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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Selling a Royal Enfield motorcycle on eBay:
Why offend the world in the process?

Selling a Royal Enfield motorcycle on the Internet creates the likelihood that your ad will be seen by people around the world.

You may not want to sell your motorcycle outside your own country, but that's no reason to take a chance that your wording may offend someone needlessly. Hang it, it's just not polite, even if you pride yourself on plain speaking.

Here's the wording from one Royal Enfield motorcycle ad, now long expired:
"I see no reason to sell this bike internationally as I am suspicious of bidders from dirty little countries who could find this very bike for a third of the price and avoid paying shipping that rivals three times the per capita income of people living in hell holes who would like nothing more than to see our country in flames. In other words, don’t try to pull a scam, overseas bidders. Thanks for looking and GOD BLESS AMERICA!"
Judging from the rest of his ad, this seller was trying to be funny. He used a light tone throughout, and even accused himself of being the sort of guy who "has been known to cuss in front of children."

His purpose was not to offend, but to scare off the sort of would-be thieves who open their pitch with an offer to buy a motorcycle that, logically, would be of no interest to them.

But the message, as written, was offensive. I emailed the seller to suggest that he consider toning down the wording of his ad, since it read more harshly than he probably intended.

I didn't expect a pleasant response. No one likes criticism, especially from strangers, eBay doesn't forbid expression of opinions and I have business of my own to mind.

To my pleasant surprise, the seller took my suggestion and removed the paragraph. That generous action really renewed my faith in the community of people who use the Internet with good intentions.

We might not agree on everything, but I would shake that fellow's hand any day.


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