Selling a roll of Romanian Toilet Paper on eBay for $35
This is a story about when a common item becomes a historic artifact.
In 1997 in a market in Romania, I purchased a roll of toilet paper for about $.05. In 2004, not know what to do with this roll, I listed the roll of toilet paper on eBay for $50 and sold it on a re listing for $35. In the listings I described that this paper could give you splinters if used. I also added, as part of the listing a requirement, that the buy tell me why they would want to buy such a roll of paper. This is that story.
The listing received about 240 hits, more than any listing I have ever posted. I treated the listing as a piece of humor reflecting the strange beauty of where life can lead us and what we find. I began to post at $10 but the person working to help me suggested I go outrageous and list for $50.I When you shoot for the top of the hill you might get part way there. When you shoot to the moon you might get half way there. The difference is often asking for $50 instead of $10.
EMAIL FROM BUYER Subject: Why I bought a roll of Romanian toilet paper on Ebay! Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2005 12:39 AM
Well, I suppose now is the time for my explanation of why I purchased this roll of toilet paper.
I was actually born in Romania and moved permanently to the States with my immediate family when I was a young child about 16 years ago. We have been back to Romania a few times over the years to visit family there, and we also brought back a couple of rolls of toilet paper almost like the one you have as a reminder of the “luxuries” we take for granted here in the US.
I recently graduated from a university and accepted a job with a large company that produces premium paper products, including toilet paper. I thought it would be perfect to have a roll of that horrible Romanian toilet paper in my office to amaze my coworkers whose jobs depend on making the best quality toilet paper. But, I can’t seem to find the toilet paper we had brought over so many years ago!
I stumbled across your auction by accident. I was searching “Romanian” to see what kinds of artifacts people have and I was so surprised by your auction! I wasn’t expecting to have the opportunity to replace our rolls that we’ve misplaced!
Therefore, I am happy to have this toilet paper for two reasons- the first being a souvenir from my native country and the second as a stark contrast to the quality paper that we produce at my job. My coworkers will be floored by the roll since the process of making the Romanian stuff is probably very crude in comparison to the processes we use here. Thanks so much for parting with your roll! I am very happy to have it!
EMAIL SENT TO BUYER. Subject: RE: Why I bought a roll of Romanian toilet paper on Ebay! Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2005
My assistant handles all of the invoicing and shipping and she told me as soon as the funds were received that it was sent. I believe this was put in a plastic (not sure) and I am sure it went in a box which is typical for the way we ship. Please let me know if there are any issues with this. I really do want you pleased with the purchase and do not hesitate to let me know if there are any issues.
Your reason is very logical and your story is beautiful. I really did spend a great deal of extra time with this listing and actually had some fun.
Lest you think you are crazy or unique there were probably over 170 people that looked at the listing and I received many emails from people who had visited Romania and had brought toilet paper back, but like you had lost it. As with your family, I brought this back to show others how difficult conditions sometimes are and simply as something different from what we are used to. I think it cost about $.05 My guess is that this roll some day may be very rare and just the stupid type of thing for a museum to display. Then according to a Romanian friend over there this brand may have been discontinued about 1998 just after I left.
Romania will always have a warm place in my heart. I lived there for about
11 months and traveled extensively in the Transylvania, Moldavia and the northern parts of the country. Originally this posting was more of a joke to see what the response might be. Then who in their right mind would post an old roll of toilet paper on eBay? Then just as crazy who would buy it? On the surface this is close to something form Monty Python or Saturday Night Live.
My wife and I are planning to move to Slovenia in June for the birth of our third child and this is just one of those things I really do not know what to do with. I really could not bring myself to break the seal and use this (then I really would not want to) and I really did not want to throw out and I could not think of anyone to give this to so it went to eBay.
I still have is a bottle of Romanian wine. I shipped back about six bottles to a friend when we were looking at the idea of importing some, but that fell through. Six bottles of wine that cost about $25 there cost me about $160 to ship and this is the last one left. Then not long ago I drank a bottle of wine from the 1920s and posted the empty bottle on eBay and it went for $10. So people buy empty wine bottles too. Perhaps I should post it on EBay also starting at say $20. Then I am not sure that Romanian wine is so hard to find in the states as is the toilet paper.
Think about this story, “Why would anyone pay $35 for a roll of toilet paper?” On the surface it sounds crazy. The reality is that my posting it for the price and your buying it makes all the sense in the world: we are just both a little crazy.
You did not buy a roll of toilet paper, but a rare Romanian item from the transition period just after the fall of communism. As Romania enters the EU that period is fast fading and I found even while there everyone wanted to see the changes happen yesterday.
I sincerely wanted to take a moment to thank you for your reply and understanding why I might be crazy enough to ask your interest in this item.
Please let me know when this arrives and if it meets your expectations. I am sincerely pleased that you found something of value as I have in the process of selling this on eBay.
SECOND EMAIL FROM BUYER
Sorry for the delayed response.. I’ve been away from my email due to a trip.
I got the roll safe and sound last Friday, so thank you.
It’s actually a larger and better quality roll than the ones we brought back in 1993! But it is essentially the same thing.
I am glad you decided to list it. I agree with your reasoning too. It would have been a shame to just throw it away, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have found a friend to give this to either! So I don’t think you’re crazy for listing it. That’s what Ebay is for!
And I certainly don’t think I’m crazy for buying it! 🙂 I don’t see it as buying a useless roll of TP that cost a few cents. It’s a souvenir for me and it has meaning. Plus, like you said, at the pace of “progress” who knows if this stuff is even available to buy anymore! I thought about waiting until I went back again to get another roll, but by then they may have our American kind only. So I didn’t want to miss this chance!
Thanks again for parting with it! I’m happy to have it and at this point, I plan to hang on to it for many years to come.
By the way, I work for Georgia Pacific, not KC. We make the nice stuff like Quilted Northern and Angel Soft, so it’s pretty funny to see the splinters in the roll!
Thanks and good luck with your move this summer!