Ah, the holiday season. The beauty, the wonder, the debris of discarded ribbons and paper from packages so painstakingly wrapped.
True, it's a time when gifts fulfill the fondest wishes. It's also a time when many of us may very well get an assortment of oddball gifts or items that can never, ever be used. Internet auctioneers, however, think they have an elegant solution for disappointed, unimpressed, maybe even downright bewildered recipients. And it does seem rather appropriate, given the fact that it takes a lot of the awkwardness and hassle out of dealing with unwanted knickknacks and bric-a-brac.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, online auction sites such as eBay
It's not that people haven't long had a solution for that sort of thing. We here at the Fool are certainly not adverse to the old and venerated tradition of regifting. My Foolish colleague Dayana Yochim makes the case in this article that there's no shame in the practice. It's a tried-and-true method to save a couple bucks.
On the other hand, though, there are possible pitfalls that may haunt some of us late at night. It's possible to accidentally regift to the same person who originally gave the gift, or otherwise be "busted" as a regifter. Dayana may claim there's no shame in it, but despite assurances that regifting is OK, many people can't help but feel a sense of shame about this money-saving method of getting rid of less-than-useful gifts.
That's why the auctioneers' strategy makes a whole lot of sense. Nobody wants a lot of clutter crowding the closet, and in some cases, those who auction off certain unwanted gifts might even make a pretty penny. Meanwhile, there's always the fact that returning gifts can be a big hassle this time of year (although Dayana also recently penned a piece on making gift returns as pain free as possible, which is definitely worth a read if you're about to unload your unwanted gifts that way).
In short, this is a perfectly sensible strategy by all the companies that play in the Internet auction space. After all, one of eBay's most prescient moves so long ago was recognizing the fact that one person's trash is another person's treasure -- and that there's big business in hooking up unwanted items with eager collectors. For the online auctioneers -- in particular eBay, which is the undisputed leader in the space -- the holiday season may very well be extended (hopefully, with new users who will prove to be loyal for years to come), lasting long after the last needle has fallen off the tree.
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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.