The wrong trousers - an eBay phenomenon

He bought them impulse. He never wore them. Then Brian Sack put his DKNY leather trousers on eBay. Three-quarters of a million hits later, a fashion faux pas had achieved worldwide acknowledgement
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The Independent Online

As with all those items we'd like to part with but are loath to throw away, I turned to eBay. I've used eBay for years now, selling nearly 100 items ranging fromcomputers to souvenirs from places I don't remember. eBay has also helped me acquire things ranging from faux pay-telephones to a captured swastika, a regrettable purchase - influenced by Saving Private Ryan - which went from mailbox to closet in under eight seconds.

Having committed to the sale of my leather trousers, I crafted an eBay listing from the heart. As with previous items, I ignored the conventions of advertising - such as not insulting your product - and wrote freely, even suggesting that any buyer might be a freak.

The ad began: "You are bidding on a mistake." Slowly, it explained my case. It was the story of a pointless wooing. Lust over good taste. Of trousers unwanted because I was neither a pirate, Rod Stewart, nor French. After the anti-pitch, the conclusion: "Someone, somewhere, will look great in these pants," I wrote, "I'm hoping that someone is you, or that you can be suckered into buying them by a girl you're trying to bed." The listing went online, and bidding began.

Three hours later came the first nibble: "Are these boot-cut pants and if not what is the width of the bottom of the leg?" Boot cut? What? A day later, someone inquired if I were gay, causing another eBayer to defend me. "If he were gay," said prellis999, "he would know what boot-cut means." Another day. No bids, but compliments. "You should be in stand-up," said pipphoe. "Thank you for making my day."

Although the bids weren't increasing, the number of visitors was. A few dozen soon became a few hundred. Then came one thousand. Two thousand. Three thousand. More. And my first - and only - negative response: "You enjoy stereotyping people that wear leather dont ya, you think owning leather is gay, let me tell you something i am not gay, i am not famous, dont ride a bike, and unlike i aint a coward. i do own 2 pairs of them, to me they are more comfy than blue jeans ever will be, i where them anywhere i want including church, no ones ever said nothing about them".

At first I weighed an angry response, then thought better of it. I'm a marketer. The customer is always right - even if he can't write. And I may want his business in the future. My reply: "More important, are you in the market for 34x34 pants?" After that unpleasantness the closest thing to a confrontation was sylvain356 asking: "What's wrong with the French?" "Nothing, of course!" I wrote back. In French. Lying. "Fabulous ad," said ariendel. "Best listing I've ever read," said momsinmycloset. An eBayer named novenarosary thought I might be her ex-fiancé, positing that the pants were purchased to woo a "little waitress vixen".

By now, several thousand visitors had come to take a look at my trousers. Most weren't interested. Some made comments, and a lot sent e-mails ranging from praise to reminiscences of similar bad purchases or women they also once unsuccessfully wooed. Quite a few women asked me if I was single (my wife says no). After around 13,000 visitors and 22 bids the trousers sold. To a guy in Florida. Which made sense.

But that didn't keep people from coming by. As will happen when two friends tell two friends who tell two more friends, the auction's visitor count exploded: 20,000, 30,000, 40,000. And the e-mails with them. California. Montana. The Netherlands. New Mexico. London. Vancouver. Arkansas. New Zealand. Paris. Tokyo. Thailand. New York. Ireland. Washington - state and district. Norway. Norway? All around the civilised world people were e-mailing the listing to friends and family. "Mate, just wanted to let you know that your pants are doing the rounds all over Australia.... Cheers, Philip." "You are making people laugh the world over," ozbunny23 wrote. "It could be the start of world peace (or not!)." Probably not. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but let's be realistic.

When the counter broke 100,000 I was stunned, and my inbox inundated. I considered an impersonal form response, but dad always said non-creepy folks deserve a proper reply. I decided I wouldn't skimp on the replies, time consuming though it would be. "I'm already married ... saving you from having to tell friends you met your husband on eBay," was my stock response to: "Will you marry me?"There were lots of suggestions that I should get in the sitcom business, unfortunately not from anyone in the sitcom business. Ditto Saturday Night Live. Several recommended I do stand-up. Then came the job offers.

"Your clever writing has piqued the interest of one of the partners at the ad agency where I work," said mischeathen, who asked me to forward his boss a résumé. Other folks wanted creative advice for their companies and websites. "Can I bid on you to write my annual Christmas letter?" asked shhickes.

When the visitor tally reached 200,000 the e-mails were unstoppable and nearing insurmountable. My eBay mailbox informed me of 438 new messages - and eBay limits me to 10 responses a day. The visitor tally went to 300,000. Then 400,000. My favourite e-mails were from those who claimed to be having a bad day until they saw my trousers.

If I were to believe some of the correspondence, my sales pitch resulted in coffee spat on keyboards, one person being fired for wasting time at work and another breaking her arm after laughing so hard she fell off a chair.

Even though the trousers were sold, the visitors keep visiting and the e-mails keep coming. Three-quarters of a million is an old figure. There's no end in sight, either - at least not until 90 days after the sale, when eBay removes expired auctions. Not that I'm complaining. A recent e-mail informed me of the listing's appearance on a CNN website. Another e-mail suggested I write a novel. That was followed by a straightforward, unsettling, offer for sex. Again, my wife says no.

Although the trousers didn't sell for too much - $102.50 (£58.40) after 22 bids - I feel wonderful. My ego's been stroked. I've been inspired. Girls love me. My wife says no. My only worry is if I'll ever be able to make that many people laugh again. Especially when I'm selling an unwanted swastika.

You're pulling my leg: Brian Sack's eBay advert

You are bidding on a mistake. We all make mistakes. We date the wrong people. We say inappropriate things. And we buy leather pants.

I can explain these pants. I bought them many years ago under the spell of a woman. She suggested I try them on. She said they looked good. I wanted a relationship of sorts with her. I'm stupid and prone to impulsive decisions. I bought them.

The pants were placed in the closet where they have remained, unworn, for nearly a decade. I have not worn these leather pants for the following reasons: I am not a member of Queen; I do not like motorcycles; I am not Rod Stewart; I am not French; I do not cruise for transvestites in an expensive sports car.

These were not cheap. They are Donna Karan leather pants. They're for men. Brave men. I'll go so far as to say you either have to be very tough, very gay or very famous to wear these pants and get away with it. They're men's pants, but they'd probably look great on the right lady.

They are size 34x34. I am no longer size 34x34. These pants are destined for someone else. Alas, it is now time to part ways. They are in excellent condition. Someone, somewhere, will look great in these pants. Please buy these leather pants.