Bag of Air Goes Big on eBay

As mentioned in class last week, auctions are most appropriate when the value of a good is unknown. That has become even more clear to me after reading that a bag of air from Kobe Bryant’s last professional basketball game was being sold on eBay. The price of the bag started at $1.00, but ascended to $15,000. It’s likely that the bid would’ve continued to grow, as it only stopped because the good was removed from the site altogether on Sunday, but other similar, but less outlandishly expensive bags were scattered over the site on Monday.

Several reports by local news or sports media have commented on the absurd price of the bag of air and questioning the people who are bidding on the item. Although I agree with the ridiculousness of a bag of air from a game costing more than it could have to actually be there, I am (hopefully) chalking this up to a scam, especially because it was removed. However, I started to think about the psychological aspects of an auction.

In class we have talked about strategies for certain types of auctions…but how often do people follow these rational conclusions? It may be logical to bid honestly or shade a bid, but how often is this clear logic trumped by irrational factors? For example, the last game of Kobe Bryant’s career adds an indescribable element to merchandise sold in his honor, raising people’s willingness to pay. Moreover, competitiveness, other people’s desires of goods, the evaluation of a public audience, and other possible factors could really affect someone’s ability to follow proper reasoning of bidding in auction.

How often do people walk away feeling like they got caught up in the auction and overpaid? If the bag of Kobe’s air were true and had not been taken down off of eBay, I am sure the highest bidder would’ve felt this way.

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