Afraid to eBay?
Hire an online auction service
Love those dancing eBay commercials but don't feel
Net-savvy enough to sell your unwanted items online? Let an auction
drop-off service do it for you.
Storefront drop-off centers are springing up from
coast to coast. These "brick-to-click" locations are betting
that you have neither the time nor the interest to effectively post
a strong digital photo and description of your item, answer e-mail
inquiries from interested buyers in a timely manner, close the sale,
secure the payment, and pack and ship the item so it arrives at
the other end undamaged.
For about a 30 percent commission, the drop-off service
does it all for you, and chances are you will still walk away with
more than you would have at a garage
So far, two drop-off business models exist:
1. Stand-alone drop-off centers, such as AuctionDrop,
QuikDrop and Auction Wagon, that specialize exclusively in online
2. Pack-and-ship business centers, such as PostNet,
that offer selling as a low-cost add-on to their menus of office-related
Any of these operations can help sellers make some
Internet auction cash, but the real winner is eBay, the dominant
player in online auctions. The auction giant gets most of the business
from the drop-off startups and views them as the next phase of the
trading assistant program it launched three years ago that now includes
more than 34,000 sellers worldwide.
"We are thrilled that there are individuals and
groups out there that have figured out different ways to bring the
eBay marketplace to the physical world," says eBay spokesman
Hani Durzy. "Because let's face it, there is a segment of the
population that for whatever reason will never go on eBay to sell.
Physical drop-off locations enable more people to access eBay."
There may not be an online auction drop-off in your
hometown just yet, but here's what they look like, how they work,
what they will and won't sell for you and where they're likely to
spring up next.
The worldwide garage sale
Had eBay remained primarily a marketplace for collectibles, it is
unlikely that drop-off centers would be taking off today. In fact,
just before the tech crash, two early eBay consignment centers,
including MyEZsale, burned up their first-round venture capital
But eBay has been consciously moving toward general
merchandise (or "practicals") and away from collectibles,
in part because online auctions themselves have contributed to a
precipitous drop in collectible prices by making available large
inventories of items previously considered rare.
"Four years ago, 60 percent of our gross merchandise
sales (GMS) could be attributed to collectibles and 40 percent to
what we call practicals. In 2003, it was estimated that more than
85 percent of our GMS was attributed to practicals and less than
15 percent to collectibles," says Durzy. "It doesn't mean
we are moving away from the collectibles business. It just means
that eBay is expanding as a destination for people to get anything."
That means eBay can bring in top dollar for your old
ski boots, last year's digital camera, leftover inventory from your
brother's business -- practicals.
While most collectors of Beanie Babies are likely
to know an eBay trading assistant, Jane and Joe Average probably
don't. Neither are they comfortable simply finding one nearby by
plugging in their ZIP codes on the eBay trading assistants site.
That's where a neighborhood drop-off center comes
in handy, according to Jack Reynolds, co-founder of QuikDrop.
"Selling is hard because you have to take a digital
picture, post it, give them your bank account and credit card information,
answer e-mail, then pack it. And as soon as you sell it, by the
way, the bidder knows your name, address and telephone number. So
now you've had to give up your personal information to the guy who
bought the product. It's just not worth it," he says.
A drop-off on every corner
QuikDrop, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., opened eight franchise locations
last year in California, Texas, Montana, Alabama, Virginia and South
Carolina. This year, it has signed agreements to open 24 stores
in Southern California and 97 throughout the Southwest over the
next three years. Its franchisees tend to already be eBay power
As a stand-alone drop-off, a QuikDrop center resembles
an airline baggage check-in desk: small customer service area upfront,
large holding area in back.
When you bring in an item, the employee takes a digital
photograph, writes a detailed description and does an initial online
search for approximate market value. Most drop-offs won't accept
items worth less than $50. The whole process takes about five minutes.
Within 10 days, you receive your check, less the QuikDrop
commission, on a sliding scale of 38 percent on the first $200 to
20 percent over $500, plus an eBay fee ranging from 5.25 percent
on the first $25 to 1.5 percent of sales over $1,000. Buyers usually
pay shipping, handling and insurance.
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