eBay: Watersons in English Folk Records Shock

Facts must be faced – eBay is no longer fit for purpose! It’s been creeping up a long time. Paralysis by incremental 'improvement' is a common form of degradation in the modern world. 

I admit it. I love my folk and I love my vinyl. That might put me in a double minority, but does the persecution have to be so blatant? 

Going to ‘Folk LP Records’ on eBay, the page invites you to ‘shop by sub genre’. Very well. Here is ‘English Folk’ and then there appears to be some sub-sections: ‘Progressive’ and ‘Classic’. This is intriguing because ‘Progressive’ and ‘Classic’ are meaningless, not to say antithetical, in the context of folk music. What will we find? 

A click on ‘Progressive’ offers Roger Chapman, Yes, Atomic Rooster and Horslips. This is very fine but not to our purpose. They’re all CDs too, and we want vinyl. A Watersons LP on Topic isn’t too much to ask, surely?    

What will ‘Classic’ bring? Click click: Patti Smith, Scorpions and Foreigner. Not Vaughan Williams and Elgar, mind. Patti Smith, Scorpions and Foreigner. All are CDs. 

We’re no closer to finding a Watersons LP on Topic. 

Very well, let’s try 'Filter’. This opens a box which gives various options. Ignoring the ‘Genre’ sub-section, which is subdivided into ‘Classical’, ‘Folk’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Pop’ and ‘Rock’ (we’ve been burnt like that before), the top entry promises ‘English Folk LP Records’, ‘American Folk LP Records’ and ‘Other Folk LP Records’. This is more like it. By now I’m prepared to overlook the slight to the Scots and Irish, not to mention everyone in the rest of the world (barring North Americans), for being indiscriminately lumped together as ‘Other Folk’. 

Oh that filter. To find records that might be affordable, it’s necessary to click on ‘Filter’ again and scroll to ‘auction’. The browser directs to suggested artists, specifically Bob Dylan, Earth (Earth? Earth, Wind and Fire?), Leonard Cohen, Live (?) and Love (Arthur Lee’s outfit?). We shall skip these altogether, knowing that some dark corners are left undisturbed. No, the only way bargains can be had on eBay, in my experience, is by this 'auction' facility. To get this we go to ‘Buying Format’ and click on the ‘auction’ option. I’m in ‘Other Folk’, by the way. Aha! An Owen Hand on Transatlantic with a start price of £5! This turns out to be too good to be true. ‘Record and inner sleeve only’. It would be unfair to blame eBay for the disappointment. 

Now one more box needs to be navigated. That’s the box that says ‘Best Match’. This needs to be amended to ‘Ending Soonest’, whereby auction lists appear chronologically, in the order of those ending first. It is a rational way to view. The default setting, ’Best Match’, is another of eBay's meaningless formulations, like Bid now so you can get a deal, which defies comprehension no matter how long you stare at it.

That’s Other Folk LP Records, but we’re still looking for the Watersons on Topic. ‘English Folk LP Records’. The Watersons have always been English Folk. That’s as true as you can make it.

‘English Folk LP Records’, using the ‘auction’ filter gets you… ahem! Neil Young, X Ray Specs, The Orb, Killing Joke, Muse, Kraftwerk... And on and on. These are all CDs by the way. How far before we find something that remotely resembles an English Folk LP? Let’s see… Gary Numan, Nick Cave, Steely Dan… Free, Poulenc, Syd Barrett… Clearly the compilers subscribe to the Louis Armstrong definition: ‘All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song.’

I’m on page 3 now. Virginia Astley’s lovely From Gardens Where We Feel Secure has been issued on CD, I note, and the owner wants £16 for it…  Page 5 comes and goes without a glimpse of a hey-nonny. There’s Pet Shop Boys but no Pentangle, and (here’s a weirdie!) Aleister Crowley but not Alasdair Roberts. I know Alasdair Roberts is Scottish, but he would be a sight for sore eyes right now. By page 10, I’m ready to give up. There are no English Folk LPs in the section ‘English Folk LP Records’. Not only that, there is no folk in ‘English Folk LP Records’. Actually, there are no LPs either. 

Desperate now, I resort to ‘Search for anything’. I key in ‘The Watersons’.  Do I mean ‘the water on’? No, I do not mean ‘the water on’. What have we got? One result for The Watersons with the auction option. This is a turn up! Frost and Fire, has got five days to run and is listed under English Folk Records! I wish seller rockprof30 well, but I fear this lone jewel might be buried under an avalanche of stones. 

Naturally it's impossible to contact eBay and tell them their English Folk LPs are up the creek without a paddle, if they cared. You can report a seller (‘innocent until proven guilty’ doesn't apply to sellers on eBay), but communication with the eBay behemoth is impossible, meaning the site can self-destruct without ruffling corporate complacency. 

Is Discogs any better? I shall soon see. 


2 Responses to "eBay: Watersons in English Folk Records Shock"
  1. gravatar Ant says:

    A long time since I listed anything on eBay - the only thing I ever sold was a Schubert symphonies vinyl boxset which ended up costing much more than my slender profit because, despite the UK-bids-only stipulation, it was won by a South Korean and EBay’s fees are calculated using the total sale - including shipping! From memory the listings’ categories are decided by the seller – if sellers don’t know about what they’re auctioning then eBay could hardly be blamed for their revenue-generators’ ignorance. Like other parasitic businesses, like estate agents, ambulance-chasing lawyers and pay-day loan-sharks, they will do everything in their power to maximise their profit – only if this test is satisfied will they be incentivised to consider eBay clients’ interests. For example, introducing anonymised bidding a few years ago was designed to facilitate price inflation as sellers’ friends could artificially stoke bidding spirals for desirable-but-with-narrow-appeal products - like English folk music – without attracting attention. Furthermore, the feedback system (which gives buyers an unfair advantage) is designed to protect revenue-flow rather than reputations. I don’t buy much on eBay these days – surprisingly little (considering the millions of items on-offer) there for me…

  2. gravatar Mike Butler says:

    Ant, Sure, "the listings' categories are decided by the seller", but I think there must be a full-blown system failure which is directing all these random CDs – all different genres and a different format – to the English Folk LPs category. Go see for yourself. English Folk LPs are in a tiny, tiny minority. I suppose I could try selling a CD by way of fact-finding, but that might have to wait until I get back from Spain. My point is, eBay is no longer fit for purpose. This pains me slightly, but, as you say, there is no earthly reason to feel loyalty to a horrible, rapacious corporation. Remember all those steps they took to block communication between seller and buyer? (Just in case someone somewhere should sell something without them getting their cut.) Greed and incompetence and hubris have put paid to mighty empires in the past. Cliff tells me that Discogs are OK.

Speak Your Mind