I posted yesterday about the Church of Scientology using the VeRO program to directly end auctions. Primarily, they’ve been accused of ending auctions for e-meters, a ritual device used by the CoS (I’m just going to avoid any in-depth discussion of CoS ritual here – there are plenty of online sources if you really want to know). If you haven’t read the previous post, you probably should to get the background on all of this.
Anyway, so I was curious about whether anyone had recently listed any e-meters for sale. Right now, there are 15 auctions live featuring the word “e-meter” (notice I didn’t say there are 15 e-meters for sale, an important distinction we’ll get to in a moment). There are 10 listings that have ended:
- One protest listing about the e-meter reports.
- Two actual e-meters (one vintage).
- Five books on Scientology.
- And one Ghostbuster Proton Pack and P.K.E-Meter (which has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I love Ghostbusters and am really psyched that a new GB game is coming out).
The two e-meters that sold ended before the auctions mentioned on realitybasedcommunity.net were listed. RBC reported that two e-meter auctions were removed by the CoS last week. The fact that two sold doesn’t disprove RBC’s assertion. If the auctions ran their course before the CoS noticed them, it’s entirely plausible that one or two could slip through.
So that’s what has happened. What’s happening now, you ask? Returning to those 15 live auctions:
- One is a rather juvenile joke (the posted Q&As on the item are funnier than the listing).
- Two are for e-meters (though I question the legitimacy of one auction due to the sellers feedback and the lack of a picture or quality description).
- Finally, we get to 12 comic book related auctions featuring the word e-meter (and the source of the above picture).
I exchanged several emails with the comic book seller, Joshua Marquart, today about the inclusion of e-meter in auctions that had nothing to do with Scientology or e-meters. As some background, Marquart’s made some news before with an eBay auction.
“… this was just as a lark as opposed to being a serious auction, we still had power at the house during Hurricane Frances. So I ran outside with my dog and some plastic Chinese food containers and had a neighbor take pictures of me capturing wind. I posted four 3-day auctions and sent links to everyone in my contacts list and on a couple of forums I was on.”
The auctions ended up picking up some bids and press coverage. Marquart said he had used odd words, stunts and jokes in online sales before.
Recently, he was clearing out some of his comic book collection when he spotted the Slashdot post about e-meter auctions and figured he’d throw the word in to see what happened, he said. At the bottom of every auction is a caveat that reads, “This auction has nothing to do with Scientology or the sale of e-meters or emeters or exeter.”
“For auctions that would normally garner about 20 hits over their 7-day span, my top auction has over 230 views and the rest are between 50-100 each.
It’s only been 48 hours since the change, so I expect that either the Scientologists will pull my auctions, or eBay will invalidate them for disrupting search patterns, or they’ll both just let me slide. It’s an experiment and I’m just out to get rid of these books and toys to help clear out a closet in my house, so that’s really the bottom line.”
You can see all of his auctions here if you’re curious.
Its nice to see that the marketplace can still support a sense of humor, protest, experimentation and outrage (well, outrage besides that aimed at eBay over changes). Auctions like these might irritate some eBay members, but at the end of the day, we are a community and one with a very eclectic personality. I’ll be watching the above listings, particularly the ones for actual e-meters, to see what happens. If they mysteriously disappear, we’ll know something happened. If the VeRO program is being abused, those of us who are incensed by it need to let eBay know. As long as no one says anything, eBay will have little reason to alter its policies.
I’ve also written emails to several other sellers who are linked in this post. If I hear back from any of them I’ll update or write a new post.
As always, any links to eBay items will eventually die when the listings are taken off their servers (and as we are dealing with items that could be pulled here, they may die sooner).