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Selling Absinthe on Ebay - A Mystery
by Dokmai
Oct 2003
By April, 2003 I had accumulated a very large collection of absinthe from around the world and decided to sell it. I listed it on eBay. The auction included a photo of all the bottles together, then small groupings of bottles by country or color. I described what absinthe was and why the auction was priced as high as it was.

The auction lasted for perhaps a day before eBay removed it. They sent me a form letter about how "drug paraphernalia" was not allowed on eBay. The letter didn't discuss any sort of punishment or repercussions so I chose to simply relist the auction and again eBay removed it same reason drug paraphernalia. I believe this happened three or four times when suddenly I received an email explaining that they were suspending my account for 30 days because of the listing.

In the meantime, there appeared to be a dozen or so people who regularly sold absinthe on eBay and who also did not appear to have their auctions yanked or their accounts suspended. Each of these auctions contained what I believed to be a set of "magic words" that appear to have been written by a lawyer. These "magic words" describe why it is not against eBay's rules to sell absinthe on eBay.

The magic words are as follows:

eBay NOTICE: The sale of collectible containers will be permitted so long as ALL of the following are met:
  • The value of the auctioned item is in the collectible container, not its contents.
  • The auction description should state that the container has not been opened
  • That any incidental contents are not intended for consumption.
  • WE CONFIRM THAT THIS IS SO. THIS IS A SEALED AND UNOPENED CONTAINER. CONTENTS OF THIS BOTTLE ARE NOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF CONSUMPTION. PLEASE DO NOT CONSUME THE CONTENTS OF THIS BOTTLE.
  • The item must not be available at any retail outlet (this must be stated in the auction), and the container must have a value that substantially exceeds the current retail price of the alcohol in the container.
  • Sellers should take steps to ensure that the buyer of these collectibles is of lawful age in the buyer and seller's jurisdiction (generally 21 years old).
  • The buyer needs to be at least 21 years of age at the end of this auction.
  • Buyers and sellers must ensure that the sale complies with all applicable laws and shipping regulations in carrying out the transaction.
  • CONTENTS OF THIS BOTTLE ARE NOT FOR THE PURPOSE CONSUMPTION. PLEASE DO NOT CONSUME THE CONTENTS OF THIS BOTTLE

    THE FOLLOWING AUCTION COMPLIES WITH ALL LISTED EBAY RULES AND POLICIES!!
If you go to eBay ANYTIME you can search for "absinthe bottle" and see a dozen or more regular absinthe sellers who include this magic text in their auction.

In October of 2003 I decided to try to sell an individual bottle of absinthe. I used the "magic words" as they appear above. Within minutes of my listing the ad somebody had purchased the absinthe using "buy it now."

I listed again for another bottle same language. Within 24 hours the auction was gone and my account was cancelled. Several hours later I received an email notifying me that my account was suspended for no less than 120 days after which I could petition to have it reinstated. The reason for my suspension was the sale of "drug paraphernalia."

I replied with a heartfelt message pointing out the several thousand dollars per month in non-absinthe sales I generate through eBay, the several thousand dollars per month I spend on useless crap on eBay, the fact that I am a "PowerSeller" and particularly the fact that the absinthe selling situation is very, very confusing.

Why, I asked, are there people who sell enough absinthe to make a living on eBay without having their auctions cancelled and their accounts suspended. Since I used the magic words this time, why was I suspended? I asked if they could identify with the confusion from my point of view and cut me some slack. The told me that when they reinstated my account after my first suspension in April I promised at that time never to try to sell absinthe on eBay. (I don't remember doing so, but it is entirely possible that I did.) The form letter they used referred to their "absinthe policy" which doesn't seem to be posted anywhere. They also addressed me as "Dear Absinthe" in their form letter. hehe

Unfortunately they would not budge on the 120 day suspension. In the meantime, absinthe continues to sell like firecrackers on the 4th of July. I find the situation to be very mysterious.