Diagnosis: Spiritual Whiplash

It’s tempting to be greedy when, on eBay, one can sell used sandals for more than the price of new ones.

What’s “spiritual whiplash”?  In my case, snapping from deep gratitude to intoxicating greed in less time than it takes to say namaste. 

The gratitude:  As I wrote on my blog  recently (“Cents and Sensible Shoes”), I worried I’d be stuck wearing closed-toed shoes all summer since I need to use orthotics all the time. When I learned that some manufacturers make sandals with removable foot beds, I relaxed into the peaceful pool of gratitude.  I could expose my toes after all.  Because these cleverly designed sandals are priced as investments, not bargains, I concluded that I’d be a curator rather than a consumer, and buy maybe two pairs.

My inner child didn’t like this decision. She wanted more than two, and she didn’t want me to be “sensible” and buy black. Then my frugal self teamed up with her and both whined, “Can’t you find a deal?”

I caved.

When eBay became popular, I pooh-poohed it as a global garage sale with suspicious sellers and unreliable buyers.  Why would anyone want to buy something they couldn’t touch (or smell) from a person they couldn’t see or hear? What if the seller misrepresented the goods or they arrived covered in pet hair and off-gassing cigar smoke? What if buyers failed to pay?  The risks seemed higher than the rewards, not to mention setting up an account and learning to navigate the eBay-verse.  But, over the years, I heard of folks using eBay to build their art businesses or sell unwanted items.  Perhaps it offered more opportunity than peril?

The greed: I consulted the eBay oracle by typing in the brands, styles and sizes I wanted.  Several listings popped up, of sandals both new and gently used, with initial bids a fraction of the retail price.  Since I’d be using my own inserts, I wasn’t bothered by pre-owned footwear. The child wanted one of each available color; my frugal self pointed out that the total would be less than a single store-bought pair.  And if I could sell my four now unwearable sandals, perhaps I could offset the expense if not break even.

“Go for it!” urged the inner cast of characters.

Suddenly, I wanted to win.

I dived into the eBay bidding guide and learned that folks who swoop like vultures during the final minutes or seconds of an auction are “sniper” bidders.  I liked the term, connoting precision and focus. But because earlier bidders might have established an upper bid, invisible to others, that kicks in automatically, a slow Internet connection or sluggish reflexes could prevent a sniper from winning the “kill”.  Still, I decided to practice my sharpshooting and made a note to be online as the auctions closed, eyes glued to the timer as it counted the final minutes, hand poised on my mouse like a finger on a trigger.

I sniper bid on, and won, three pairs: copper, gold, and royal blue.  Smug as a hunter who has successfully stalked his prey, I waited for the shoes to arrive.  Meanwhile, I shipped my old sandals to their buyers.  And guess what?  The royal blue auction had been a sham, that seller “unaware” the item was not in stock.  Then, the “copper” turned out to be gold, even though they looked different in the photographs. Although I bought them for a song, I didn’t need two identical pairs.  I would have to sell one, pack it up, and make another trip to the post office.

While spiritual whiplash, luckily, does not involve a neck brace trips to a chiropractor, it has other costs.  Although I got some good deals, as I added up the minutes involved, plus the aggravation of getting the seller to compensate me for his fake auction, I wondered if I would have been better off heeding my higher self and paying full price, freeing my attention for more nourishing pursuits.  Next time, I will float longer in the pool gratitude and not allow my baser instincts to yank me out.

Ilona Fried blogs at www.alacartespirit.com

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