The prospect of eBay’s auction cybersphere dropping its cloak of virtual reality for flesh-and-bone bidding has long been a subject rife with speculation. What if you could see the seller auctioning off the suspiciously low-priced used laptop, or the bidder, crouched before the screen, waiting for the last minute to bid on your set of antique dollhouse furniture?
Presumably, a material-world eBay would put an end to the selling of, among other eBay curiosities, someone’s soul, New Zealand, organs and a grilled cheese bearing the apparition of the Virgin Mary. Gone, too, would be the signature eBay experience—part confusion, part thrill—of never quite knowing steal from scam. What fun would that be?
But beginning this week, the online anti-retailer is becoming just that—a real, brick-and-mortar store, albeit a temporary one. More holiday marketing buzz than retail endeavor, from Nov. 20 to Nov. 29, eBay will open a pop-up shop at 3 West 57th Street next to Bergdorf. The store is part of a larger holiday advertising campaign, with plans for TV, radio and online spots featuring the tag line “Come to think of it, eBay.”
EBay will be stocking the 5,000-square-foot pop-up with items gleaned from its millions of sellers: Michael Kors handbags, Anthropologie dresses, L.A.M.B. shoes. How will bidding on, say, a Gucci wallet be impacted by the prices of a real Gucci boutique just blocks away? It’s difficult to say. Also difficult to say is how actual live eBay bidding will work. The company has said only that shoppers will have access to Internet kiosks, handheld tablets and eBay mobile phone applications. Let the bidding begin.