The way the National Retail Federation sees it, many average people get "hooked" by the "addictive qualities" of selling items online. So great is this addiction that when people run out of things to sell, the retailers claim, they start stealing to get more.
Thus eBay and other online auction sites are encouraging, and profiting from, crime, the retailers say.
The idea that online auctions are insidiously turning masses of law-abiding citizens into crooks is about as valid as the belief that getting the car washed creates harmonic vibrations in the atmosphere that produce rain.
Undoubtedly some purloined goods end up getting sold online. And sometimes rain does fall after the car is washed. But whether it's autos or online auctions, it is a mistake to assume one thing automatically leads to another.
Nonetheless, traditional retailers are lobbying for federal legislation that would force internet auction services to become internet inquisitors. The auction sites would have to snoop on sellers to sniff out transactions that might involve stolen goods whenever a retailer asked, even if the retailer merely suspected something about an offer was dicey because of a low price.
This would be an impossible burden. Some 112 million items are for sale at online auctions at any given time. And online auctioneers aren't in the best position to catch thieves. Retailers are. Indeed, some half of all retail theft is committed by store employees.
Impossible regulatory requirements should not be used to force eBay and other auction sites into acting as shadow police, interrogating large numbers of sellers about where and how they obtained items listed for sale. eBay is a community that encourages open and honest communication among all its members. Our community is guided by five fundamental values: