Stranger things have happened, but this one rates right up there. The marketing people over at eBay got together with our people at Primedia and struck a deal. Simply put, in an effort to publicize the eBay website, they would front a bunch of cash so our magazine groups could surf eBay and build a custom vehicle to show you how easy the eBay process is. But wait, they didn't stop there. Instead, the boys upstairs decided to have a bit of fun and tweak the whole concept a little. So several of our sister publications are also involved, and we've now grouped ourselves into ten teams, building ten different vehicles and bikes with a budget of $25,000 per group. Yes, $25,000 of someone else's money to build a custom bike. Geez, the things you have to put up with to work here.
Our team is officially called The Lane Splitters and consists of HOT ROD BIKES and sister publications STREET CHOPPER and HOT BIKE magazines. We have until the end of October to complete the project. When we're finished, we're planning to hold a little competition at the track and on the drag strip to see which group was able to build the hairiest, and sexiest, fire-breathing monster. After our bike wins the competition, all the stuff everyone created will end up at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the SEMA Show, where they will be highlighted. Finally, after all this notoriety is built up, eBay plans to auction the bikes off and donate all the proceeds to charity. So, it's a win-win situation for everyone. eBay gets to showcase its red-hot website, we get to spend a gob of money and create some cool stuff that you can actually own, and people in need get some help. Not to mention that you get to see some pretty cool stuff in the magazine and eBay gets the word out about its site.
We've kicked it around a bit and come to the conclusion that Hot Rod magazine's front-engine dragster is probably going to kick the pants off of us at the drag strip. But, who gives a rat's hiney about cars anyways? Our goal is to beat the guys over at MOTORCYCLIST and SPORT RIDER who called their group International Motorcycle, pretty creative name. Yeah, right! Those cowards, errr, colleagues aren't taking any chances and are building a GSX-R 1000 crotch-rocket, relying on a prefab sportbike to compete with us. As a result, they feel confident and have thrown down the gauntlet swearing annihilation to the Lane Splitters.
But we're not afraid. We didn't flinch at the competition. Instead, our group sat down and came up with a plan. It's not much of a plan, but it's ours. Now all we had to do was go and do it. Like any journey, it began with the first step, which was to crank up the computer and head on over to www.eBay.com. We checked the site out and pushed a few buttons. We even tried out their search engine and found a ton of stuff we didn't know you could buy. Heck, we found the sheet music to a few old Rolling Stones songs. For the record, it's "You can't always get what you want," rather than "You can't always get a Chihuahua."
I ended up getting prompted to a registration page where we spent less than 10 minutes filling out information to get ourselves registered as official eBay captains of industry. You can find our name if you do a search, it's HotBikeMag. A few more clicks, and we were tuned into eBay Motors, where they keep the big kids' toy store. Imagine a veritable vehicular smorgasbord filled with just about any vehicle you could possibly dream of. You want a Ferrari? They had 166 of the sexy little red cars sitting there waiting to be auctioned off.
But we weren't there for Ferraris. Instead we were there for a Harley-Davidson. We did a search for FXRs and found hundreds of complete bikes for sale. One of the nice things about eBay is that all of the bikes came with several pictures and paragraphs of description that pretty much spelled out the condition of the merchandise.
A few more clicks, and we were tuned into eBay Motors, where they keep the big kids' toy s
Another nice touch is eBay's feedback system. Anyone who does a transaction with anyone else can leave feedback on the other party's profile. So if a guy is shady and tries to rip you off, he gets bad feedback and is soon ostracized from the community. So when you see a bike you like and see a seller with a bunch of positive feedback, you're fairly assured that you're dealing with a reputable person, which alleviates some of the stress associated with spending bucks online.
There is a whole etiquette surrounding the buying of a vehicle on eBay. Many sellers offer three- to seven-day inspection periods after you purchase a vehicle, allowing you to cancel the deal if you aren't happy. Typically, sellers encourage you to email or call with questions you may have about the bike at auction. Moreover, the terms of the transaction are typically fully set forth on the auction web page, so you know beforehand exactly what you have to do to comply with the bidding/purchasing process.
After learning how eBay worked, we felt pretty competent about the whole process and decided to test our luck on a brown '93 FXR sitting in Las Vegas that fit our budget. So we went wild and threw out a maximum bid of $7,500 three days before the end of the auction. eBay has a proxy bid system that will bid for you up and to your high limit, so you don't have to watch the auction for three days. Relying on this, we closed the screen and went back to work, knowing full well that it was a lock since the current bid was only $4,400. we weren't there at the end of the auction, and when we logged back in a few days later, we learned that the bike sold for $8,300.
So when we checked out the auctions and found a '92 FXR/Dyna cop bike sitting up in Seattle, you can bet your bottom we sat on the auction and didn't start bidding until the last few minutes of the auction. Bidding on eBay is a lot like gambling in Vegas. You throw out your bid, and if you beat everyone else, you win the auction. The thrill of winning is just about as awesome.
OK, so you've won the bike. Now what? You've still a few things left to do before you can bring your bike to your stable. First, you have to pay the seller. In the past this was oftentimes a problem -- you wrote a check or gave a credit card number over the phone and took your chances. But where there's a need, there's someone willing to provide help and make a buck doing it. Enter PayPal, the online money transfer system that smoothes online and other transaction payments to a few clicks on a keyboard. Like eBay, setting up an account with PayPal was simple, and the ease of use really made its fees far more tolerable. Even better, it offers a debit card and interest paying accounts if you want to use it on a regular basis, which is comparable, if not better than most checking accounts we can think of.
After you send the funds to the seller, someone has to make arrangements to have the bike shipped. In our instance, we were responsible, so we used D.A.S. shipping, a company we found through, yes, you guessed it, eBay. These people have been vetted by eBay as being reputable, and after clicking the funds into their account, they picked the bike up lickety-split and dropped it off here in Southern California with no problems.
All in all, the whole process -- from finding what you want, to winning it at auction, to moving the money, to getting the product -- was about as simple as eBay could make it. We were more than impressed with the volume of vehicles going through the eBay process. eBay auctions a motorcycle off every 4.5 minutes and motorcycle parts every 12 seconds, so the chances of you finding what you want are pretty good. If that number isn't astounding, consider the fact that every 45 seconds, a vehicle of some form is sold on eBay and a vehicle part sells every 2.1 seconds -- that's 78.6 million parts per year.
Even better than the volume of parts is the fact that typically the vehicle or part sells for what the market is willing to pay for it; people only bid what they're willing to pay. The vehicles and parts oftentimes sell for less than that you would pay through a want ad or through a dealer or a catalog. This is the way of the future, and it is good. HRB
Bidding on eBay is a lot like gambling in Vegas. You throw out your bid, and if you beat