A self-confessed latecomer to the world of online auctioneering, Greg Dixon discovers Trade Me offers more than a market for unwanted goods, it’s entertainment too.
Life is all about the small pleasures. And there can be few pleasures smaller than sitting at your computer hitting "refresh" every 10 seconds or so to see what sort of mad money people are prepared to bid for some old tat you're flogging on Trade Me.
"There's a bidding frenzy," I call out to the other half as an auction draws to a close. Then, in a bit of a frenzy myself, keep belting the refresh key.
"My God, it's up to $120!"
With each jump in the bidding there is a little squirt of something inside my brain that makes me feel rather good. It isn't so much about the money - though, of course, selling is always about the money - rather it's the thrill of people wanting what you're selling and fighting like half-starved dogs to get it.
It's been more than a dozen years since Trade Me was launched and eight years since I signed up to the site, but it's only in the last few weeks that I've discovered it's more than just the web equivalent of a rubbish dump or garage sale, it's entertainment - even better, it's entertainment that pays you to be entertained.
I'd never really had reason to discover this because I'd never really needed Trade Me. I'm not much of a shopper, I hate buying second-hand stuff unless it's beautiful and our present home, though tiny, has, despite us living there for two decades, never really become overly cluttered with stuff we don't need. Besides, we had the shed for the small amount of overflow.
But now we're moving house. It's bigger and better but, though we need more stuff, we conversely needed to get rid of a bit of stuff too. There was the old oven, hobs and extractor fan, a 50s wooden office chair, a 70s New Zealand pottery platter, another bowl, and a 60s writing desk.
We could have just put these items on the berm for the scavengers - we got rid of an old lamp and a couple of picture frames that way - but we figured, well, if someone wanted to take them off our hands and give us a few bucks for the privilege, then we'd be happy. Instead we got a whole more: cheap thrills and bigger bucks than either of us expected.
To be fair, we weren't selling complete tat. Not like the person wanting $100 for a cow-and-calf wall "sculpture" - it apparently gives "the WOW factor to any wall, inside or outside" - or the person who fancied they'd get $500 for a "canvas print" of the The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers' movie poster because was it was "very rare".
But then again maybe these people weren't delusional, perhaps they were just in the process of learning the fundamentals of buying and selling - or, rather, not selling. And certainly Trade Me provides a mini-education in how "the market" works, even, possibly, for those who believe "the market" is fundamentally evil.
Myself, I concluded I had it all figured out after the first couple of auctions: always start with a low reserve, that way people think they're getting a bargain and it helps build the auction's momentum; if your item isn't up to much, give something away "free" with what you're selling to disguise the fact that neither item is really worth that much; put up plenty of pictures; promote the item at the beginning of the penultimate and final days of the auction ...
Yup, I decided, I was some sort of Trade Me Jedi Master and each successive auction proved my point: there was always early interest, loads of "watchers" and, on the final day of each auction, there'd be a mad, rottweiler-eat-poodle frenzy that ended with an unexpectedly good price.
I began to suspect I was getting addicted to being in sales. But then we put our newish spare bed - a single used for afternoon naps - on Trade Me.
Day one, no bids. Day two, no bids, day three, no bids. Day four, no bids, Day five, no bids ... oh God, I thought, my Jedi powers of selling are failing me. The Force was not strong with me.
Finally about midday last Saturday, six days into the auction, there was a single, almost hesitant, bid meeting the reserve of $100. By the end of the day it had reached an underwhelming $102. Oh well, I thought, at least we'll get rid of thing.
Then came Sunday. By 10am, the bidding had reached $150. Then with six minutes to run, the bidding went mad, the frenzy was on: $168 ... $169 ... $186 ... $237 ... up and up it went. When the bidding ended at a healthy $267, I knew the Force was still strong.
I spent the rest of day eyeing up the rest of our stuff for something else to sell. The plate commemorating the wedding of Prince Andrew to Fergie? Nah, not worth anything. Those faded prints of 19th century Auckland. Nah, bin them. No, it had to be something really big and hard to sell this time, something to prove I am the Yoda of Trade Me.
Then it came to me: For sale, one ageing hack. Still works. Just. Offers.