Ethics and eBay Book Buying

Scot Kamins kamins at
Sun May 29 11:51:38 EDT 2005

On May 29, 2005, at 6:05 AM, J B Krygier wrote:

> Re: "If I see an error in an eBay Modern Library book listing,
> should I notify the seller?"
> That section is fine, but it is important to note that
> you should NEVER contact a bidder regarding a potentially
> misleading auction they (he? she? heshe? shehe?) are bidding
> on - auction interference on eBay may get your account
> suspended.

Well now!

It's certainly true that warning off bidders will be seen as auction  
interference even if you can prove that the auction is an out-and-out  
fraud, and if eBay gets wind of it you'll likely have your membership  
suspended.  But there's an ethical consideration here.

You, an ML specialist collector, find a bookstore selling lots of ML  
titles. You can't pick up the books, but you can see pictures of many  
of them and every one has a card describing it. Some are described  
perfectly. Some are wildly off the mark in their descriptions. Some  
descriptions are understated (suggesting the book is just another  
title when in fact it's a rare gem). Some are obvious lies whose  
descriptions are so misleading that you can't help but think they  
were written as an obvious attempt to deceive unsuspecting newbie  

The owner has just gone into the back of the shop for some reason.  
The security cameras are operating. You see somebody pick up a wildly  
overpriced piece of junk whose card claims it's a rare first when in  
fact it's a later reprint. She's heading for the front desk to wait  
for the owner so she can pay for it. If you warn the buyer about the  
book and the owner sees you, you'll get bounced from the shop.

What do you do?

- Scot Kamins

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