I have used eBay for a very long time, and I’ve seen the features and interface of the site slowly evolve during that time. As it has become increasingly popular and one of only a couple of major portals on the internet where it’s possible to sell items to a large market, the blatant abuse of its position has become apparent even to casual users.

This hit home fiercely for me tonight when I tried to make a listing and found that I could not turn off Paypal as an accepted payment option. Historically you’ve been able to disable it by unchecking the appropriate box, but that box no longer exists. I searched and hunted for a way to turn it off, and couldn’t find one. I searched on Google and eBay’s help centre but found nothing except outdated articles that referred me to account options that seemingly no longer exist.

Eventually I realised, as I tried for the 5th time to submit my listing, that the following error was appearing:

To ensure security on the eBay marketplace, it is now mandatory for all listings to offer PayPal as a payment method. Enter a valid email address in order to receive payments.

Let’s examine this for a minute. Since eBay acquired Paypal some years ago, it has become forcefully more integrated with eBay’s main site. This worked out great for eBay, as they make a fee + percentage for item listings, and then another fee + percentage for accepting payments via Paypal.

Sellers who didn’t like this double-profit practice could simply decide not to accept Paypal, and instead demand cheques, or point buyers to one of the now barely seen alternative online payment providers, like Nochex or Bidpay, the latter of which is now defunct.

But consider the gravity of the statement above, eBay now won’t let you not accept Paypal. If you list on eBay, buyers have to be able to use Paypal to pay, and since the site is cunningly constructed to funnel you into instantly paying via Paypal, this will mean that a whole load of sellers will unwillingly have an automatic ‘transaction fee’ cut from their payments, and go straight into eBay’s pocket. The guise of doing it for ‘security’ is just fucking laughable. eBay and Paypal are so exploitable for scammers that it can be a real misery for both legitimate buyers and sellers who meet their scamming counterparts. I could vent a good couple of spleens on an article about the unchecked and well practiced scams that are possible on eBay, but it would just be another cherry on the giant turd pie.

I own lots of domain names, usually because I’ve had an idea for something one day and registered it on a whim. If I haven’t followed through with whatever those ideas were I often let the name drop. If a domain name I want is already taken I shrug my shoulders and move on with my life.

I never really understood the practice of ‘Domainers’, the people who scan the the daily ‘drop list’ of expiring domain names in the hopes of finding something ‘valuable’. All of the inverted commas for these terms demonstrate my dubious regard for this practice. It’s fair to assume that all common names for popular domains were taken long ago, so if something is taken you just pick a unique variation and roll with it.

A name by itself doesn’t make something popular. ‘YouTube’ is one of the most stupid conjuction of words I’ve ever seen. A lot of others are highly generic words, but in no way are they inherant brand names that’ll ensure success of a related product. Even if you owned ‘computer.com’, would you really think to go there before another PC website?

Well, you wouldn’t. ‘computer.com’ is just a website filled with ads, like so, so many other generic domain names. Since it doesn’t come up on any google search for ‘computer’, you do really wonder what the point of it is. Of course, there will be some ad revenue. Weirdly curiously people will go there and possibly click ads which then generate money for the owners. Despite not being linked from anywhere significant, and not coming up in searches for anything to do with computers, it probably relies entirely on the (probably thousands) of people a day who wonder what is on computer.com.

You’re also holding on to the hope that someone, somewhere, will want to buy the name off you. That will never happen either, as your perception of its worth runs into millions of pounds that nobody wants to pay. Not really – why would they? Even if you were a giant, giant computer company, why would you care to have computer.com? It wouldn’t add any value to your brand, and it would just be a waste of money.

Meet Kevin Ham, he has 300,000 domain names and he WANTS YOURS TOO

Kevin Ham has 300,000 domain names and he WANTS YOURS TOO

So these domains sit there, for years and years offering nothing but adverts, clutched by the owners for the trickle of ad revenue and the hope that the ‘inherant’ value of a generic name will some day be realised by someone stupid enough to part with the money.

But I am digressing heavily.

About a week ago I received an email from a spam-merchant, telling me that a .com variant of a domain that I own the .net and .org’s for wasn’t being renewed, and that for a fee he would try to obtain it for me.

