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Bad Spelling Pays on eBay 525

Posted by timothy
from the know-duhh dept.
peebeejay writes "People say that as long as they're understood, spelling is unimportant. These people are unwittingly making others a lot of money online, according to this article in the NY Times (DNA sample and clean boxers required). So, aside from clarity and respect for your reader, there's another good reason to either spell correctly or use a spellchecker: get bidders to find your eBay items and give you their money! Or you can go ahead and see how many people bid on your 'labtop computers,' 'camras,' and 'earings.'"
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Bad Spelling Pays on eBay

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  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:38AM (#8111802) Homepage Journal
    I've come across some items that were *underpriced*, because bad spelling has made them difficult to find. (Fortunately, I was as bad a speller as the seller). After that, I've occasionally searched for easy-but-uncommon misspellings of items I'm after.
  • Old, old trick. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DdJ (10790) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:40AM (#8111820) Homepage Journal
    I've been using this trick since I started using eBay, something like six years ago. When you look for something, always look for misspellings first, because you're less likely to have competition. Even got a gemstone or two this way.

    It's been known for years, and it hasn't changed much. I don't think this article is going to cause much of a change, even if it's widely read.
  • by Lord_Frederick (642312) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:43AM (#8111838)
    Is the glass half empty? Is the glass half full? No! The glass is simply too big! What ever happened to rewarding those who did things well, as opposed to making sure nobody gets their feelings hurt because they don't do something as well as someone else. I heard that in some schools they're not running spelling bees anymore because it makes the kids that don't win feel too bad.
  • Worked for me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jjeffers (127519) <jj@aprsworl d . net> on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:47AM (#8111871) Homepage
    Some years ago I purchased a 36 gigabyte 10,000 RPM Fiber Channel drive very inexpensively on e-bay. Drives like it were selling for two or three hundred dollars and I paid $40 for mine. Why? Because I intially spelled Fiber Channel as fibre channel.

    There were two or three fiber channel products with british spelling and I think I was the only one that even bid on them.
  • by hwsquaredcubed (527387) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:51AM (#8111907)
    I was looking for a BikeE recumbent bike. There weren't any on Ebay. I tried "Bike-E" with a hyphen. There was an almost brand new demo model listed for $500. (They retailed for about $1200 at the time, I think.) I bought it, didn't even take it out of the box, relisted it with the correct spelling, and sold it for $850 seven days later. (I did have to pay for the bike to be shipped to me, which was about $35, I think.) I have also found that you can buy items that are poorly described and relist them with more thorough descriptions, links to the manufacturer's website, better photos, etc., and they will typically sell for higher than you paid for them.
  • by adzoox (615327) * on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:52AM (#8111917) Journal
    Since eBay says that adding terms to your auctions, that are unrelated is called; "keyword spamming" - I purposely don't spell some words right in the description so I can get others who may not spell words right. Some terms in the Apple category are often spelled incorrectly.

  • by LiberalApplication (570878) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:53AM (#8111925)
    Actually, this is exactly the kind of thing I'd been hoping noone would bother to publish as "news", precisely because I (in my cheapass, impoverished, bargainhunting gadgetlusting ways) have always managed to find the things I've wanted on eBay for great prices simply by repeatedly performing searches on what I'd expect to be common misspellings/permutations of spellings of the names of the items (whew... long sentence... deep breath...).

    That having been said, I wound up with a MITS Altair [ebay.com] for $100 because it was listed as "Vintage Altar Comp", and a "sonydcv1 [sonystyle.com]" for about $300.

    My point being that as geeks, we should encourage all non-geeks we know who have an interest in selling items on eBay to forgo spellchecks and not worry about spelling in general. We stand to profit from it! Any attempt to educate the general populace (as this NYT article attempts to do) will reduce the number of magic bargains to be found on eBay ;)

  • by Dr. Manhattan (29720) <[sorceror171] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:53AM (#8111927) Homepage
    Almost always a good deal in that category.
  • Oh, the irony... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:02AM (#8111999) Journal
    A story on Slashdot about accurate spelling! And referring to eBay no less! Oh, the irony!

    This is the first article about eBay where the editors haven't spelt (yes, "spelt" not "spelled") the company name as "Ebay".

    Somehow, they alway (well, almost always) manage to correctly spell iMac, iPod and iTunes, but eBay, nVidia and ATi often become "Ebay", "Nvidia" and "ATI". It would be nice to think that this article was the start of a trend but I seriously doubt it.
  • Re:you mean.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Windsurfer (30408) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:08AM (#8112054)
    It's not just spelling that causes inter-generational confusion...

    My father asked me to buy him a PC, so I ordered him a nice little Dell desktop. The look on his face when I took it over to his house was priceless - it turns out he wanted a laptop! He's always had a laptop from his company, and to him PC == laptop.

    I understand that the definition of PC includes both desktop and laptop, but I think most people would assume PC == desktop.

    Luckily I managed to sell the desktop on to a friend, and my father got his laptop a few weeks later...

  • by Pedrito (94783) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:18AM (#8112112) Homepage
    I remember back in the early days of the web, when it was just becoming popular, that John Dvorak hailed it as the coming of true mass literacy. His belief was that with so many average every day citizens posting web pages, surely this would lead to increased literacy.

