eBay and business

There is the old joke that goes like this:

"There are two kinds of people in the world--those that divide people into two groups, and those that don't."

At the risk of self parody, there are two kinds of people in the world (and I'm broadly overgeneralizing, of course)--those that use eBay and those that don't.

For those that don't, the eBay phenomenon is a bit of mystery. From a certain distance, EBay is cluttered with junk, trivia, excess, and silliness. But it also is a terrific business transaction mechanism, for both formal and informal business.

I just bought a part for my breadmaker. The manufacturer has been out of business for four years, and parts are no longer available through "normal" channels--that is to say, the Manufacturing Economy manufacturer--distributor--dealer supply chain.

But I found the part I needed for $9 (new cost was $15 when it was available) from a guy in Nebraska whose machine had burned up. Instead of throwing it in the landfill, he's selling usable parts from it and making a few extra bucks. It's not only reducing the amount of waste going into landfills (parts of his machine and all of mine), he's profiting from it, and I'm able to keep a perfectly good machine working.

It's amazing when you think about it. A scant ten years ago, the notion of linking a buyer for a very obscure machine part in Virginia with a seller in Nebraska was inconceivable. Today, we take it for granted.

Many small businesses are now using eBay as a strategic part of their business, putting both normal stock and overstocks there for sale. It's a cheap and easy mail order strategy that has virtually no downside.

Does your region's economic development strategy include workshops to help businesspeople learn how to use eBay? I bet not, and business growth opportunities are being missed.