Let me back up by explaining what happens to a .com domain when you don’t renew it. For 30 days after the renewal date, there is a grace period in which the registrant can wake up and pay the fee for the renewal. After those 30 days, it is still possible, for another 30 days, to get the name back but it is slightly harder and usually requires extra fees.

If the registrant is still nowhere to be found, details from the domain’s whois record start dissapearing quickly, and 75 days after the renewal date, the domain’s status is changed to ‘pendingDelete’.

This is where things really start cooking, because 5 calendar days after this, the domain is deleted and becomes publically available once again. Just to clarify what is meant by ‘5 days’, as lots of people seem confused, it is five full days after the domain’s status has been updated to ‘pendingDelete’. So if the whois record was updated on, say, the 15th of the month, 5 days after this would be the 21st.

The time on that day that it drops is also very important. Names on the droplist start becoming available from 2pm EST (that’s 7pm UK), and it takes two hours to work through the list. So it becomes a race of people hammering the whois database for the second that a name becomes fair game.

Lots of individuals are at it, but its very hard to compete with the big three registrars that provide droplist services – Enom, Snapnames, and Pool.com. The trouble with checking the whois record of a domain is that if you do it too often, the IP address of the checking computer will become temporarily banned. This is a problem for the individual, but for large registrars with farms of servers and hundreds of addresses it’s a fun monopoly. You simply can’t compete.

But then again, they’d only be trying to get the domain in the first place for one of two reasons. One, someone has paid them to try to nab it (where the highest bidder wins), or two, the registrar demonstrates what can only be called utterly fucking bastardry, by registering the domain for themselves and then auctioning it off.

This is fairly common practice. Registrars can nab domains at the point they become available and hold them for 5 days at no charge. During this time they can auction it off or sell it to whoever wants it. After the 5 days, if nobody has bought it, it will drop again and in theory then becomes available to the public. Except for a small loophole, because if a registrar so chooses, they can simply re-acquire it at the point it drops and hold it for another 5 days. This can continue indefinitely to the point where an expired domain is held for months by a speculative registrar (or an individual with the resources to acquire domains at speed and in this fashion) without it ever being fully registered. Because of the zero cost involved, and an apparent unwillingness by ICANN to close the loophole, individuals like you and I are basically fucked if a registrar decides the domain you want might be worth something after all.

Since registrars provide registration services to individuals, you are trapped. There is nothing you can do, and it’s tough luck. Your only hope is that the name you want is important to you but irrelevant to everyone else. As I have just discovered, even running searches on the name you want, even if it is not currently available, is enough to tip-off the registrar of its potential worth.

Anyway, back to my story. This guy emails me offering to acquire the .com of this domain name. I don’t even respond, because domainers and spammers can get to fucking fuck. While it would be vaguely satisfying and nice to have a ‘full set’ of TLDs for a particular name, I’m not going to spend a penny above the standard registration price, nor will I be drawn in and convinced I really need something that will have no bearing on my other websites whatsoever.

Mind you, I’ll still grab the name if its out there, and so I decide to set up a simple script that, at 2pm EST on the day the domain gets deleted, will whois the database and email me the minute it becomes available, or rather, it will email me when the whois record dissapears. At which point I planned to rush to my registrar (Enom) and get in my registration.

Except it didn’t happen that way. At 2pm on the dot the name I wanted was deleted from the database, but instantaneously picked up by someone else. Who could this be? In reality, there are so few people that would want this name to start with that I can’t believe someone might have paid an over-the-odds fee to acquire it using a dropping service.

But I don’t think this has happened. When I whois the domain now, I get this (name removed):

[Querying whois.internic.net]
[Redirected to whois.enom467.com]
[Querying whois.enom467.com]
[whois.enom467.com]
Domain not found. Code FW-1: DOMAINIWANTED.COM was not found in our system.

Now then, this is very interesting. It means the domain has not been registered by someone else otherwise I’d be looking at their registration data. I tried to find out what ‘Code FW-1’ means, but I can’t find anything explanatory on the web anywhere. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right place.

My best guess is that this is what happens when a registrar procures a name for itself for the aforementioned 5 day period. My suspicion is that Enom have seen my searches for the name on its system over the past few days and decided it might be worth something. As such, I’d never have had a chance of registering it first as Enom would have blocked me and acquired it for themselves before I even got to the checkout.

