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Online Shopping and eBay Phenomenon

BEBay auction was founded in September, 1995 and is the world Internet auction for the sale of goods and services. As of March 2006, the number of eBay registered users worldwide is about 193 million. People spend more at eBay auctions than on any other site which makes it the most popular shopping centre on the Internet. The auction’s mission is the creation of a world trading platform where practically everyone can trade practically anything.

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As of the first quarter of 2006, on any given day, there were approximately more than 89 million listings in 50 000 categories. For the same year, eBay Inc. net revenues totaled US$1.39 billion in the first quarter. EBay became a phenomenon which shaped to a certain extent the much of today’s e-commerce internationalization.

Hardly someone could have assumed that it would be possible for a person from Europe, for instance, to buy a car from the US. Now it is already a reality. Moreover, it can be bought with a possibility of saving some thousand dollars. This paper analyzes the Bay phenomenon, stating that its main principles lie in the classical marketplace commerce, given a new wrapping in the form of new technologies.

EBay started as an auction, where “Omidyar, a French-Iranian American, created eBay from his Silicon Valley home in 1995, in part as an attempt to sell a broken laser pointer that was gathering dust.” (Wetzel, 2002, p. 16) It can be seen that the business model implemented by Omidyar, although reflects the age of internet and the new technologies; it has its roots in the original trade principles. These principles could be resembled with ancient markets, where everyone brings their own goods and the process of bidding starts.

The possibility of any computer user becoming a trader is one of the success factors. The process of buying and selling is intertwined in people’s life, as even people who are far from this area trade their work for salary. However, eBay gives the chance to be in merchant’s shoes, i.e. setting the price, bargaining and having a deal.

Another, point of success, is the ability to make profit from things that are already raising dust, while at the same time for others to obtain certain goods that no longer available in the market. The combination of these and other factors makes eBay a “convenient, efficient, and entertaining marketplace in which to sell and to shop.” (Bunnell & Luecke, 2000, p. 3).

Assessing the personal experience of using eBay, it can be seen that it reflects one of commerce principles, which is finding the best deal. The implementation of the internet and such features as advanced search simplifies the process. However, the main principle remains intact, where the aforementioned features only substitute the process of shopping.

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The internationalization of commerce on eBay also contributed to the simplicity of shopping. The fact that paying and shipping became possible with a few clicks, it can be said that eBay, although not a pioneer in this field, definitely promoted the safety of such relations.

Omitting the individual shopping operations, eBay as in regular marketplaces, also opened the way for intermediaries. In that sense, many people who do not have anything to buy or to sell do so for the purpose of further reselling. This can be obvious due to the fact that many goods sold are rare or currently unavailable. Adding to that, the fixed price format for some auctions where the object is sold for the first payer, many people can make a good profit of trading at eBay.

This kind of trade establishes a certain lifestyle on the resellers, as they should spend most of the time online searching for a good deal. In that sense, eBay traders can be resembled with regular trade agents, who in turn resembled ancient speculators. Although the term speculator can be arguable, nevertheless, for people who are not selling or buying for themselves, it is a matter of being at the right place at the right time. In the case of eBay, it cannot be simpler.

Assessing eBay as a new phenomenon, it should be admitted that in addition to its advantages it has a certain degree of controversy. The fraud possibilities, auction sniping, and paypal limitations are a few of the controversial aspects. However, the fact that “The number of those users who have quit their jobs and now make a living solely as eBay traders is now measured in the hundreds of thousands” is worth admitting that eBay shifted the e-commerce to a new level. (Wetzel, 2002, p. 16).

Assessing the effect of eBay using Marshall McLuhan’s tetrad, which is a tool to “analyze the patterns of effects that different technologies produce” (“Tetrad.,” 2008), the following qualities can be outlined:

  • Enhancements- searching for an item, removing the limits of shopping worldwide, and accessibility.
  • Obsolescence – shop and malls.
  • Retrieval – forms of bargain trade and bidding.
  • Reversal – disappearance of live buyer-seller communication, fraud possibilities.

The main threat might occur in case eBay starts to be overloaded with companies and corporations. In that case eBay might raise its profit, whereas the number of ordinary people practicing their trading skills might decrease. The thing that attracted visitors is its simplicity with casual users. Although the simplicity might remain, the possibility of bidding against a company makes the process less attractive.


Bunnell, D., & Luecke, R. A. (2000). The EBay Phenomenon: Business Secrets behind the World’s Hottest Internet Company. New York: Wiley.

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eBay Fact Sheet (2006). 2009. Web.

Tetrad. (2008). Web.

Top Sites in Shopping (2009). Web.

Wetzel, E. (2002). Totally Hooked: The Weird and Wonderful World of eBay. Book 16.

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