How much is a purse full of pain worth on eBay?
Exactly $5,401 if you're Erin Boubel, a 21-year-old Texas college student who loves a good mystery and a good laugh and has both money to spare and bit of a loony streak.
Boubel was the winning bidder of a Louis Vuitton Murakami Speedy 30 handbag that captured the attention of thousands of eBayers who tuned in to watch the 10-day auction unfold last month and helped spawn similar so-called "mystery auctions" on the popular Web site.
"It was really entertaining," said Boubel, a Texas State University finance major who ended up paying more than four times the retail price of the bag but got some pricey mystery add-ons as part of the package. "I wasn't exactly sure what was in the bag, but I'm crazy like that. I wasn't even looking for a purse."
No ordinary designer purse, this one came with a shamelessly zany back story about love lost, hope renewed, love found and mystery prizes.
More than 180 bidders were drawn into seller Shawn Shifflett's amusing tale of woe (he planned a romantic evening filled with fun for his then-wife), followed by a bitter divorce (she left him), his need to get rid of bad memories (he got to keep the purse and gifts he never gave her) as he pursues a new life (there's a new love in his life).
Bidders were provided with only a handful of clues about the contents of the bag and a promise that the buyer would get more than he or she paid for.
"I think so many people watched his auction because they could relate to his pain, his frustration and his need to purge his old life," said Boubel, a born risk-taker who recently started her own advertising travel business. "It seemed to me the risk was worth it."
It surely was. For her winning bid, Boubel also received: a Magnavox portable DVD player, $510 in cash, Tanzanite earrings, a diamond and pink sapphire white gold ring, a Sony digital camera, a hard-to-find bottle of Victoria's Secret 88 and a 7-carat diamond bracelet.
Oh, and Shifflett threw in a bonus pink iPod mini, too.
"When it got here, two or three of my friends sat around me as I opened each surprise," Boubel said. "It was like Christmas.
"I guessed the earrings and the bracelet, which I thought had 5 carats, but it turned out to be 7," Boubel said. "I don't know what made me decide to do it. It was definitely a risk. But I got way more than I paid for, and I had a blast."
As for Shifflett, who lives in Virginia and couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, he says he's having too much fun to notice he's practically giving away his stuff. Besides, the 32-year- old regional manager of a communications firm is already onto his next big auction as he continues to work out his old marital pain online.
Shifflett's latest auction is a mystery mailbox he says he got to keep after the divorce gave his ex the house. The contents, of course, will contain gifts she left behind. So far, after barely a day on the market, the mystery mailbox nabbed 71 bidders and a $5,100 offer.
Therapy Schmerapy. Shifflett's got eBay.