As reported by TechCrunch and Slate, perpetual Internet garage sale Ebay will discontinue the Spells & Potions category as part of its 2012 Fall Seller Update. Starting today, no new auctions are permitted in that category (among others), effectively ending the Internet’s trade in little vials of essential oils and food colouring. Among the ersatz conjurations you won’t be able to purchase anymore are potions and incantations promising a real-life (for real and true!) case of lycanthropy, like this one for POWERFUL MAGIC SPELL OF WEREWOLF TRANSFORMATION lycan shapeshift vampire haunted. What a shame.
When asked by Slate to explain its decision, the Ebay PR robot dispensed this non-judgemental pellet:
We want customers to have great experiences on eBay, and we regularly review categories and update policies to deliver the best shopping and selling experience possible. Based on our long-standing policy restricting the sale of intangible items on eBay, we are discontinuing a small number of categories within the Metaphysical category, as transactions in these categories can be difficult to verify and resolve. We believe this update will enhance the experience on eBay and benefit our customers.
Let me summarize that for you: “We’re tired of mediating arguments between snake oil peddlars and fools who have just been parted from their money.”
As someone who has opinions about deliberate charlatanism (and who is open about the unreality of his own “paranormal” wares), I think this is a great move by a company I don’t normally like. Not everyone agrees, though – especially those Ebay sellers who are now scrambling for ways to monetize a guest bedroom full of eyedropper bottles and laser-printed labels. A petition urging Ebay to retract the ban has popped up in the Human Rights (!?) section of GoPetition. I’m not sure how many signatures it’s got, but the number’s probably pretty small, since the “sign petition” button buried at the bottom of a whargarbl stack containing sentences like this:
I am saddened and deeply concerned that eBay’s new policy may appear to some as a form of religious or ideological discrimination against occult and esoteric metaphysical beliefs.
I too am saddened that some people might interpret Ebay’s policy of minimizing bullshit as “religious or ideological discrimination”. I would totally drink a potion to become a werewolf, and I’m not positing or discounting the existence of any particular metaphysical or supernatural phenomenon, but if such things are real, they’re not likely to be forces you can bottle up and sell on Ebay for $25 plus shipping.