of eBay’s self-policed cyberuniverse. Most panty auctions had a ”cleaned per eBay standards“ disclaimer. But I was told repeatedly, in phone interviews with eBay members, that once the auction is over, buyer and seller make their own arrangements. As one eBay merchant, ”misterhoward,“ put it, ”If you‘re paying $60 or more for a pair of underwear, do you really want them cleaned? I’m confident that there is not one seller on eBay who sells pantiesunderwearjockstraps, where there are suggestive pics, who cleans them before mailing.“
Another panty fetishist e-mailed me: ”I took a gamble and bought some panties from this one girl‘s Web site. They arrived wet, smelly and with a few stray hairs. I was quite happy.“
”There’s a tremendous amount of overall trust and honesty that‘s built up,“ eBay’s Pursglove says, ”and with that, a high level of community expectation. So it‘s up to the users to tell us [about violations].“ Still, he admits: ”We’re like a large city . . . with people operating on the honor system. Every once in a while you‘ll find someone who wants to push the envelope. And they risk being removed.“
Porno Dave has yet to cross that line. But he says many of his competitors sneak adult merchandise into the regular section, to reach customers who don’t have credit cards. ”They do a quick three-day auction and pull it before eBay sees,“ he says. ”Go to the regular section and type XXX or porn and see what you get.“
Meanwhile, my own auction had merely hours to go before closing. But still, not a bite. I was relieved -- I had gotten in there and done my research, without ever having to get my hands dirty. But then, with only four minutes to spare, some guy in North Carolina snuck in a bid. I was standing there glaring at my computer screen when the winner e-mailed me a request: ”Could you please wear them one last time before you mail them to me?“ Suddenly, I developed a feverish attachment to my old Fruit of the Looms. I‘d made $14, just enough to buy a fresh pack of panties at Kmart. I’d mail him one of those. But the question remained: How to explain the check -- which read ”Panty Girl“ -- to the bank teller?