Saturday, 11 May 2013

You know how people ask questions on Ebay?

Saved here for posterity, because in a few weeks this series of gems will have gone (note - order from ebay reversed to make them read chronologically top to bottom).

  1. Q:  HI there,what the least you will take ? 02-May-13
    A:  The least I will take is the auction starting price, which is one penny. I might be persuaded to go lower, perhaps to one of those Mojo liquorice sweets that used to be four for a penny, though I suspect that inflation has now made them more expensive than they once were. I am sorry I set the starting price beyond what you are prepared to pay, but eBay would not let me go any lower. Tell you what, if you bid and win then I will put a Mojo in the box with it as a discount-in-kind (assuming they still sell them. Similar nutrition-free calories may be substituted. Errors and omissions excluded.)

  2. Q:  Hi, I'm fed up with cheapest cheapest cheapest could I get it cheaper if it was made in some far eastern sweatshop... What's the *most* you'd take for it? 02-May-13
    A:  That is a more nuanced question, and nonlinear algebra starts to make an appearance. This is a bit like the interaction between the strong and the weak nuclear forces. On the one side there is my common human decency, knowing that the parts are worth no more than £15 of anyone's money, and I would feel guilty if the auction went any higher, and would quite possibly feel obliged to offer refund back to that level to anyone who bid higher. But then on the other side is common human greed and avarice. My guilt (referenced above) is well trained by a Catholic upbringing, but every man has his price. There is no doubt that were the price to be much over a million pounds that I would take the money and assuage my guilt with expensive Shiraz, fast bikes and slow women (I can't catch the fast ones). Between these limits, even I don't know which way I would swing. So, putative bidders are left with a gamble, do you bid high hoping I will refund, or bid low to deny me the life of guilt-immersed leisure I deserve?
    Q:  Hi. All this talk of money is making me wonder if you would accept other gifts. Such as naming a first child after you? Or (more practical given my age), perhaps name a pet after you. These must be much more valuable than 1p. So I was wondering what other non financial rewards you might consider with a value in the region of 1p. This should help out the poor souls who can't raise this kind of cash. Thanks. Peter (Ixie lurker). 02-May-13
    A:  I am nothing if not adaptable, but eBay may have difficulty assigning a ranking to non-monetary bids. Taking your examples, as an example. (It would be hard to take them as anything else). My personal ranking would be that _not_ naming your child after me would rank higher than naming a child after me, as i wouldn't want a child to go through life in my shadow. (or, for that matter, with such an odd name). However, if eBay were to have a different interpretation on the order of precedence, it might be awkward to sort out. Naming a pet might work, but I think naming a goldfish after me as a bid would lose to naming an ocelot after me.
    Q:  I'm desperate to lose weight. Is that desperate enough to buy this heap of tatty R1 bits, or do you require a more specific desperation? Also - what's the daftest question yet asked? 02-May-13
    A:  I can only guess at what level of desperation you would need to have to believe that an R1 front fairing would help you in that area. You must be very far indeed. I will promise not to send you any Mojos or other tempting calories, should you win the auction. I will also make a point of using UPS so that the package ends up at a depot at least 50 miles away from your house, to give you some much-needed excercise.
    Q:  I notice that you consider an ocelot to be of more value than a goldfish when it comes to animal based bidding (equally I note that no matter how many times I try to enter 'naming a horse' as my bid eBay doesn't let me complete, but that may be because I'm using a Mac.) Would it be fair to presume that you are basing your relative animal values on mass alone? Or is there a more complex algorithm at work. Only I pass a horse on my drive home each evening which probably doesn't have a name and would happily consider bidding naming that after you if I could work out how to input it. In the interests of disclosure I am considering starting my bidding with the naming of a pigeon, there is a distinctive one outside the office with a club foot and slight stutter. Any tips on inputting barter options would be appreciated incidentally. 02-May-13
    A:  I think that it probably is because you are using a Mac, and I suggest that you sulk about it on an online forum somewhere. It would, indeed, be fair to assume that I base my mental scale of animal values purely on mass. However it would also be incorrect. The scale of values is based on an ill-defined level of how much I like each animal. And I like ocelots lots. I like axalotls too. So it may be that the acme of bidding would have to be something from South America with "lot" in it's name. Just for the avoidance of doubt, axalotls are not a higher bid than ocelots. It is possible that eBay is blocking your horse-based bid pending verification of the nominative status of the horse in question.
    Q:  While ocelots, axolotls, and indeed any South American fauna are notable by their absence from my household, and would probably not be anonymous if they were present, you did intimate that there could be a potential for confectionary-based transactions. Have you any sort of scale in mind - for example, would my half a packet of Rolos have a value of 50% of the RRP, or wuld there be some other scaling factor involved? 03-May-13
    A:  Rolos would be a very complicated choice, as they appear to have logarithmic worth, with the last one being orders of magnitude more valuable than the penultimate. How would I know if you were offering the first half of the pack, or the last half? In fact, do they entangle like photons? if you sent me half of a pack, and I ate my half and you didn't, then you would have the last Rolo. But if your ability to resist were less than mine then at some point I would own the last one. And how fast does this last-ness propagate?
    Q:  The half packet of Rolos is all that remains, the other half having become (through the services of internal biology and Severn-Trent's sewage disposal system) an Atlantic Ocean-sized homepathic dose of Rolo. I am not sure what a homeopathic dose of Rolo would supposedly cure (but due to the fact that chocolate appears to be an anti-depressant, it may be that its intent would be to cure happiness) nor whether any form of quantum entanglement would operate between the remaining half packet and the Atlantic Ocean, so I think that any judgement of its value would have to be based entirely on the intrinsic value of the Rolos in question. I could eat all but the last one, of course, and that would presumably increase its value, although if you were so minded you could take a number of Rolos and distribute one to each of a number of people, telling each one that that was your last Rolo and hence increasing the value of each Rolo to last Rolo value. 06-May-13
    A:  Claiming last-ness of multiple Rollos would surely be fraudulent, and against eBay policies. I am not sure where they would stand on eating half the last Rolo, does the value-progression continue? Would Zeno's Rollo be infinitely valuable.
 The original auction is here:

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