Saturday, March 8, 2008
Virgin Mary Pretzel Update
“SAGA OF PRIZED PRETZEL TAKES SAD TWIST FOR SELLERS”: So reads the headline of this article from Eugene, Oregon’s The Herald-Guard. Remember the Virgin Mary Pretzel from a couple of weeks ago? Over the course of a few days, thanks to plenty of radio publicity, an eBay auction for this Rold Gold pretzel that to its seller resembled the Virgin Mary (in a joke, “Look at what people will buy” kind of way) had incited bids for as much as $2 million! Now, that was most likely a hoax, but the supposedly sacred snack did get several seemingly legitimate bids in the $5,000 range. Thing is, eBay shut down the auction: twice.
Michael Fleming, owner of the pretzel, is flummoxed. At first, eBay revoked the auction because the item was perishable, and thus a health risk. But then the pretzel reappeared, which commenced more bidding, as well as many spin-off pretzels.
From the article:
When bidding ended at 8:51 p.m. Thursday — dozens of offers ranging up to $5,100 were logged.
That’s when a computer-generated e-mail from eBay arrived, informing them that the site had once again invalidated their auction: This time, administrators had reason to believe an “unauthorized third party” had posted the auction, Fleming said.
The message also informed them, “Do not respond to this e-mail.”
Now the pretzel is in a safety deposit box, and Fleming blames eBay for denying a charity a financial windfall, for he and his radio-show cronies, in light of the high bidding, had agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds.
When you look at eBay’s policies regarding such sales, it doesn’t say that sellers cannot offer perishable items. It says this: “Sellers who list perishable items should clearly identify in the item description the steps that they will take to ensure that the goods are delivered to the buyer safely. For example, sellers of perishable goods should offer overnight delivery and ensure that the goods are properly packaged.” I don’t think Fleming and friends included any specific language about how the pretzel was being preserved, but I also find it hard to believe that anyone willing to spend real money on such an item would eat it. Nonetheless, I can understand why eBay has to be cautious about such sales.
I wonder if these policies came about as a direct result of Diana Duyser’s infamous Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese, which I describe in Madonna of the Toast as “a foodstuff transfiguration created from the alchemy of Land ‘O Lakes Cheese, Publix brand bread and no oil or butter.” Duyser’s auction was also once revoked by eBay, but only because people thought it was a hoax. When it became apparent that Duyser’s grilled cheese would indeed by sold and delivered to the highest bidder, the auction was reinstated, and the rest is history.
Michael Fleming might not make the history books, but he certainly got his 15 minutes of fame, and since the pretzel remains available, I bet he’ll give himself another go on the media merry-go-round. I just hope that his safety deposit box is climate controlled. If the pretzel is anything like Duyser's grilled cheese, it will resist mold for over a decade.