In the blurb about the ad, they quote Gavin Freeman who was team psychologist of the Australian team for the 2006 winter games saying:
When you look at the euphoria that the body and mind experience when winning - the rush of adrenalin, endorphins and increased heart rate - it's easy to see why we all love winning on eBay, it makes you feel great!
Now, believe me, I am not against ebay. Quite the opposite - I have used ebay for years and love it. It is a great way to save money and there are lots of good reasons to buy second hand things (cutting costs of consumption for one). I have got some great bargains on ebay (my all time favourite was a solid wood tallboy for $27!), and have used it countless times to sell things we don't need anymore - all of this is great! BUT - I am also a very competitive person and it didn't take long for me to realise that if I was going to use ebay to do my shopping, I would have to have some serious ways of disciplining myself not to go crazy in those final seconds. I've talked to a lot of other people who feel the same way - they start off thinking they will bid a reasonable amount on the Thomas the Tank Engine pyjamas and end up making some outrageous bid in the last few seconds of the auction just to WIN! You feel great when you win and really awful when you miss out on something that you don't really need anyway.
The fact that I can identify with all these feelings is why I am so disturbed by the ad. What they are trying to encourage (in my opinion) is a form of shopping addiction. They even use the language of getting a high which is associated with any form of addiction. I looked up this phenomenon today after seeing the ad and it is seen as a real addiction. I even found this test for ebay addicts here:
Have you woken up at strange hours just to be there for the last remaining minutes of an online auction? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you discover you are the highest bidder? Forget QVC or the Home Shopping Network – online auction houses will be the next frenzy leading to shopping addiction. In a panic, one woman fought desperately to gain access to her Internet service provider, whose line was busy. It was 5AM, just minutes before the online auction was over for a rare teapot she found on the eBay web site. She had intentionally set her alarm to be the highest bidder. Click after click, she tried to log on. Finally, success – as the modem dialed into the service and she quickly tapped away at the computer to be the highest bidder, with just seconds remaining. Relief and satisfaction exuberated [sic] from her as she won. This is a typical case of how one can get caught up into the excitement of online auction houses. People begin to buy items they don’t need just to experience the rush of winning – sometimes to the point that they go into financial debt, take out a second mortgage, or even go into bankruptcy just to afford their online purchases.
I guess there's nothing wrong with the sense of satisfaction you get from buying something you really need at a good price. But (even if you don't get addicted) is there still something unhealthy in the naked competitiveness of the whole process - in the desire to enrich yourself at the expense of the vendor and the other bidders? I know it's capitalism and the whole economy works that way but somehow the appeal to my selfish instincts seems just a little more direct and a little more dangerous when I shop on ebay.
What do you think?