Thursday, September 28, 2006

eBay blamed for toddler debt toll

Three-year-old Jack Neal has become the youngest debtor in Britain and earned himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and a special under fives ASBO. These do not come with a mandatory prison sentence as yet. Jack, a self-confessed petrol-head and occasional Top Gear presenter had exhausted the entire range of available Tonkas so decided to trade himself up. While mum Rachel slipped out to microwave some baked beans for his lunch, Jack got onto eBay and bought himself a Barbie pink Nissan Figaro worth £9,000.

‘I had just come off the computer and I thought I had logged off’, Rachel explained to a startled BBC reporter who has three-year-old triplets and wi-fi access. ‘Jack jumped on the chair … straight in, found the page and bought the car’. Although he can’t yet read, Jack has watched Rachel click on the ‘buy it now’ button when she has used the site to buy him toy cars. He has absorbed that this is an important life skill to have. When you see something that you want, you click on it and Parcel Force delivers it within ten days. It is more reliable than any other service in the country and therefore to be utilised as much as possible.

Young Jack denied culpability, immediately laying the blame at the Barbie roller skated feet of Letitia, his imaginary best friend and fellow Top Gear presenter. A team of stony faced, breathtakingly judgemental and not to be messed with family liaison officers from Worcestershire Social Services were not having any of it, however. They know it is not yet legal to issue ASBOs to imaginary friends and have recently signed a petition to lobby Parliament to have this archaic and draconian law changed as this would certainly help with meeting targets.

While family liaison officers were quizzing Rachel about her personal life and checking whether she had been overpaid on her Working Families Tax Credit account, Letitia slipped out and made off with the car which had not yet been taxed and insured. It transpires that Letitia could not drive - this is a mandatory requirement for Top Gear presenters - and she slammed the car into a Polly Pocket disco bus causing widespread damage. Pieces of mirror ball were located as far away as three miles from the crash site.

Emergency workers were quickly on the scene and described the crash as ‘horrific’ and ‘the worst case involving an imaginary friend and an eBay purchase we have ever had to deal with.’ Family liaison officers immediately arrived and began to counsel passers-by who had not witnessed the accident and who don’t shop on eBay. ‘The effects of this kind of trauma can take a while to surface’, a team member told the BBC, ‘people feel as if they must suppress their feelings and carry on, but one day they will find themselves logging onto eBay, unable to control their impulse to click on ‘buy it now’ and the whole vicious cycle starts again. By then it will be too late.’ Family liaison officers declined to give their names to the BBC as this has in the past led to attempts on their lives.

A spokesperson for the British Nostalgia Council, today warned that ‘young people risk being consumed by a spiral of debt before they even reach school age and face a bleak future of having to mortgage their iPods to pay for even the most basic rocket salad in the canteen’. The BNC campaigns for the reintroduction of Green Shield Stamps as a way of halting the devastation caused by the ‘must have it now’ culture. ‘You appreciate a product much more if you have to wait until it is several years out of date before you get it’, the spokesperson explained.

Worcestershire police were shocked to find that imaginary friends could not be prosecuted posthumously for dangerous driving or not using a booster seat. ‘This driver was clearly under the regulation height of four feet five inches and should have been using a Barbie booster seat available from Mothercare and Halfords for £39.95’, a police spokesperson explained. ‘Anyone who is considering a fatal crash should make sure they are fully compliant with the law.’

Jack is now under house arrest for breaking his ASBO. He was caught visiting the crash site to ascertain if there were any useable spare parts from either the car or Letitia that he could sell on eBay. He explained this was to pay off his debt (which has now grown to £450,000 with interest because he took out a consolidating loan and the bank foreclosed on his iPod). He understands that he has done wrong but is optimistic about the future as eBay has offered him a job as a highly paid consultant to help them make it easier for children to access their services. Every Barbie pink Nissan Figaro has an animal print fake fur lining.

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