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After record EBay bid, `Dukes of Hazzard' car buyer fails to pay

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A nearly US$10-million EBay bid for a car made famous by ``The Dukes of Hazzard'' seems to have vanished faster than the Duke boys escaping from the sheriff in the hot Georgia night.

The General Lee's owner _ actor John Schneider, who played blond heartthrob Bo Duke in the 1980s television series _ is upset the $9,900,500 winning bid appears to be a hoax. The bid set an EBay record last week.

Schneider plans to list his 1969 Dodge Charger with an auction firm that strictly screens buyers and may file a lawsuit against the bidder, said Allen Stockman, who runs the star's Agoura Hills, Calif., estate and has sold scripts, memorabilia and other items on EBay for three years.

``If this guy was just doing it as a prank or to ruin someone else's chances, he deserves to be hit in the pocketbook,'' said Stockman, who gave the winning bidder a negative rating in EBay's feedback forum.

Schneider, 47, was at a promotion in Las Vegas on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

The winning bidder _ identified on his EBay home page as William Fisher, or ``fishbashr1'' _ did not return e-mails and did not answer the phone listed for his house in Laguna Hills, Calif. His EBay profile said he runs a small business called Thrill Outfitters, which specializes in the sale of sporting goods.

Schneider's plight is the most recent fraudulent bidding episode at EBay.

In December, a Montreal man listed a 40-year-old acetate of ``The Velvet Underground & Nico'' by Andy Warhol. Bidding began at 99 cents but after 10 days, 253 bids and numerous articles about the item in the news media, the winning bid was $155,401. Within hours, the bid was determined to be a hoax and the item was relisted.

Such incidents enrage EBay critics, who say the site is rife with fraudulent bidding _ particularly on expensive, unique items that generate publicity.

Last quarter, 82.9 million active EBay users exchanged $14.28 billion in goods. The vast majority of deals closed promptly and without complaints.

Officially, all EBay bids are legally binding contracts and users agree to pay for any item they win. But there are no background checks. Members who fail to pay for an item are not fined _ though repeat violators could be booted from the site.

EBay spokeswoman Catherine England said the company does not keep track of how many winning bidders renege.

``There are all sorts of reasons a transaction may fall through and we have a claims process for both buyer and seller,'' England said.

When the winning bidder fails to pay, the seller typically writes a scathing review of the would-be buyer. EBay includes feedback ratings and comments for every member. Some veteran sellers prohibit members with poor ratings from bidding.

About a week ago, when bidding escalated on the General Lee, a customer service agent called Stockman and recommended he only accept pre-qualified bidders who could prove they had secured financing.

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After record EBay bid, `Dukes of Hazzard' car buyer fails to pay
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