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The state of Pennsylvania has shut down the eBay business of Mary Jo Pletz, who started the endeavor so she could earn money at home while caring for daughter, who had developed a brain tumor.

Not content with merely running her out of business, state officials are also prosecuting her. One inspector who visited her home threatened that they were "drawing a line in the sand."

Her crime?  Selling goods on the Internet without an "auctioneer's license." Weirdly, they're also threatening to take away her dental hygienist's license.

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  1. Would someone please kill these motherfuckers so I can see it in the paper and laugh?

  2. I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you DO NOT… Also, Dude, eBay merchant is not the preferred nomenclature. Auctioneer, please.

  3. Sturla has proposed the bill to create the electronic auctioneer’s license. The license would require the Internet seller to buy a $5,000 bond for about $40 a year. This would protect consumers, he said.

    Riiiiight. It’s to protect consumers. Really, think about the children.

  4. Lets do all we can to make it impossible for anyone to conduct business. That sure will help the economy and increase tax revenues.

  5. “How dare you make money without us regulating you into oblivion first!”

    Good grief… I’d love to hear the justification of what public good this sort of vendetta against commerce is serving.

  6. So Radley, are you now teaming up with Brian to create double the outrage?

  7. Good grief… I’d love to hear the justification of what public good this sort of vendetta against commerce is serving.

    Loss of tax revenue gained from the “other guy”, what more need be said? As long as it’s the “other guy”, people will stand in line to sign up for it, not realizing their turn as the “other guy” will be coming soon.

  8. Fallon, 61, said an auctioneer offered to represent him for a commission of $1 per sale so that he could keep his business. “It’s like the buggy-whip manufacturer’s deciding whether these newfangled automobile manufacturers can do it without a buggy-whip license,” he said.

    Actually, it is exactly like that. I’m just surprised that the state didn’t send a SWAT team after this…. this…. capitalist.

  9. This is a really sad story. But I do have a great idea for an economic stimulus package. Have the fucking government get out of the fucking way.

  10. ChuckG,

    Good idea — though technically that’s more of a depressant removal than a stimulus.

  11. Talk about retarded. If I take merchandise to an auction, I don’t get up and sell it; the auction house does. Ms. Pletz is at most the consigner. eBay conducts the auction according to strict rules that include sanctions for consigners and bidders alike, if they pull shady deals. AFAIK there’s absolutely no need for state regulation.

    OTOH I lived in Pennsylvania for a very long year. They regulate everything, and do so incompetently. In the years I spent moving around following a Veterans Administration job it was the only state I moved in and out of that lost a car title. PA managed, in separate incidents, to lose both of mine, and forced me to pay for their replacement.

  12. Barry Fallon, in the Harrisburg area, is the only other person in Pennsylvania to face an investigation for selling on eBay without an auctioneer’s license, according to officials. He closed his three-employee iSold It franchise store after the investigator showed up last year.

    From Ronald Reagan’s inaugural address, January 20, 1981

    …government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

    But he was an idiot cowboy who didn’t undertstand the subleties of governing.

  13. I’d love to hear the justification of what public good this sort of vendetta against commerce is serving.

    Competition means lower prices. Lower prices means lower sales tax revenue.

  14. Because you never know when she’s going to start ripping people’s teeth out and selling them on ebay before the nitrous wears off.

    I’m unclear about one thing, though. I thought ebay was the auctioneer, not the sellers. That is, the sellers are primarily acting as consigners of items and ebay handles the auction (and for the most part, the billing) apparatus. So I have trouble distinguishing between her role here and that of, say, UPS who deliver auctioned goods. Can anyone explain this to me?

  15. —…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

    —…But he was an idiot cowboy who didn’t understand the subtleties of governing.

    I fail to see how these statements are in any way contradictory.

  16. “I really wish that they will walk away from that one and prosecute somebody else,” said State Rep. Michael Sturla (D., Lancaster), who is chairman of the House Professional Licensure Committee. “There is every reason in the world that if she is found guilty, she should be exonerated,” he said

    No this sounds like a true politician. Let’s find someone easier to prosecute to make an example of them instead. We don’t want to look bad prosecuting someone with a sick child. Maybe they should look at the law instead and get rid of it.

  17. So I have trouble distinguishing between her role here and that of, say, UPS who deliver auctioned goods.

    Way to give the state of PA a deep pocket to go after, Mutts.

  18. Competition means lower prices. Lower prices means lower sales tax revenue.

    But competition usually also means more sales to collect tax from… then again, assuming politicians know Thing One about economics is like assuming my pastor can perform neurosurgery. It’s an alien skill set to either.

  19. Okay, the main point of the post and the article are bonkers enough. However, how does

    Because of the complaint, Pletz worries the state also could revoke her dental hygienist’s license

    get translated into

    Weirdly, they’re also threatening to take away her dental hygienist’s license.

    To me, it sounds like the victim’s fears about her hygenist’s license are of her own creation. I don’t see where Pennsylvania threatened her state priviliged grill scrapin’ license.

  20. The Keystone Police State; I remember driving across Pennsylvania on I80, many years ago, reading signs which said, “Milk at State Minimum Price.”

    If the state is willing to roll up its sleeves and crunch the numbers to discover the perfect price (in any store, in any location) for milk, they certainly are qualified to decide who should be allowed to offer items for sale on Ebay.

    Disclaimer: Paypal stole my money, and I delight in the thought of anything bad which might happen to Ebay, its subsidiary Paypal, or the officers and executives thereof.

  21. Because you never know when she’s going to start ripping people’s teeth out and selling them on ebay before the nitrous wears off.

    Lookie what I found here. Apparently she’s using a fence down in Georgia. Bake her away, toys!

  22. Actually, it is exactly like that. I’m just surprised that the state didn’t send a SWAT team after this…. this…. capitalist.

    Watch out…They may RICO her home, bankaccounts, child’s college fund, kotex, TV ,etc.

  23. To me, it sounds like the victim’s fears about her hygenist’s license are of her own creation. I don’t see where Pennsylvania threatened her state priviliged grill scrapin’ license.

    That depends. Is violating the “auctioneer’s license” statute a felony? Is PA a state where a felony conviction make a person ineligible to be a licensed dental hygienist?

  24. Since moving to NY a few months ago I started to feel nostalgic for PA, what with them not taking a third of my paycheck like NYC… but ahhh, yes, this is why I left…

    P.S. – Try buying a 6-pack of suds in the PA see how far you get there!

  25. This is realy stupid. The lady is NOT the auctioneer, ebay is. She is is having ebay run the auction, she is not running the auction.

    Proof of my point the lady has to PAY ebay a fee for them to run the auction. An auctioneer charges a fee for the auction. The lady does not run the auction and charges no fee to others for that auction.

    The authorities have mis-read the law. The law does not apply to her.

  26. Alex –
    I always found it frustrating, being from NY and having to pay $8 at a bar for a 6-pack of something you could get in NY at the gas station for $4.50.

    Pennsyltucky is F’ed up my friends.

  27. what with them not taking a third of my paycheck like NYC

    That’s strange. The state and feds take much more of my paycheck than the city. Oh well, any chance to dump on NYC.

  28. One other point. Auctioneer’s license? Why would you need a license to be an auctioneer? Surely I’m not the only person who thinks that is downright ridiculous, bordering on insane.

    For sale, 1998 Celica. 120,000 miles. Runs great, some rust. $900, OBO (or best offer).

    Where’s your auctioneer license, buddy?

  29. Fluffy, I’ve got your back.

  30. The lady is NOT the auctioneer, ebay is.

    Yeah, but eBay probably has better lawyers.

  31. I’m glad to live in a free country but it seems less free everyday… Whats more basic than free trade?

    And what can we do? Vote for a different flavored bureaucrat to steal our money? There’s seemingly no end to the stupidity.

  32. man, what a bunch of craven shits. it must be nice to wake up and say “what else can we dip our beak into? hmm, this ebay thing seems popular.”

    next up – buying hairclippers? get a beautician’s license or you’re funding terrorism!

  33. J sub D – what’s your address? We’d like to catch up with you some time…

  34. One other point. Auctioneer’s license? Why would you need a license to be an auctioneer? Surely I’m not the only person who thinks that is downright ridiculous, bordering on insane.

