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eBay shuts down PTA mom's online auction for the school
By AMBER MOBLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published November 30, 2007
TAMPA - It started innocently enough.
Julie Banks, a parent and PTA member at Deer Park Elementary School in Westchase wanted to make fundraising a little easier for the fifth-grade class, so she set up an account with the online auction site eBay.
The 10-day-long "Deer Park Grade 5 Online Family Bazaar with eBay" started Nov. 17, but when Banks logged on to the account a week later eBay had shut it down.
Even Banks' personal account, one she says she's "had for years" was suspended.
What went wrong?
Well, Banks and another mother bid in their own auction - an eBay no-no according to spokeswoman Catherine England. It's in the user agreement.
An eBay customer for 10 years, Banks said she's well-aware of the policy, but "never connected it" because the Deer Park account had a separate bank account and user ID from her own or that of any other parent involved with the fundraiser, she said.
To prevent "people with intentions that aren't as good" from trying to inflate the prices of their posted items, England said, eBay will track down and shut down accounts involved in suspicious activity.
Worn and weary from school-wide fundraising the year before, Banks said she was trying to find a better alternative to the usual fundraising drives.
"I was trying to think outside of the box, a way to not go out and solicit a ton of businesses, not have the parents trying to buy stuff they don't want to buy, and not pressure the kids and make them feel bad if they didn't sell a lot," she said.
The auction featured more than 30 donated items, everything from baskets full of chocolate and coffee to a life-sized stuffed Spider-Man, along with a 5-foot-long white tiger and a $900 granite countertop donated by a business.
Banks, the mother of three Deer Park students, bid on the countertop.
"I should have that right," she said.
So, all week, Banks has been "writing daily letters to eBay, the CEO, the head of security ..."
To her surprise, "they're actually working with me" to figure out if the fundraiser can continue.
England was doubtful at first.
Sellers who are raising money for a cause must be official non-profits with the paperwork to prove it, she said. "In cases like this, our policy team would have to look at it,but in most situations, we require the paperwork."
Banks held out hope that she could get the fundraiser restarted. And by 8:30 Thursday night, all of Deer Park's items had been re-posted on eBay.
A representative from the company's fraud investigation department called Banks to tell her, "Clearly, it was a human error and not something done with bad intentions," she said.
To view or bid on the items being auctioned by Deer Park Elementary School's fifth-graders on eBay, go to eBay.com. Under advanced search, go to the category of "From Sellers" and type in deerparkgrade5 for the seller name. The auction is scheduled to close Dec. 6.