Some people seek counseling after a nasty divorce. Some wallow in bitter pools of regret and anger, while others just burn their ex's left-behind belongings.
Then there's Shawn Shifflett, who is selling his pain on eBay, the world's largest online marketplace.
Well, not literally his "pain" - although it's not unheard of to sell an intangible object on eBay, such as the ghost that recently sold.
In this particular case, however, Shifflett is selling a $1,200 Louis Vuitton Murakami Speedy 30 handbag that, according to his eBay posting, he bought as a gift for his now ex-wife.
But unlike hundreds of other Louis Vuitton handbags listed on eBay, this particular designer bag - helped by Shifflett's amusingly bittersweet back story and the promise of surprise gifts inside - by yesterday had propelled itself into the most-watched item on eBay, enticing more than 175 bidders who have raised the price to more than $5,000, the highest for any other Speedy 30 currently listed.
The attraction seems to be the back story that Shifflett lengthily and shamelessly retells on his listing - plus the mystery prizes that he's tucked inside the bag.
"It's a mystery, it's a soap opera, it's a gamble all rolled into one," says Shifflett, a 32-year-old Virginia resident. "I had no idea the auction would be so popular, but I think everyone's having fun. You have to tune in every day."
Fun for bidders, but also therapeutic for Shifflett.
Item No. 5581838970 is just one of the 50 million listings on eBay at any point in time, but its story sets it apart:
A couple of years back, Shifflett was planning an Atlantic City celebration with his wife of 10 years, whose name he asked The Sun to withhold for privacy reasons. He had it all set up: a bottle of Dom Perignon, bundles of roses and a suite with a hot tub spa at their favorite casino, as well as some things to indulge her Jessica Simpson obsession: a pair of Da-Nang overalls, the Louis Vuitton purse and other goodies.
Unfortunately for Shifflett, his then-wife didn't want romance. She just wanted out.
After six months of legal wrangling, a bankruptcy filing in 2003, followed by an acrimonious divorce in June and a bad case of heartache, Shifflett says he got to keep a number of things from his broken marriage, including the purse he never got the chance to give.
"I went through hell for a long time," he says. "I thought, why hang onto the bad memories? I find myself in a position now where I can go to the pawn shop and get a little money for this stuff or I can have some fun with it."
"Now for a little revenge ...," says Shifflett's eBay posting. "What is the mystery? Well, it is something(s) that my (ex)wife would have taken with her to the casino."
Tantalizingly, Shifflett posted a photo of the bag with several hundred dollar bills peeking out.
So, the mystery is money?
Shifflett won't say. Read the hints, he says coyly.
His tale of broken love aside, mystery auctions are increasingly popular on eBay. Scroll through the site and there are hundreds of mystery cardboard boxes, piggy banks, stuffed animals and wallets filled with surprise gifts just waiting for an adventurous risk-taker. Many sellers tempt bidders with occasional clues to what the contents may hold.
It's a risk, but eBay spokesman Hani Durzy says that as long as the titles, descriptions and photos of items are accurate and the mystery gifts inside don't violate any rules, sellers are free to offer them.
True to his word, as the top bid keeps climbing, Shifflett adds new surprises inside and drops more clues.
When bidding hit $1,000, Shifflett dropped the first hint: Smart Very Smart.
The second hint came at $2,000: Money is Picture Perfect!!!
Several other clues have been revealed since then, with more expected before the auction is set to end early tomorrow morning, as well as an "extreme twist" that came after bid No. 175: a 5-carat diamond bracelet.
Stay tuned, Shifflett urges. And thousands have.
It could be they just want the bag - a must-have for many fashionistas.
Yet, as the comments posted on his auction show, many are in it for the fun. It's more about Shifflett's apparent willingness to poke fun at his pain, his triumph over humiliation (he's become, he says, a regional manager of a multimillion-dollar communications firm, so his money troubles are behind him), and his hope for the future (he's got a new fiancee now) that has eBayers tuning in day after day to read his manic updates.
Give him a moment to reflect, though, and the self-proclaimed die-hard romantic says that though they're not friendly anymore, he harbors no hate for his ex. She knows about the auction, he says, and she does not necessarily want to brain him for it ... yet.
As he says, "You go through the hurt. The mean part of the hatefulness. The devastation. Then you let it eat away at you or you pick yourself up."
But don't expect to read all that on his auction. It won't be there. All that serious stuff could kill the fun vibe Shifflett is shooting for. Depressing people isn't good for business. Call it artistic license, he says. Or maybe even "marketing genius."
His fiancee calls it "nuts."
"I think Shawn is crazy," says Heather Bullock, who met Shifflett online in August, accepted a marriage proposal from him three months ago and now lives with him. "He wants this bag out of the house. This is just his way of finding the humor in the bad. He wants to put closure on everything. This is the final step.
"I don't really understand it," Bullock said. "I try to be diplomatic. All the e-mails have come from women. He's had one marriage proposal since all this began. They love it. They love him."
For Shifflett, the payoff will almost be worth the pain.