When the FleetCenter, home of the Boston Celtics, decided to auction off a series of dates for one-day naming rights on eBay
You can already spot the flaw, right? While the center's owner had the right to approve all of the winning names, some were not going to be clear-cut decisions. For instance, attention hog Golden Palace Casino was willing to pay $35,099 for a February 16 game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Gambling is a sporting world reality, but how ethical would it be for an online bookie to land the naming rights for the venue where a game was taking place?
On the cheaper end of the promotional spectrum, one $2,325 winning bid came from a Manhattan attorney with a sense of humor. He wanted the place to be renamed the Derek Jeter Center. If you're not familiar with the bitter rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox -- or with Jeter, the Yankees' shortstop and the heart of the team -- rest assured that it would have been highly objectionable.
The FleetCenter found a happy resolution when a Bostonian friend of the winning lawyer agreed to up the ante and go with the name of the popular Jimmy Fund cancer foundation. However, it leads one to wonder if eBay is becoming too big for its own good. With so many novelty auctions, does it fear losing its focus as a place for common folk like you and me to exchange junk?
Last week Bill Mann and I received an email from Andrew Fischer, the guy who was last month's media darling after selling his forehead as ad space for an entire month. After being rebuffed by eBay (which has since become flooded with a depressing wave of copycats) in trying to generate some buzz for his next auction, he decided to move his next auction to Overstock.com
His new listing, which ends today, is being promoted by Overstock on its auction area's landing page. Whether or not the new venue will allow Fischer to best the $37,325 winning bid he received on eBay back in January to have a corporate logo temporarily tattooed to his forehead for a month isn't the point.
While it's refreshing to see Overstock -- a winning pick for our Rule Breakers newsletter service -- get lively with its auctioning space while others like Yahoo!
Overstock needs to keep the novelty listings in check. Prolific media-drawing auctions may seem great on the surface but without the underbelly of serious buyers and sellers exchanging, well, junk, it will never achieve the critical mass to make it a legitimate contender.
Do you think that it's simply a coincidence that shares of eBay peaked shortly after serving up the world's most expensive grilled-cheese sandwich? Overstock needs to strike the perfect balance between gimmickry and commerce, never letting the former topple the latter, on the road to relevance.
More on the auctioning shore:
- Remember when eBay became a talking point during last year's elections?
- Read about Fischer's first auction.
- eBay has also been the place to buy a really pricey, partly eaten, grilled cheese sandwich.
- Share your thoughts on our eBay discussion board.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a satisfied eBay user and Overstock customer, though his forehead is not for sale. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.