    It couldn't have been a year later that he retracted that prediction and instead said that the web has proven just how illiterate Americans (and I presume others) are.

    Anyway, just thought I'd toss in my little anecdote.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:18AM (#8112116)
    You gotta watch those typos, knowing how much fraud is on Ebay. I declined to bid on a low priced laptop because the S&H was $1500, not $15.00, and I didn't hear back from the seller until after the auction closed. No way I was going to take that chance. Too bad, because the final price was good (maybe others also declined to bid),
  • feedback loop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScottSpeaks! (707844) * on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:20AM (#8112136) Homepage Journal
    "Before the Internet came along, poor spelling by the public was by and large not exposed,"

    Just as importantly, it wasn't reinforced. Kind of like the lady who felt reassured by seeing "chandaleer" on hundreds of web sites, people whose reading consists primarily of web pages, e-mail, and chat (rather than books vetted by proofreaders) are learning to spell incorrectly. It's like the blind leading the blind. I've got nothing against spelling changes in principle; language is going to evolve. But this seems more like a case of language forking, almost geometrically.

    Ironically, the internet seems to be taking us back a few centuries, to the days before English spellings were standardized by the likes of Webster and other lexicographers. Which was fine back when all parsing of text was done by humans, who could easily figure out that "Thomas Smith" and "Tomas Smythe" were the same person. But as this article points out, it can be a problem when more literal computers are concerned.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:26AM (#8112189)
    Except that the article is about people taking advantage of those mispellings and reselling the items for a profit. It is a good article except for the people who do it because now everybody will know. Just like Ebay used to be a great place for bargains until it became popular and now most things seem to end up higher than buying it at a reputable retailer.
  • by Blob Pet (86206) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:31AM (#8112220) Homepage
    You're talking about this [nwsource.com], I believe.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:35AM (#8112267) Homepage Journal
    I did buy an ATI card on eBay, installed it and decide it wouldn't work for what I wanted to do with it, sold it a month later for about $50 more. All I added was a couple better pictures and a spare $5 DVI to VGA dongle that I bought to use it.

    Apart from proper spelling, good photos and a reputation for accurate descriptions, another thing that seems to help is to be willing to ship overseas, especially for the retailer exclusive items that overseas bidders couldn't get. It is a bit of a hassle but I think it helps the prices, and usually I sell to domestic bidders anyway.
  • by Benwick (203287) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @11:22AM (#8112733) Journal
    Representing college literature professors in the arts I can safely say I would simply never buy something advertised as a Plam Pilot. What if it really was a Plam Pilot, like maybe some weird knock-off Palm from Vanuatu or something?

    Bad spelling really turns me away from these things... Even though there's no real connection between spelling and intellect, it is very hard to read poorly crafted prose and respect it if it's badly written. Oh well, not lkie abyndoy's pinayg aotitentn...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @11:50AM (#8113084)
    Any attempt to educate the general populace (as this NYT article attempts to do) will reduce the number of magic bargains to be found on eBay ;)
    I, for one, promise not to get too worried that someone who would otherwise list "chandaleer earrings" or a "camra" is likely to be a regular reader of the New York Times.
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @12:06PM (#8113243)
    That's not leeching. If somebody cannot be bothered to get a dictionary and look up the correct spelling of a word when they want to put out an advertisement that could be seen by millions of people, then to my mind they deserve what they get. You play with fire, you get burned.

    You might not get far appearing on TV if you're ugly, and you might not get far on the wireless if you have an annoying voice. But anyone can learn to spell properly -- the only thing stopping them is laziness.

    Actually there probably is a market for someone to charge a fee for checking spelling and usage {that would require a human being; a machine can spot "tehre" but "their" is a correctly-spelt word even if you meant "there"} -- because at some point, the benefit due to proper spelling would be greater than the amount you spent on it.
  • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @12:21PM (#8113383) Homepage
    Very true. I bought a stack of HDS ViewStation X terminals at a local DRMO auction and sold a couple on eBay. I wasn't expecting much, because the last one I'd seen sell went for about $15 - but that had no pictures and a single vague paragraph about what it was. I wrote up a whole page about it, took a picture, and sold two of them for over $100 each.
  • Re:Oh, the irony... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gryphokk (648488) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @01:13PM (#8113908) Homepage Journal
    Did you mean Daniel Webster [marshfield.net], legendary Whig party U.S. legislator and secretary of state, fictionally renowned in a reversal of the Faustian tale of selling your soul to the devil?

    Or would that be Noah Webster [ctstateu.edu], noted etymologist and namesake of dictionary publisher Merriam Webster?
  • Re:Lay off the NYT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @02:37PM (#8114799)
    Not to mention the quality of news you get from the NYTimes for free and how painless it is to register.
  • Re:feedback loop (Score:3, Interesting)

    by saskboy (600063) on Thursday January 29, 2004 @12:37AM (#8120715) Homepage Journal
    On eBay, a "feedback loop", is known as Bid shilling.

    "Bid on my items, and I'll bid on your's" kinda thing. The last Power Seller of the Month was caught doing this by people on eBay's discussion boards. eBay had to remove his distinction, but they've yet to suspend him last I checked. One of his IDs has 'Blackmarket' in the word.

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