Tuesday, August 14, 2007

loser, in so many ways

When Joe's parents asked us what they should get Cal for his birthday, we told them that he might enjoy some Duplo blocks, because, well, he does. You know Duplo, right? They're Lego blocks, but bigger, for the under-six set. Good wholesome plastic-y fun. What they actually ended up getting him was a set of train tracks (apparently Joe's dad went to the toy store with the intention to get Duplos, but then he saw the train set and could not resist), which was fine, because Cal likes the train set too. He also likes balloons. And leaves. So really, it really doesn't matter what you get him, he will play with it. But I was still sort of interested in getting him some Duplo blocks.

The problem with getting Duplos new in the store is that they're kind of expensive. This zoo set with about 125 pieces costs almost $50 on Amazon. Plus, when you look at the picture, it's really not that many blocks. What are you going to build with that? A very small retaining wall? Not fun.

So I figured that the frugal thing to do would be to look for Duplo on eBay. Cons: slightly used Duplo, possibly chewed. Pros: Cheaper! Also, cheaper! Most of the lots of used Duplo being sold were what you would typically expect from families trying to jettison their used toy collections--small to moderate sized bins of between 100 and 200 Duplo blocks in various stages of wear, mixed in with cast-off Barbie shoes and stray buttons that somehow evaded the sorting process. Starting bids on these were about $5-10, give or take. Eh, nothing compelling, nor especially cheap for used toys, frankly. And then I happened upon this lot.

"HUGE LOT OF DUPLO BLOCKS!" the listing screamed. "1000+ PIECES!" The listing further explained that the seller used to run a daycare facility, but had just recently retired and was looking to sell all her old toys. This gigantic collection of Duplo was actually only half of her original collection--the other half was being sold in a separate, similarly huge lot, though, per her explaination, sorted to be more of a "girl's" Duplo set, meaning more house furniture, more pink blocks, etcetera. While I thought that Duplo was one of the few toys that didn't have boy-girl distinction, I admit that I did favor the "boy's" lot, which included many, many cool Duplo add-ons that I had never seen before, such as a shitload of construction vehicles.

And Native American Duplo figures. Have you ever seen this before? I had not.

Did I mention dinosaurs? There were dinosaurs in there too.

And other animals! Look, a mommy elephant and a baby elephant! Why the mother elephant has a perfectly circular hole in her haunches, I do not know. I suspect poachers.

Plus about a bajillion blocks and figures and train cars and whatnot. I had not realized how much I wanted "1000+ DUPLO BLOCKS" until I laid eyes on 1000+ Duplo blocks and envisioned how freaking cool our lives would be up to our eyeballs in plastic. Hell, we could build a separate bedroom completely out of Duplo! And no, I can't stop saying Duplo! Duplo duplo duplo!

There were still about two days to go on the auction, and so far, there had only been about four bids, the highest of which was $15. Fifteen dollars for 1000+ Duplo? I'd be stupid not to bid, right? I mean, Jesus, imagine winning that haul for $16! It was all very bargain-y and exciting. But if I bid, I had to make sure that I'd win. So I had to pick a high bid that was surely above and beyond what anyone else would want to pay. $35. Surely it would not come to that, for some old used Duplo that scores of kids had probably blown their noses on, but I wanted to be safe. I entered my bid. A little green check mark popped up next to the listing. "You are the current high bidder for this item!" eBay told me, with my current bid of, I don't know, $15.01 or whatever. I felt triumphant. I was WINNING. Now it was just a matter of time before the Duplos were mine.

I checked back in a few hours later. Someone had attempted to parry, place a bid a dollar higher, but I had soundly rebuffed them with my original offer, and the price was now up to $16.99 or something. Fools. Why do they even try? Don't they know I'm willing to pay THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS for these Duplo? Do not fuck with me, durham53, or I will cut you.

The following morning, with less than a day in the auction left to go, I started feeling a little less cocky. I was still winning, but another bidder had come dangerously close to my bid, and now the price was up to $32 for the item. eBay warned me that at this stage, I was in jeopardy of being outbid, so I might want to re-evaluate my upper limit, and possibly place a higher bid. Hmm. More than $35? I didn't really want to spend a lot of money, that was the whole point of me buying crusty used toys on eBay. And yet, I had become somewhat invested in the idea of having these Duplo, and of becoming The World's Coolest Mom. So I nudged up my highest bid somewhat. $45. No, better yet, $46. I was willing to bid up to $46 to acquire these Duplo. Still well below market price for new Duplo, but surely well above what these other jerks were willing to spend. Who were they, anyway? Didn't they know I really really wanted these Duplo? That I would stop at nothing?

Later that afternoon when I checked in, I saw that I wasn't even the winning bidder anymore. Some jackass in Canada had bid $47 and was now winning the auction. "Does he know that he's bidding in American dollars?" I groused grumpily. My co-resident, apparently wise in the ways of eBay, advised me that I should not bid anymore until the very end of the auction, at which time I should swoop in, overbid the highest bidder, and then no one would have a chance to outbid me, because ha ha fuckers, auction over! I told him that this seemed like a sound strategy, although the auction didn't end until 10:45 that night, and I wasn't sure that I could stay up that late. He gave me one of those one-eyebrow raised looks, and I realized that not only was I bidding for Duplo on eBay, but I was basically admitting that I went to bed before 10:00pm every night. I'm AWESOME.

I spend the rest of the night thinking of how much I was really willing to spend for these Duplos. I mean, it was a no-brainer when I thought that I could get all that loot for $16, but now we were talking $50, maybe $60. Was I willing to spend $60 for those Duplo? $61? $75? Where would it end? "This is how they get you," I told Joe. "I bet they plant fake people to overbid the serious customers just to jack up the price."

"Wow, The Browns are going to have a good team this year," he said, clearly not listening to me at all. (He may not have said that, it just seems like something he might say--I wasn't really listening to him either.) But did he understand what was on the line here? Did he see all those Duplo fire engines, the Duplo helicopter? This was 1000+ Duplos! This was unprecedented!

But then, though it took some internal dialogue and discipline, I realized that I should give up the dream. I had already upped my bid beyond what I had originally thought I was willing to pay, and now that the auction was drawing to a close, the bidding action had every indication that the end price was going to skyrocket. And what did we need with 1000+ Duplo anyway? I just coveted it because it was such a uniquely huge collection of Duplo, and I felt obligated the same way I once felt obligated to buy a dress that was marked down from $280 to $39.99, even though part of me knew that I would never wear it, and the reason they marked it down so much was because it was ugly. Anyway, it's not like we're rolling in dough here, and while $20 for Duplo may have been OK, $100 certainly would not be. I deliberately decided not to stay up for the end of the auction, even just to spectate, and went to sleep with a heavy heart.

The next morning, of course I checked the listing first thing. The final price was $150, sold to an eBay customer in the Czech Republic. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS? Dude, the shipping price from the seller in Indiana to the Czech Republic would at least double that price. Were they insane? Were they some sort of crazed Duplo fanatics?