This is quite cunning, really. In the event I’m not the only one who wants the name, they’ve now got the opportunity to try and auction it off during the 5 day (or possibly infinite) holding period before they release it again. Based on this highly dishonest business practice, I can only assume that Enom would never sell domain names for the piffiling standard registration fee, and instead would seek to hold all names hostage in an effort to make the most money.

It doesn’t surprise me that ‘domainers’ exist. I consider it fairly cretinous to attempt to acquire something purely for the chance to sell it again at some rip-off price. It’s essentially domain-touting and anyone who’s ever been to a music gig knows how well regarded touts are. Generally you’d just wish they’d fuck off so you can buy what you want at a fair price. It’s the very worst kind of profiteering.

In this vein, I received another email from another spam-worthy fuckbag, informing me that they were going to sell the domain in question in ‘approximately 3 days time’ and if I wanted to buy it I should register my interest by clicking the following link. It’s the height of arrogance to purport to be selling a name that hasn’t even expired yet. Clearly they’re trying to determine the level of my desperation for this quiet little name ahead of time, despite the fact that I could, in theory, acquire it myself and cut out these fucking middle-men.

So, the domain is in limbo. Nobody has registered it, but nor can I acquire it. Should it sell to someone else I won’t be terribly bothered as the other variations of it that I own I don’t use heavily anyway. I should point out that I acquired those in the first place as a result of a bored domain search one day. It really isn’t a heavily desired name, and I can only assume that Enom are hoping I’m some kind of desperate fanatic who will pay ridiculous price for a name I don’t need.

I’m not. Updates on the outcome of this fateful domain will follow 🙂

Update:

The domain whois has now updated, to this:

Administrative Contact:
c/o eNom, Inc. on behalf of eNom, Inc. Customer
TBD eNom Customer TBD eNom Customer (legal@enom.com)
+1.4252744500
Fax: +1.4259744795
Correspondence can be sent to:
c/o eNom, Inc. 2002 156th Avenue NE
Bellevue, WA 98007
US

Technical Contact:
c/o eNom, Inc. on behalf of eNom, Inc. Customer
TBD eNom Customer TBD eNom Customer (legal@enom.com)
+1.4252744500
Fax: +1.4259744795
Correspondence can be sent to:
c/o eNom, Inc. 2002 156th Avenue NE
Bellevue, WA 98007
US

Registrant Contact:
c/o eNom, Inc. on behalf of eNom, Inc. Customer
TBD eNom Customer TBD eNom Customer ()

Fax:
Correspondence can be sent to:
c/o eNom, Inc. 2002 156th Avenue NE
Bellevue, WA 98007
US

Status: Active

Name Servers:
dns1.name-services.com
dns2.name-services.com
dns3.name-services.com
dns4.name-services.com
dns5.name-services.com

So, it appears the domain has been acquired on behalf of a customer. This may mean that someone has indeed used the name dropping service to pay a price over the odds for the name, or that this is just what Enom does when it’s setting up a domain to be auctioned off. I’ll only know if the name is updated with a Real Person’s name, or when this pops up in an Afternic auction.

Very upsettingly my tumble dryer decided to start smoking in an unhappy ‘I’m about to set on fire if you don’t turn me off’ kind of way on Tuesday night. After going out and buying another one, this time with 3 years warranty, I’ve decided to sell my old tumble dryer on eBay.

The fact that it’s broken should not put people off, as I’ve tried very hard to make the listing appealing. It has so far generated many questions from interested parties.

It was either this or get the council to come and pick it up for free.

I’ve been ill this week, which always pisses me off as I’m usually as fit as a fiddle. The only thing that really puts me down is tonsilitus which despite having had them removed, still seems to get me.

I pride myself on my general health, and while watching the awesome show Booze Britain, it occured to me how many risky things I don’t do. This is not an exhaustive list and other things might occur to me later.

