Carrie Hollenbeck’s fiancé listed her 21-year-old car on Ebay at a starting price of $499.
Five days later, bidding on the green 1996 Honda Accord coupe had reached $150,000 thanks to a viral satirical commercial – made by Hollenbeck’s fiancé, Max Lanman – that helped drive up the price.
But by Monday morning, Ebay had "canceled the original auction in error" and the car, nicknamed Greenie, was relisted. Bidding as of 8 a.m. PT was $1,025. By Wednesday morning, that number was up to $4,300.
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In a statement to NBC, Ebay said it canceled the listing due to "unusual bidding activity" and that the company had "put additional measures in place to ensure a successful auction."
Lanman and Hollenbeck received a phone call Sunday night with that same information.
“Apparently, someone in (eBay’s) fraud department, who was unaware of the ad and story behind it, could not believe that a 1996 Honda Accord was bidding for $150,000, and canceled the auction,” Lanman said.
The pair was told that eBay could not restore their original auction item ”so they asked us to re-list the auction, which we did,” he added.
Far from disappointed, though, the couple continues to marvel at how “surprising and overwhelmingly positive” their experience has been.
“This was definitely an unexpected turn,” Lanman acknowledged, “but we have faith that everything will work itself out. Overall, we're just so grateful for all that has happened with the commercial and the story. It's been truly amazing.”
The adventure in question began several years ago.
It is no small feat to sell a used car, much less one that has 141,095 miles under its belt. So Lanman, a Los Angeles-based writer and director, latched on to a years-old idea and decided to use his film-making skills to help Hollenbeck.
"I was driving to Big Sur with my (then) girlfriend Carrie to go camping on Highway 1,” he recalled. “While we were traversing gorgeous switchbacks, it felt like (we) were driving in a car commercial and that's when it hit me that it would be really funny to make a high-end car commercial for a crappy car.”
Hollenbeck "had just the car for the job," but, Lanman quipped, he "had to wait until she was finally ready for an upgrade!"
Although attached to the car she has driven since high school, Hollenbeck, drawn to the idea of owning a bluetooth-enabled car and reducing her carbon footprint, decided in 2016 to sell Greenie, according to Lanman.
So he got to work and spent the next year working on the ad that has taken the Internet by storm. The minute-long commercial, with all the bells and whistles of a professional production, begins with an actress pinning up her hair.
"You. You're different," the narrator begins. "You do things your way. That's what makes you one of a kind."
The woman settles into the driver's seat and a fluffy grey cat, perched next to her on the center console, meows before crawling onto her lap.
"You dont need things. You're happy with who you are. You don't care about money. You have everything you ever wanted," the narrator continues.
The woman reaches over and pours coffee into a mug as she drives Greenie down a winding road overlooking the ocean. "Introducing a used 1996 Honda Accord," the narrator says in the slick advertisement.
As the sun sets in the background, the driver is shown sitting on her car, which is parked on the shoulder of the road. The narrator concludes in his ever-so-serious tone that Greenie is "a car for people that have life figured out and just need a way to get somewhere."
The commercial concludes with the tagline: "Luxury is a state of mind."
Lanman posted the video's YouTube link to Reddit, triggering a bidding war.
"I haven’t paid attention to an ad in months and here I am..." a Redditor commented.
"I'm beside myself," said a stunned Lanman. "I could never have imagined that this thing that I made with my friends, that three days ago was just a Premiere project on my computer, is now being watched by people all over the world."
Lanman had originally planned to try and sell Greenie for $999, but was dissuaded by his brother. The idea was to price the car lower and make it affordable to more people.
By Saturday, 141 people had bid for Greenie, which has passed a smog check and has a new battery, while also offering its new owner a bug shield, rubber duckies — which make a cameo in the ad — and tape converter. By Sunday, 114 people had pushed the bidding mark to $150,000.
"This part of the experience is insane," Lanman admitted. "Both of us are in disbelief and I don't think either of us will believe it until we see it. When we started, my personal goal was just to beat the Kelley Blue Book value of $1,500."
Viewers on YouTube had hilarious reactions to the parody.
"This is the greatest thing to ever happen to the internet," one person wrote.
"I want that cat," said another.
Others urged Chevy to "for the love of god please hire this man."
The consensus? "Car is worth $500, but this commercial is priceless."
When asked if there was anything he'd like to say to the people who were furiously bidding on Greenie, Lanman replied: "Thank you?! We have a life to start, with a wedding next summer and hopefully a down payment on a house to make someday, so it would truly change our lives."