15 December 2013

Like a Villain

Here's an example of what a colossal asshole I can be. At least, that's probably what it looks like to this person whom we'll call Lando for no particular reason. 

I've been selling things on eBay lately in order to finance some hardware upgrades I'd like for a web production. The sales have all gone very well, to the point that I can be a bit more shrewd in my asking prices. In general, I try to be that salesman who would much rather make a sale than hold out for a price I may well be waiting the rest of my life for (Bird in the hand/two in the bush, you get the idea). I also have a background working in customer service for a cell carrier. What this means is that while I do genuinely love helping people, I also know when people are frankly just being entitled little shits who want a cookie for getting to class on time. 
Someday, boys and girls, I'll tell you all the full story of the car salesman who begged and begged me to set aside a Playstation 2 for him, even though there was no way for our store to set up, maintain, or honor any sort of waiting list, his firm and repeated belief that being "desperate" and saying so will generate big, blue, Sony-branded boxes out of the ether itself. I won't bother telling you the bribe he offered me or how many times he told me he was desperate before making me an offer. To be fair, though, it was a substantially better offer than the one I got from this eBayer. 
I get a message asking me about the item, prefaced by a little anecdote about how it's for his kids for Christmas, and followed by an offer to end the sale early for him. I expected someone would make an offer as my timing was admittedly not real conducive to eBay's tradewinds. Christmas is ten days away, and there's at least 4 days left on the auction, so of course you'd want it in a timely fashion. 

A few quick facts about this auction before moving forward: The item has a starting price and a Buy-It-Now option for more. Shipping is not included and it has (at the time of this writing) two watchers. Not exactly lighting up the charts, but it's exactly the minimum number of people needed to start a last-minute bidding war, a race to see who can place a bid closest to the end time in order to block everyone else without breaking the bank. Lando basically didn't want to bother with this tango, yet felt the Buy-It-Now price was a little out of his price range. This is totally fair, and like I said, I'm not above meeting someone halfway on a price to make a sale. 

The offer was for the starting price. 

Strike one: Not even close to halfway. In fact, it's not any distance from the start. I don't really get mad. It's an honest question, one to test the waters, size up the seller. Hell, the strike only sticks if the issue is pushed. Maybe he thinks he's doing me a favor. Who knows, maybe he meant to put something else down instead of the starting price. I err on the side of caution, answer his question, but ignore the offer. It seems the politest way to decline without making an issue of how really shortsighted the offer is. I mean, it's an auction, and you can see the other watchers (and not every watcher makes their presence known). 

Next message thanks me for the answer, but asks what I think of the offer. 

Strike two: pushing the issue. I mean, at least be sporting about this. Sure, there weren't any bids yet and I wouldn't really have been penalized for ending the auction early, but if you're going to try and play a stratagem, try and think of one that gives you an ADVANTAGE in the competition. This is not making me an offer. I get impatient, but I'm still giving the benefit of the doubt they mean well. I reply, explaining that this auction has two watchers and it wouldn't be fair to them if I ended it early, especially if it's only for the starting price, and that the Buy-It-Now option is the only way it's ending early. 

"I am one of the watchers." 

Strike three: Now, you're insulting me. At first, I'd started to write back, "But not both of them." followed by an explanation of how one is a very different number than two. However, I took a deep breath and responded with frank civility, "Nonetheless, it is unfair to any other prospective buyer to close the sale early as is with the offer being only the opening bid. You'll have to do better than that." Like I said, if you're going to try and make a backroom deal, don't bargain with an empty hand. This is entitlement, pure and simple. Moreover, it's condescending. Lando is working under the premise that 1) I'm desperate to make a sale (I'm not), and 2) he thinks so little of everyone else who may be interested that he doesn't put any effort into distinguishing himself. This is like a student getting up during a test and asking the teacher if he can see the answer sheet, expecting to receive it entirely on the power that he's the only one who had the gall to ask in the first place. If you want an exception made, you've got to prove yourself exceptional. I have no patience for people who don't get this. I'm not above charity or compassion, but in the words of a wise man, "God only helps those who help themselves." Call me a cold bastard if you like, but when I make exceptions for people, it's because I think they're worth it. 

So, what do I do? I go into the auction's page and raise the starting and buyout prices by five dollars. I get a message from Lando inside of ten minutes. 

"You raised the price?"

I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further. 
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