On eBay’s 15th birthday: 15 reminiscences.

eBay celebrated its 15th birthday a few weeks back. Here are 15 memories of my time at eBay. Happy 15th Birthday!

  • The first pay cheque I ever got from eBay was from the head of eBay Europe’s joint account with his wife. eBay itself didn’t even have it’s own bank account. In the first month that eBay operated in the UK (July/August 1999), pretty much all the advertising was paid for on the Customer Support manager’s own credit card. She was worried her husband would have a go if he found out.
  • The first eBay UK office was a plush rented office suite affair in Marble Arch Tower. The second was above a furniture shop in Fulham. The day we moved in there, we didn’t have internet access or desks. We knocked off early.
  • In my first few weeks of working for eBay in 1999 I went to a collectors’ fair where an earnest dealer told me that “buying and selling over the internet will never catch on in a million years.” At the time, I thought he may well be right.
  • We really did think QXL was a threat in the early days. It seems laughable now but they had ads on the tube and everything. By Christmas 1999, 5 months after trading in Sterling was launched on eBay (and it was free to list then), we had 20,000 listings and we were well pleased with that.
  • I met Pierre Omidyar several times. But the first was a slightly farcical moment because I didn’t know who he was. He was perched on my desk and we jabbered away about stamps and coins for a few minutes before I asked “So, do you work in San Jose?” He was polite and said he did. I was later mortified when I learnt he was the billionaire founder of eBay.
  • It’s true. When Buy it Now was under discussion in 2001 the name “instant gratification” was considered.
  • I loved spending so many happy hours on the eBay discussion boards writing as my alter ego, Henry Nutford. I love that plenty of people still think Henry is a real person. And in a funny way he is.
  • Writing the first edition of my eBay book in 6 weeks whilst working full time too. I know it’s hardly Tolstoy, but I don’t think I’ve matched that work rate since.
  • That Christmas Treasure Hunt… all the elves and all manner of laughs. You really had to be there to understand it. Crazy. Exhausting. Amazing. A failure.
  • I discussed negative feedback with TV magician and eBay seller Paul Daniels whilst having a pee at a neighbouring urinal at an eBay University in Bristol. It didn’t really seem right. Not a lot. But he started it.
  • Coming second in the eBay International talent contest in San Jose with a rousing rendition of Monster Mash with eBay UK MD Douglas McCallum, and others, singing backing vocals. $7 prize money was presented by Bill Cobb.
  • During an interview on Irish national radio and being asked the question: “So eBay is an internet auction site Dan, and some of our listeners will want to know this. What exactly is the internet?”
  • I did the sixty second interview in the Metro once. Heavens, I was dull.
  • Many, many hours supping Young’s ale in White Cross in Richmond. How I miss thee.
  • I believe I am the only person on the planet who has seen both Weird Al Yankovic and Chumbawamba play their eBay songs live.

5 Responses to On eBay’s 15th birthday: 15 reminiscences.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention On eBay’s 15th birthday: 15 reminiscences. | Dan Wilson | eBay Expert, Online Community Specialist, Author and Blogger -- Topsy.com

  2. eBayAnorak says:

    What a wonderful post Dan, we need more, more, more!

    Do you think eBay has lost something over the years as it’s grown to the level it is today?

  3. dw says:

    As they say Jane, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. I dunno.

    A city isn’t the same as a village. But a city is made up of many villages. eBay has become akin to a nation now. Crazy paving. A patchwork quilt.

    I think the thing that eBay still does manage well is that there is room for all sorts. Stamps and 4X4s. You can buy and sell it all. I wouldn’t have thought that possible way back in 1999.

    I suppose I’ll always say I think it’s a miraculous thing. Transport yourself back to 1994 and imagine that such a thing would ever be possible. But it is, and it’s normal.

    I have a million ideas on how eBay can be better. But the idea of eBay itself remains remarkable.

  4. Sue says:

    I WISH they’d called it “instant gratification”!

  5. Julian says:

    Ah, ebay nostalgia is here. I remember ‘the good old days’ of ebay when it was supremely vibrant and buzzing. I remember the days when the concept of a listing ending as ‘unsold’ was totally alien to me. It’s a shame it’s settled into a shadow of it’s former self.

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