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That late night bike purchase

(from our Travels with Guido series #254, May 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Should internet shopping be a grog-free zone? There’s an argument for it

Like a lot of people out there, I’ve become a bit of a fan of online auction sites as a spectator sport. Get to know the language and the culture and you soon unwrap the digital version of street theatre with heroes, villains, along with plots that ravel and unravel before your very eyes, often in real time.

And there’s humour. Like the bloke who revealed that his spouse had noticed he wasn’t riding his bike, “So I’ve decided to put it on the battery charger and get rid of it (the bike, not the wife).”

What intrigues me, though, is the number of times where you see listings pleading with and sometimes even threatening would-be bidders not to get involved unless they actually have the money.

Who bids on an auction when they have no dough? The odds of that much prayed-for lottery win coming through in time are slim in the extreme and I’m struggling to see the attraction in ‘winning’ something you can’t own.

Of course there’s a clear answer: alcohol. I reckon if Australia went fundamentalist and succeeded in dropping booze from our culture, the online auction industry would collapse.

The dangers of a keyboard, a bottle of fighting red and an internet connection all in the same place are clear. Since one or two unfortunate incidents involving email over the years, I’ve made it a personal rule never to email, text or commit to anything via a keyboard after nine in the evening. Even then, my mouth is more than capable of causing enough trouble. Flapping my gums in a bar some time after midnight is how I ended up owning Winston the 1947 Sunbeam…

You can see what goes wrong. Nine at night, you’ve had a couple of glasses and seen the rare 1969 Wundergrunge XYZ750 that you reckon would be a nice addition to the shed. But hey, you can’t afford it – no harm in dreaming about it though.

Ten at night, you’ve had a couple more glasses and you’re pacing out exactly where in the shed you’ll install the Wundergrunge.

By Eleven your true financial genius has come to the fore. On the back of a case, you’ve managed to nut out how to pay for the Wundergrunge. It involves remortgaging the house and maybe selling some less desirable relatives on the black market, but it’s do-able. So you place an outrageous bid, have a celebratory drink or two and stagger off to bed, mightily pleased with yourself.

In the cold light of morning, as the true scale of your hangover just starts to unfold, you get a message on the mobile speaking trumpet: “Congratulations, you’re the leading bidder.” Eh? WTF! As the fog of grog clears, you log in to the site on your third bumbling attempt and relive the full horror of the previous evening. Nothing for it but to hope you’re outbid by some other, even more pissed pauper the following evening, so they can take the heat.

Of course sometimes it can swing your way. I’ve now been asked several times just how ‘Franz Liszt’ I was when I bought Klaus the Clown Fish – clearly I was past the blind stage. Actually I was as sober as the proverbial judge (which may not be saying much) and got it for a song. But I’ve also narrowly missed some very questionable decisions.

You know those alcohol-reading lock-out devices you can get for your car? I reckon I could make a fortune selling them for iPads…


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