Wear, what, why, when?

They say the first step in tackling any addiction is admitting you have a problem. So here's a confession: right now, I have 12 windows open in my internet browser. They're all eBay.

It's mostly clothes – not seasonal must-haves or anything approaching basics, but things like vintage Vivienne Westwood velvet tricornes, baroque Christian Lacroix jewellery, an odd segue into Eighties Krizia intarsia sweaters. There's also some Memphis ceramics, and a clutch of The Face magazines from 1997.

You see, eBay is my addiction. Well, not so much an addiction as a source of items I didn't know I needed yet. That's the crux of the issue: they become not wants but needs, psychologically, at least.

It's a tricky business – eBay is kind of like another country. There's a special language, full of odd punctuation and misleading cadences. Type in “Celine” and you're confronted not with a secondhand array of Phoebe Philo's greatest hits, but with Celine Dion memorabilia, dodgy bras and fusty handbags from the house's 1980s incarnation.

In fact, eBay is more of a cult. There are certain rites and rituals that must be performed daily, or you risk… well, you risk missing out. I still groan slightly when I think of the vintage 1987 Gaultier epaulettes that evaded me back in 2006, or that leather Bottega Veneta scarf in virulent cerise I failed to nab in 2003. I still search for them daily.

So you pay homage, keying in the mantras that seem cryptic to all but the initiated: “Christopher Kane – Topshop – 'Galaxy T-shirt' NWT BIN.” Looks like gobbledegook, but eBay-ites realise I'm looking for Christopher Kane, with the exclusion of his Galaxy T-Shirt or his Topshop ranges. NWT means “New With Tags”. BIN means “Buy it Now,” allowing you to snag it before bidding even begins.

I'm not a “BIN” fan, myself. Maybe it's a latent competitive spirit – I was dreadful at PE, but eBay brings out my killer instinct, holding out until the final few moments to place a bid so ludicrously high it can ensure me victory. eBayers call it “Sniping” – redolent of SAS snipers on rooftops, and also snide. Which it certainly is.

You have to play dirty if you want to win.