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Bad Spelling Pays on eBay 525

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 hatrisc ( 555862 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:39AM (#8111805) Homepage
    to tell me that they aren't called "labtop" computers? ... you could've fooled my dad.
    • When your healty... they are called laptop...

      When you have a cold... they are called labtop.
    • to tell me that they aren't called "labtop" computers? ... you could've fooled my dad.

      Does his labtop have a sloppy disk drive, like my dad's desktop does?

    • Re:you mean.... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Windsurfer ( 30408 )
      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 fath
  • 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 Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:40AM (#8111822) Journal
    .. whenever I use ebay, I always try "alternative" spellings of words. Of course, being from the UK, I'm used to spelling things like 'color' incorrectly [its a JOKE!] :-)


    • I am an American, I prefer the Brittish (which I guess that term isn't right if you are from Northern Ireland?) spelling of words and many Brittish words (like "loft") to their American counterparts. When I was in 10th grade, I tried the Brittish spelling for some words in a paper and got marked off :( .

      UK is cool. At least if I lived there, I could visit all the other cool places in Europe! (The Brittish are acknowledging this month that they are a part of Europe, right?)
      • by nuffle ( 540687 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:54AM (#8111934)
        And is Brittish your British word for British?
      • by dogbowl ( 75870 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @11:52AM (#8113099) Homepage
        That was one thing I learned while traveling through Europe. We would inevitable end up meeting/talking with British folks (mainly because they spoke the language) and they would always refer to the French or Dutch as "the Europeans"

        Like, "The Europeans have this odd tasting candy" or "The Europeans have some odd TV shows".

        At first it threw me for a loop .. I didn't know what they were talking about. I mean .. the British are Europeans with funny tasting candy and silly TV shows too. I didn't know they could detect abnormality among their own kind!

        • Like, "The Europeans have this odd tasting candy" or "The Europeans have some odd TV shows".

          They would not say that. We never say "candy", we say "sweets" and we prefer to call "TV shows" "TV programmes".

          Also, we wouldn't say "The Europeans"; rather, "the frogs and the krauts".

          "The frogs and the krauts have some rather peculiar TV programmes; care for one of their similarly bizarre sweets?"
      • by cloudmaster ( 10662 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @12:23PM (#8113405) Homepage Journal

        (paraphrasing) I'm an American, but I like to write papers in languages other than American English. I'm suprised when this gets me poor grades in English courses that I'm taking in America.

        Adding extrae letteres too wourds jusst tou mayik themm moure impressieve oarr coulourfull iss nout ay goud ideea, even if the brits disagree in *their* english. :) Also, note that, thanks to modern transportational advancements, you could visit Europe regardless of where you live - you don't have to already live there!

      • we speak "British English" everywhere in Ireland, not just the north, of course we call it "English" and your strange ways we call "American English". i would only ever say "British English" when speaking to an American, for emphasis.

        most late-period colonial countries are the same (i know they all set their dictionaries to "British English" in South Africa at least)

  • Reg Free (Score:5, Informative)

    by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:41AM (#8111825) Journal
    Here []

  • Before the categories were as developed as they are now, a college roommate picked up a "Play Staion" for cheap.

    With the categories and the "Going Going Gone" auctions these don't stay hidden as easily, but they're still there.
  • by Dr. Charles Forbin ( 20231 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:41AM (#8111829)
    According to the article, Mother of Perl is spelled incorrectly. Shows what they know.
  • One of the favorite tricks of domain squatters? Register, say, and have it point to a pron site or something. Regardless of how technologically advanced the internet ever gets, it'll still be used by humans, who are great at screwing things up.

    • The classic example is, versus (links intentionally left out, find yer own pr0n)

      The former is the official US govt. website, the latter is a porn site.

  • 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.
  • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:45AM (#8111860) Journal
    Ebay should use a spell checker like google uses, where it displays a link to a search with the stuff all spelled right.