  1. I don’t smoke. I never have, and by that I mean I’ve never so much as taken a single drag from a cigarette in my life. This seems to be pretty rare. I attribute this to basic intelligence and also the fact that my father’s mother died of lung cancer when I was 5. I was thence told that ‘smoking kills you’ which assimilated completely into my mind. Oddly, I don’t even have any friends who smoke regularly, and prior to July 1st 2007 I avoided smokey pubs. Even now people flaunting the smoking laws (particularly on train stations, where there’s no fucking attempt at enforcement) infuriate the shit out of me.
  2. I’ve never taken drugs. Before you pedantic wankers start talking about prescription drugs then yes, obviously, I have taken legal, tested medication. Just this week I’ve been knocking back ibruprofen at least two or three times a day. This is on (historical) doctor’s advice and has no detrimental effects (within reason, obv.). Obviously I’ve never smoked weed, or taken any other kind of pill or illegal stimulant of any kind. Again, the ‘drugs can kill you’ speech early on in life stuck pretty easily.
  3. I don’t lie around in the sun whenever it comes out. If I’m forced to be out in harsh sunlight for more than 30 minutes I’ll wear high-factor protection. I don’t really fancy skin cancer, or even if that’s considered nominal, I know that burnt skin is a pretty crap alternative.
  4. I’m clean. I shower thoroughly once a day. I clean my teeth, I floss. I wear clean clothes, I change my sheets. I hoover, tidy, and keep a reasonable standard of cleanliness where I live. I’m certainly not getting infected by anything from my house. I don’t touch public toilet taps, door handles, etc. and I always wash my hands thoroughly. I’ve never had food poisoning.

    The classic game of world domination

    Risk: Not always a classic game of world domination.

  5. I drive properly, pay attention, and I don’t take any needless risks in the car just to get a further 50ft down the road, like a lot of people seem to. I don’t rev the bollocks off my car. I’ve never been in a traffic accident.
  6. I don’t really drink. As a foolish student I used to drink a lot, although I can count the number of mind-spinningly-can’t-move-can’t-think drunk occasions on less than two hands. Since Uni finished I barely touch anything. I might have a couple of glasses of wine, or the odd pint. It’s pretty rare and I’m really not the kind of person who ‘gets beer in’ on a weekly basis. The last time I bought a crate of stella (for a party) the leftovers remained in my cupboard for months. I’ve never had a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or any significant waterwork problems.
  7. I don’t have any tattoos. Apart from considering them a symptom of self-esteem issues (sorry, tattoo friends), I’m not at risk of skin infections or looking stupid in 5 years time when I get bored of the whatever fanciful thing I decided to stain on myself for life.
  8. I have no piercings. Much like #7, no infection/looking stupid risk. Each to their own, but it’s not for me.

There are so many small things I don’t do (and don’t miss doing) that substantially reduce my risk of all kinds of health-related woes. I’m not especially paranoid about my health, I just generally avoid the things that are empirically shown to be bad, or risky.

This week I didn’t even bother to approach my NHS doctor. It would have taken 2 days to get the appointment (they’re shit around here), at which point I’d probably have been prescribed ibruprofen and some antibiotics. There was no point doing this, as after 2 days of tonsilitus flare-up, you’re at the worst of it and it’ll only start to get better from that point onwards whether you get drugs or not. You’re also not supposed to take antibiotics regularly as it reduces their effectiveness.

I’ve decided to have a crack at applying to BUPA. Just experimentally, I wonder if my self-proclaimed healthy lifestyle is enough to make my membership an affordable affair. Like any kind of insurance it’s based on risk, and my family is genetically healthy. Alright, a couple of grandparents have died of cancer (smoking-related) and there’s one heart attack (lifelong chronic gambler), but otherwise I’m a pretty prime candidate.

The one thing I can’t smugly dance about is my BMI. I’m sure they’ll ask my height and weight which will punch out a BMI figure several points on the side of overweight. What with the whole ‘obesity epidemic’ and related risks (fatty liver, heart disease, etc.) that’ll be a harsh blow against me, fat shit that I am.

So, I’ll postpone this experimental application unless I can shed a few pounds (I’m already on the case) and I’ll report on the results in a follow-up. How cheap is private healthcare to a person who is actually all-round healthy? I was given the idea by a (somewhat rich cunt of a ) mate of mine who leads a similarly healthy lifestyle and he pays £27 a month. He’s also quoted awesome examples of the instant, professional service he’s had on the occasions he actually needed help with something. Since I appear to be getting tonsilitus 2-3 times a year, is something I could do with.

£30 a month is certainly a lot less than other people spend on fags and booze, so the question really becomes how can you not afford it?