eBay's wild west could return with free listings

pez dispensers
pez dispensers

Free listings on eBay -- up to 100 a month for sellers who start auctions at 99 cents -- could change the online selling world as we know it: back to the way it used to be. (The company will still take a "final value fee," 9% of the selling price or $50, whichever is less.)

It was 1999; the internet was our oyster. My ex-boyfriend and a business school classmate had an idea: contract with internet sellers to pick up returned goods and, instead of junking them or sending them in pallets to resellers, sell them on eBay. Over the next months and years, I worked with them to hone the idea and develop a scheme for selling barely used things on eBay. At first, it was a brilliant success, and it was new. We sat in rooms with leading experts on auction theory and chortled over economist's jokes. But soon every company with which we wanted to deal was selling on eBay -- my home state was selling old airplanes and windmills there -- and the bloom was off the rose. I left the company (and the boyfriend); eventually, it went through bankruptcy; about the same time, I too lost my love for eBay.