    I love that feature, since I can't spell worth a rats ass, and I'm suprised a site as big as ebay hasn't already done this.
  • Worked for me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jjeffers ( 127519 )
    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.
  • You too, can find great deals on Sorny, Magnetbox, JCV, Keenwood. All because the manufacturer didn't spell the name right. (read "knock-offs")
    But seriously, now are we going to have people naming their auctions:
    Brand New Laptop Labtop Latpod Palpot PC!
  • by daBass ( 56811 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:48AM (#8111877)
    A friend of mine (whose website I host) is terrible. But at least his pictures of the "rockafella center" [] get him on the first page of Google! :)
  • by SpaceRook ( 630389 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:48AM (#8111880)
    I used to be a good speller, but I use Google A LOT. And it is so forgiving that my skills have declined. I expect all programs to know what I mean when I type "Jva prgfamminh boolks". I just kinda hit the keys that basically represent the words I want.
  • by plams ( 744927 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:51AM (#8111901) Homepage
    unnix licsene for olny $699!!1!
  • 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.
    • Here's a current auction for a Tandum Recumbant []. BikeE, but it never says that. If it didn't have a starting bid of $1000, I'd go for it.
    • 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 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.
  • When it comes to tech jargon it is not usually in the dictionary.

    Athelon, Athlon, Athalon, or equally correct but alternative spellings P3, Pentium 3 Pentium III...etc.

    I think I will wait a few weeks and do some bargain shoping.

  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:52AM (#8111915) Homepage Journal
    For those who don't want to sell their organs to read this, visit the link searched for in Google [] and click on the link to the article. This works in general for NYT articles - Google search for the link, and when you get the "nothing found, would you like to try the link?" page, just click on the link. It's 'cos the NYT uses a Referer check or something.

    This valuable piece of advice given in the spirit of the article - ie with a crappy header that'll ensure only people looking really hard will find it.

    Bidding starts at $5.

  • 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.

    • You aren't alone...

      From the article:

      But some sellers clearly bear in mind the potential for linguistic disasters when preparing their ads. Warren Lieu of Houston, who was selling hunting and fishing knives on eBay recently, covered all the bases. His listing advertised every sort of alphabetic butchery for his knives, including knifes and knive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:52AM (#8111918) why Microsoft could make the claim that people would go to and get confused.

    Because people are that fucking stupid.
  • by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <sorceror171 @ g m> on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @09:53AM (#8111927) Homepage
    Almost always a good deal in that category.
    • But what if you really do get a PlamPilot in the mail?
    • 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...
  • Well, so much for my bargain shopping on Ebay!!

    Next they'll have a story about putting items in the wrong category...uhh, never mind.
  • On another note, I wouldn't mind seeing more attractive female lab workers around here wearing snug "labtops"...
  • Random NYTimes registration engine [].

    Warning to /.ers: your going to hav too read the instructions on how too work it good, or it won't. LOL WTF!!!!!!111

  • that spehling is a lossed art ;P

  • 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.
    • ATI is spelled ATI. check it out at

      just because the logo looks like ATi doesn't mean it's spelled like that, otherwise Disney would be spelled Disnep
  • *blink* (Score:5, Funny)

    by Daniel ( 1678 ) <> on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:04AM (#8112021)
    experts say the Internet -- with its discussion boards, blogs and self-published articles -- is a treasure trove of bad spelling.

    They had to ask experts?

  • by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `epopcitsonga'> on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:05AM (#8112022) Journal
    Making money off of mispellings? Slashdot's been doing it for years!
  • Case in point: a copy of the Mohawks' "The Champ" - a famous funk record that has been heavily sampled by many greats (including the organ from "let your backbone slide.) A mint condition white (promo) label pressing, neighborhood $450-$500, was had by me for $47 because the auction title read "Mohewks." Sweet!
  • by servognome ( 738846 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:08AM (#8112051)

    Homer: "Look at these low, low prices on famous brand name electronics!"
    Bart: "Don't be a sap, Dad. These are just crappy knock-offs."
    Homer: "I know a genuine Panaphonics when I see it. And look, there's Magnetbox, and Sorny!"
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:18AM (#8112112)
    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.
  • 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.

    • Re:feedback loop (Score:3, Interesting)

      by saskboy ( 600063 )
      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.
  • How is this different to domain name 'squatters ' (loost term) using a domain name similar to a more popular website. Or advertising free porn to get email addresses in spam...

