eBay to give away $200,000 in online treasure hunt

The auctioneer is hiding $1,000 prizes in listings on its site--it will give away 25 such jackpots every day for eight days.

eBay is launching a promotion this week that involves two things few can resist: hidden treasure and cold, hard cash.

At midnight on Tuesday, eBay plans to start an eight-day online treasure hunt for $1,000 cash prizes hidden in various listings throughout its site. The company will give away 25 thousand-dollar prizes to registered members each day of the promotion. eBay also promises to enter anyone who bids, buys or lists items on eBay during the promotion in a $25,000 sweepstakes. Sweepstakes winners also will be awarded a free 50-year subscription to operate an eBay Featured Store.

The promotion, with its "back roads" theme, is part of an effort to get people to explore more areas of the site, such as eBay Motors, the auctioneer's online car store, said eBay spokesman Hani Durzy.

"We want to get people to poke around and get an idea of how much really is available on eBay," Durzy said.

The company plans to post clues for the treasure hunt. It also has created a treasure hunt discussion board for members.

The promotion is timed to coincide with Presidents Day, a U.S. holiday on which retailers traditionally launch big sales, Durzy said. It also follows a separate promotion Monday, aimed at eBay sellers, in which the company offered a flat 5-cent listing fee for the day. eBay normally charges anywhere from 25 cents to $4.80 to list an item for sale.

eBay may be revving up its promotions machine to spur flagging growth, one Wall Street analyst said.

"They are trying to maintain growth on the U.S. side," said Mark Mahaney, a securities analyst at American Technology Research. "The growth in the U.S. has been coming down, and the company has talked about doing a lot of different things to spur it."

eBay's stock plunged last month after the company announced a financial forecast for 2005 that disappointed Wall Street analysts. In addition, an e-commerce study released this week from the University of Michigan indicated that eBay has recently lost some ground in customer satisfaction.

But Durzy said that the treasure hunt, while being a "significant" promotion, is not out of the ordinary. It's also not part of a bigger push toward promotions by the company, he said.

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