The online auction site eBay, which brings together buyers and sellers of all manner of merchandise, was one of the most successful web-based commercial ventures to start in the '90s. But pranksters soon realized that there was little to stop them from either posting bogus merchandise or placing false bids. The result was a steady stream of sham auctions.
Sometimes the sham auctions were just silly, such as a 1999 sale of 'Ghost Poop,'
but at other times the hoaxes, while still being silly, seemed to transcend the medium in which they were created and become bizarre forms of interactive pop-culture performance art in which audiences expressed their appreciation for witty or unusual hoax items by bidding them up to ridiculously high amounts (the bids themselves being hoaxes, of course).
For instance, in June 1999 $2 million worth of "pure, uncut cocaine" was put up for sale. In September 1999 bidding on a human kidney reached $5.7 million before eBay halted the auction, followed a few weeks later by a million-dollar auction for an unborn child, which was also halted. Other notorious items put up for sale included London's Millennium Dome and a man's soul.
The most famous fake bid (up until 2000) was a January 2000 offer to pay $10 million for the domain name 'Year2000.com.'
During the new millennium the hoaxing on eBay has only intensified, for which reason I devote an entire category on my weblog
to eBay alone. Notorious eBay hoaxes in recent years have included:
- "eBay Removes Baby Sale Offers," AP Online (September 7, 1999)
- "Kidney draws $5.7 million bid on eBay," Los Angeles Times (September 3, 1999)
Text copyright © 2002 Alex Boese