    This is usually done by somebody in a related field, but not always. []And is usually to the detriment of the more popular website

    On eBay, this is used in the same way as putting random phone models after your Nokia phone so that it comes up in a search. Or the stupid people who want to sell you an ebook on how to get an XBOX for 2

  • Here's [] a great item, a set of olympic dimonds from the 1953 olympics in... Hungery.
  • Konqueror in the upcoming KDE 3.2 has spell checking and highlighting in text forms [].
  • who the hell searches for L@@K anyways? what a waste of characters.
  • I am uneasy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @10:55AM (#8112482)
    At first I enjoyed the stories posted in this topic: "I saw a Rolex listed on eBay under Rollex. Bought it from the idiot for $10, turned around and sold it for $500. What a loser!"

    Then I started to think: what if instead of trying to make a few bucks off of someone's typo, why not email them and tell them about the error? Here on Slashdot there is endless (and justified) ranting about the greed of corporate officers and their PHB minions. But are picking up a dollar off the floor in 7-11 and pocketing it even though you saw who dropped it or pulling these eBay spelling error tricks or laying off 1000 programmers to boost your stock price before cashing in your options not all acts from the same human motivation?

    • Re:I am uneasy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by teamhasnoi ( 554944 )
      In my experience, eBayers are not as stupid as you may be led to believe. Yes, there are some true mouthbreathers out there, but there are also some rather sophisticated sellers who *purposely* represent themselves as clueless, in order to move the product without haveing to answer specific questions about it.

      Guitars are a great example: Almost every older 'consumer' acoustic made in the US (by Harmony) that you see on eBay will require a neck reset or brige re-glue, both very expensive repairs.

      By inclu

  • by Call Me Black Cloud ( 616282 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @11:33AM (#8112876)

    The registration is free and you don't even need a valid e-mail address. What's with the complaints? The 20 seconds you have to spend *once* to input bogus information is certainly a fair price for the online content of the NYT.

    Sheesh. People here would complain if you hung them with a new rope.
  • Use the asterisk (Score:3, Informative)

    by blackmonday ( 607916 ) * on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @12:10PM (#8113280) Homepage
    I hate to give this one away, but you're all my friends so what they hell. Search using an asterisk. Example - If you're looking for sony headphones, type in "sony head*" and it finds anything with the word head and sony in it. I get stuff cheap all the time, because this trick can get the spelling mistake listings.

  • spell casting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @12:34PM (#8113525) Homepage Journal
    It's incredible to me that this late in the GUI game, I still can't just select text anywhere in Windows, right-click and select "Check Spelling". Anyone hook this up for GNOME yet?

    At Apple, we developed a "styled text pane" GUI component for a hypermedia documentation browser (not HTML, in 1993) as part of the corporate switch to a C++ toolkit. We threw hooks for spellcheck and themes (a la CSS) into the class, and argued that the component ought to be part of the toolkit itself, for *every* text display in the OS, which would mean every app, entirely standard. I heard that the design was part of Apple's plans right through the demise of the Bento initiative, which drowned our approach like a rat on the Titanic. So now every app reinvents the wheel, and it takes forever to crawl back to steel-belted radials.
  • by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @01:24PM (#8114054)
    I woke up to the news that some people went canoeing yesterday, during a wind advisory, without life vests, and apparently not knowing how to swim, and one guy drowned. Not to be callous about such a tragedy, but the phrase "survival of the fittest" did cross my mind.

    I think this story beats mine, though.

    The phrase that starts "a fool an his money..." also seems to apply.

    (Oh, and I spell checked this because I'm smart enough to know I'm stupid.)
  • by humankind ( 704050 ) on Wednesday January 28, 2004 @03:17PM (#8115229) Journal
    I think it's a liability for the seller, but a windfall for the buyer. For example, I was searching for a rare item that was part of a series of collectables named after the "millennium". The seller had the product misspelled as "milennium" and had much fewer bids and I was able to pick it up for a fraction of its worth. I guess it depends upon whether you want the buyer or seller to be uneducated. The former works if you're trying to scam someone; the latter works if you're looking for a good deal.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam