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Elusive iPhone is sold on eBay

Buyer of the Apple device due out in June knew the risks, doesn't feel taken

By Linda Rosencrance
March 22, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Maybe that old saw was right; there really is an easy mark born every minute. And in this case, 23 of them.

Those 23 people bid on the much-ballyhooed Apple iPhone on eBay this week, and the high bidder paid $1,125 for one of the six phones the seller, rgonzales23455, had on auction. The problem is that the iPhone isn't scheduled to ship until June. And when it does, it will have a retail price of $499 for a 4GB model and $599 for an 8GB model.

"Please note: I have 6 of these phones available for immediate shipping. I accept Paypal only for this auction. Free shipping via USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. Will ship immediately after payment clears Monday  Friday," rgonzales23455 said in his auction listing.

Rgonzales23455 didn't respond to e-mail asking how he came into possession of the as-yet-unreleased iPhone. Apple Inc. also didn't respond to a request for comment. However, an eBay Inc. spokeswoman said that after eBay was alerted to the iPhones auctions, it pulled the listings.

"Thanks ... for informing us of the Apple iPhone listings," the eBay spokeswoman said in an e-mail to Computerworld. "As we understand, the Apple iPhone will not be commercially available until June. Any such listings claiming to be selling the Apple iPhone are in violation of eBay's pre-sale policy which require sellers to guarantee shipment of the item listed within 30 days from the date of purchase. As such, all postings violating eBay's pre-sale policy will be removed."

In an e-mail to Computerworld, whpub, the high bidder of the iPhone auction, wrote that the reason behind the bid was, "Very simply: low risk, high reward." The buyer said if the item is not delivered, eBay and PayPal will back him up.

The buyer wrote of receiving many e-mails berating the buyer for "being taken" by a scammer. But whpub was willing to take the gamble.

"EBay insures up to $200 and PayPal up to $2,000 if the seller does not deliver," whpub said. "Besides, there are rumors of iPhones being shipped as early as early April, and there's always a chance this seller managed to get one somehow. Further, it's not unheard of for a company to pre-release high end items early and unannounced to measure market acceptance. eBay provides a perfect venue for such market testing. Consider this a form of legalized gambling. It's like buying a lottery ticket. Very little cost, and potential for very high reward."

If the device doesn't arrive, an eBay spokeswoman said the buyer should file a claim with PayPal because it has a buyer protection plan. If an authentic iPhone arrives, the buyer still plans to follow up with authorities.

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