Smoking, drinking, and eBaying: a terrible combination, inevitably leading to utter moral decay and godlessness. Ahem. Don’t blame me, my dad’s a preacher. But these three do lead, if not entirely inevitably, to being shit broke. And, forgive me, I’m going to use Neopets to illustrate why.

If you’ve ever played one of the many and varied games of luck out there, you’ll have experienced that feeling of “Oh, I haven’t won yet, but I’ll just have one more go”. I first encountered this on, yes, Neopets; at about the age of fourteen – with a vaguely important twist. When playing whichever thinly-veiled rip-off of a common game like minesweeper (Armada, simplified Go; Go! Go! Go!, not much simplified Shithead; Faerie Fart Fun, simplified… disdain) is the taste of the day, that feeling is slightly different – “Oh, I haven’t won yet, but I’ll just have one more go – it only costs ten NeoPoints, and if I win I get three hundred!”.

Then, of course, the longer you play it, the more frustrated you are with losing, and thus the more determined you are to win – and the easier it is to justify hitting “Play Again” one more time; after all, every time you lose, you become “statistically more likely” to win (ahem): and that button is just sitting there – so immediate, so inviting. Just a couple more clicks…

…and before you know it, you’ve wasted five hours, and are left feeding your Neorats on free colon omelette from the Pathetic Poogle’s Poverty Plateau. Or something.

Hopefully that sounds vaguely reminiscent of the renowned trap of gambling. But what does it have to do with eBay?

Most people know roughly how eBay works, but perhaps not so many have tried to sell something on it. I first experienced this joy a short time ago, deciding that keeping old textbooks was bad enough, but keeping old textbooks which I have two copies of is just silly. There is a small charge for listing items on eBay – the exact amount varies based on what you’re trying to sell. In this case, it was 10p.

So, I cheerfully wrote up my description, took my pictures, undercut the cheapest seller with the same book by a quid, paid my 10p listing fee; and waited. And waited. After two weeks, I received an email informing me that Time Was Up, and my listing had expired. But good news! I could relist with just one click of a button, and if the book sold, I wouldn’t have to pay another 10p!

It must have been rather a speedy though process which informed me, in less than twenty seconds, that 10p isn’t much and I might not have to pay it, that two listings is twice as likely to result in a sale as one, that it had been far too long since I was last good at maths, and that it was only one link to click. Then my inner teenager popped up and went “They told you to click! Screw them! You’re not doing it!”.

I almost clicked the Play Again button… almost.