    You think it’s safe or easy to talk that fast and use a gavel at the same time? It’s a hard knock life for auctioneers.

  35. Auctioneer’s license? Why would you need a license to be an auctioneer?

    An auction house takes possession of the goods they will be selling, and there are probably ways they can defraud sellers or buyers. It’s a position of trust, so some licenesing may make sense…

    No, no, no, nevermind. I just found the web page for the Pennsylvania State Board of Auctioneer Examiners. The bonding requirement is only $5000.

    Here’s what really matters: To become a auctioneer, you have to serve for TWO YEARS as a licensed apprentice to a real auctioneer, or you have to spend 300 hours in class at one of two approved schools.

    It sounds like plain old rent-seeking protectionism to me…

  36. It sounds like plain old rent-seeking protectionism to me…

    A pretty safe working assumption for any licensing requirement.

  37. they’re also threatening to take away her dental hygienist’s license.

    I hope they all get gingivitis.

  38. Somebody pour whiskey down my throat right now. I swear, I’m this close *hold up thumb and forefinger* to collecting trunk trophies.

  39. Damn, and here I was about to move to Pennsylvania. All that culture and weather etc. And I’m going to miss it.

  40. Fucking Amish protectionist bastards.

  41. From the article:
    “Two bills have been introduced (in PA). One would require Internet sellers who run a business to get an electronic auctioneer’s license that would cost about $100 a year. The other would leave Internet auctions as the Wild West of retail.”

    Because unlicensed auctioneers were the scourge of the West, attacking stagecoaches and harassing the womenfolk?

    Seriously, though– my mother is gainfully unemployed via eBay and she’s terrified that something like this will happen to the doll clothes operation in her dining room.

  42. So glad to be out of that ridiculous state. This is not surprising coming from a state with an income tax used to pay the salaries of the cashiers in the goernment-run liquor stores.

  43. Considering that her sales crossed state lines, wouldn’t regulation of e-bay sales be a matter for Congress, not Pennsylvania?

  44. Anyone know a way to give this lady money to help her with this bullshit?

  45. a state with an income tax used to pay the salaries of the cashiers in the government-run liquor stores.

    “We’re not the worst! We’re not the worst!” –New Yorker

  46. “We’re not the worst! We’re not the worst!” –New Yorker

    Not only that, Rhywun, our roads are way better than PA. Way better. With all the toll roads going to pay for the Johnstown Flood of 1889 (yeah right, how many politicians are sucking that coin up?) I guess there’s nothing left to actually finance paving.

  47. Another state I don’t want to ever move to added to my list.

  48. Where the hell is joe?
    I want to read his explanation of how the state attacking commerce is actually good for people and how those who don’t support laws requiring auctioneers’ licenses are really just corporatists who hate children.

  49. Not only that, Rhywun, our roads are way better than PA. Way better.

    The Thruway is pristine. Most of the other interstates are good, except in NYC where every highway is a total disaster & perpetually “under construction”. I think the highway workers went on strike in 1975 and didn’t tell anyone.


  50. It’s a position of trust, so some licensing may make sense.

    How so? Theft (stealing the consigned goods) and fraud (not remitting all funds due the seller or misrepresenting the consigned goods to the buyer) are already illegal. Licensing does what, exactly, that these laws don’t already do?

  51. In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the top talk stations railing about this atrocity left and right.

    Just kidding, of course: on the airwaves of the Keystone State, it’s business as usual: McCain, Obama, immigration, repeat ad nauseum. The website of the top talk station in Philly doesn’t even mention the story…

  52. Rhywun, I think the highway planning in NYC is horrible. They built the roads there without ever expecting to have to use some space to maintain them. This is true in many large cities. The space premium is so problematic when it comes to construction repair they just ignore it and then make everyone perpetually suffer. Hopefully I’ll get the NYS DOT analyst job I applied for. I’m here to help.

  53. come on pennslyvania is a known as a homeland-security -libertarian state. You guys aren’t being realistic. She might have been a terrorist, the governemnt needs to shut that down to protect us, your not being realistic if you expect this to be some sort of wild west, dog-eat-dog capitalism.

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