Bit of fun turns into $10,000
In my recent post about eBay Motors, I recounted the story of a seemingly worthless car that sold for over $226,000. But this next story is bizarre. What turned out as a sarcastic but funny prank ended up being worth $10,000.
The original story did the rounds over the last few weeks. I must admit, I laughed reading it. I’m sure some people frown on this behavior, just as they dislike Crank Yankers and Jerky Boys; but in my opinion, it’s worth a chuckle.
You can read the thread here, to the very right, but basically a guy called David Thorne sent a .gif drawing of a seven-legged spider as payment instead of the $233.95 his account was overdue. The gag became a conversation that ended, hilariously, with the customer service representative sending .gif drawing back to David at his request. This is, of course, ridiculous.
Great gag. Funny outcome. End of story. Or so I thought. Then I found out that a “friend” of David’s put his “original” .gif drawing on eBay at a starting price of $233.95 – the exact amount David owed. Here’s part of the auction copy:
This fine piece of 7-legged spider by artist David Thorne is now for sale. It was originally used in a payment attempt for a bill, but was sadly refused. However, this spider is driving me nuts. Also he's lacking a leg and thus is useless to me. I now offer you to buy this fine piece of spider for the original price set my the artist David Thorne himself. At $233.95 this should be considered a bargain for the original drawing in this Internet meme! Buy this spider and you will receive the original spider mail attachment as sent by author David Thorne. I will donate some of the money for American Breast Cancer Foundation.
What a nice touch, even if it didn’t sell it was a fun way to end the gag (the donation to a charity is also a great addition). But it did sell; and for many times more than the starting bid. $10,000 for a .gif file that anyone could own for free simply by dragging the picture to their desktop. It’s wonderful. And weird.
As it turns out, the winning bidder has no intention of paying up. A fascinating interview with David gives an insight into the whole affair, from his website to his view on the Internet as a whole. Here’s what he had to say about the $10,000 bid:
“The drawing remains unclaimed. Patrick, the person who made the winning bid of $10,000 rang me after the story made the news and we have had a good laugh over the attention it raised and been in contact via email since. The Swedish man who posted the spider on eBay has also been in constant contact. The people involved have simply been using the internet as a playground and I always approve of this. I have made some interesting online friends over the last week.”
Is there more to this though? After all, no-one really made any money from it. Well, there is. And as an advertiser, it’s something I try and create on a daily basis. It’s called buzz. This is literally making something out of nothing. The spider itself is worthless as we all know. But the comical aspect of it all, and the Internet fame that went with it, generated worth from worthlessness. It become valuable. It become an asset.
In the same way that a piece of paper is worth a fraction of a cent until signed by a pop star or famous actor, the story behind this is valuable. It has generated press (including this article) all over the world. It has made David Thorne a name being muttered by many lips. And it has brought many hundreds of thousands of new visitors to David’s site. He achieved more with a silly letter than an expensive, slick ad campaign could ever have done.
If you have a blog, or a personal website, or even a small business, getting the word out is essential. Finding a cheap (or free) way to get people talking about you is the name of the game here. Think about that next time you’re printing up flyers, or paying for Google Ads. Is there another way to create buzz? Is there something you can do that could generate a real frenzy on the web? This “viral” marketing is not only effective, it’s fun. It could mean the difference between one thousand visitors to your site one day, and one million the next. And those visitors can translate into real dollars.