Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: eBay owes me an apology

Dear eBay Customer Service,

I have a complaint.

Let me preface it by saying that I am fully aware that I’m aging; my mirror and reading glasses remind me multiple times a day. I’m OK with that, in the same way I’m OK with knowing the treads on my tires are wearing down a little with every mile I drive. It’s not ideal, but the change is so gradual I don’t think about it much.

My issue is when people and institutions — now including eBay — ambush me with stark reminders of just how much time has passed since my youth.

In this case, I am referring to my recent order, #5419902. You see, I have a triple window in my new kitchen that I am looking forward to decorating for the holidays. I was toying with the idea of hanging an antique ornament in each of the windows. Cute, right?

Off to eBay I went. And it didn’t let me down. Within just a few minutes on the site, I found what I wanted: “Set of three vintage Christmas ornaments.” They were shaped like pears, each with a foil-like green leaf on its wire stem and a reddish-silver crackle finish. They met my exacting requirements — festive and cheap — so I bought them.

You might think I’m writing to complain about the quality or cost of the items, or the service. No. I’m objecting to the product description, which I didn’t fully read until the moment I clicked “Buy It Now.” These “vintage” ornaments were, according to the text, “made in 1985.”

How dare you.

I’m not accusing eBay of false advertising; for sales purposes, items more than 30 years old are often labeled “vintage.” But you have to understand: In the fall of 1985, I was starting my senior year of high school.

It wasn’t that long ago.

In my mind, “vintage” is pre-World War II. The ornaments my grandmother handed down to me are vintage; those from when I was in school are a little dated, that’s all. I won’t tolerate an eBay vendor boldly stating, even if it’s technically true, that items from my teen years are “vintage.”

I’ve had other similar kicks in the gut. I remember being called “young lady” about a decade ago when it suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t meant sincerely anymore. The gentleman was trying to be kind, but I knew what he was really saying: “Hello, woman who is clearly not a young lady. I figured calling you one might boost your self-esteem, which must be fragile, given the way your chins are looking.”

Last year I was told by a pregnant millennial woman that she was leaning toward girls’ names like Ida and Charlotte. When I said, “Old-fashioned names are making a comeback,” she looked at me, confused. “But those aren’t old-fashioned names,” she said. “Old-fashioned names are ones like Lisa and Debbie and Wendy.”

I don’t think I slept four hours that night.

Just last week, something startled me and I joked, “I’m coming, Elizabeth. This is the big one!” My daughter asked, “Who’s Elizabeth?” Ouch. What I see as common pop culture references my kids see as things that happened hundreds of years ago that nobody cares about.

I get it, eBay Customer Service: It’s not just you. But your careless terminology is making me feel like a museum piece.

To me, 1985 is like yesterday. It was the Christmas I got a pair of Guess jeans but not the Swatch or the magenta Firenze sweater I had begged for.

It was a time of pudding pops, which we liked because of Bill Cosby, not in spite of him.

It was the year New Coke was introduced. I remember the uproar; our crazy old neighbor lady, in a panic, hoarded dozens of cases of original Coke. (Looking back, I now realize she was in her early 30s.)

All I want, eBay, is for you to think of those of us who know we’ve aged but who still feel connected to our high school selves. By using the word “vintage,” your vendors are forcing us to confront just how long ago high school was. I won’t have it. And I’m not saying that just because I’m bitter about getting old.

One more thing: Please consider making your site’s default text size two points larger. As you made sure to point out, I’m not 17 anymore.

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