The Goddess Speaks

Tuesday, January 19, 1999

Losing dollars and

By Nadine Kam


Of the 70 million people online, 20 million have already made at least one online purchase, twice the amount as one year ago. (Nielsen Media Research as reported in Dec. 1998 issue of Wired.)

I need a fix. Real bad. The funny thing is, before December I never quite understood addiction. In theory, yes. But in practice, well, addiction has always indicated a pathetic weakness of character, and those hooked on sex, alcohol, drugs or gambling could be written off with a word, "LOSER."

I won't even let up on my beloved, a cigarette smoker. Fixing a flat, holier-than-thou stare on him, I will at times pelt him with sensible advice: "Why don't you quit? What's so hard? Why do you buy them? If you don't buy any, you can't smoke any."

These days, I'm the one bearing the brunt of his scoffs, rude stares, rolling of the eyes, the "harrumphs" and "tsk, tsks." And it's all because of eBay. That's right. Blame the substance.

For the nonwired, eBay ( is the Internet auction company. It's a giant cyber warehouse many times huger than the Mall of America and full of everything one could ever want. It is a shopoholic's dream, and nightmare.

Info Box I was never a shopper before eBay. Even when it invaded homes through QVC and mail order I was safe. I dare you. Show me something I really need.

But eBay is insidious. It enters your home through a machine imbued with logic. As soon as you log in, you see categories for clothing, Beanies, Victorian jewelry, vintage guitars. For those starved for quality antiques and collectibles, it is especially dangerous because these are things one generally can't find here.

LET'S say I collect Miriam Haskell broaches -- there's no way I'm going to divulge what I really collect, lest others discover my gems and start bidding against me! (Is paranoia another sign of addiction?)

Anyway, I lost my first few auctions, while trying to get a grip on the action. That made me feel bad, so I bid on things I didn't really want to console myself. Can you believe I once feared buying things from strangers over the 'Net? Now I don't even think about the consequences, not even after winning about five vintage hats and a Whiting and Davis silver mesh bag by accident and having to pay up. Bummer.

In the physical realm, a good Haskell piece is a once-a-year find. Usually, I'd save up vacation money, and go searching for specimens in other cities, but not without exerting a lot of energy roving from store to store on chance. On line, you'll find new brooch listings every day, each more beautiful than the last!

Even after I won a couple of broaches and told myself I should now stop, sated, I kept bidding. Ooh, there's a starfish-shaped one. Ooh, a swirl! That one has beautiful blue tones!!

I keep wondering how the people bidding against me have all the money to keep going also. At certain points I'd track them -- we generally have the same tastes so they've led me to some good items. Take that cometcowgirl! You too muumuumaid! And who do you think you are bettedavis? (Aliases have been changed to protect fellow addicts.)

It didn't work. Because as soon as they've corralled all their winnings, run out of money and departed the scene, a new crop -- with fresh money -- would start bidding against me. How maddening! And I really hate the lurkers who don't bid until the last second. You don't know you have competition until the end.

My significant other warns worriedly, "You can't live on line," as he passes by the home office to catch me tapping away 'round midnight to 3 a.m.

"Go away!" is the reply he gets from the creature planted in a room made smaller by the boxes piling up all around. "I can stop anytime!"

Pssst! Anybody want a Whiting and Davis clutch?
Nadine Kam is Star-Bulletin's Features Editor.

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