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State's EBay sales strategy poor, auction expert says

Schwarzenegger administration officials have described their auction of old stuff on EBay over the last two weeks as an innovative way to make money for the state’s depleted coffers. But the president of a Los Angeles auction business specializing in EBay sales says the foray into online auctions has been like many of the state's traditional programs: lackluster.

Officials put some used cars, with their visors signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other items on EBay and Craigslist last week as part of what the governor promoted as the Great California Garage Sale and a boost for state coffers. But Eric Gazin, president of celebrity auction house Auction Cause, said the state’s ads for its sale of unneeded and unclaimed goods were so poorly done that “they are leaving a lot of money on the table.” 

For one thing, Gazin said, the pictures did not reflect well on the merchandise, which included a pearl ring, some earrings and a bunch of coat racks.

“A 12-year-old could have taken better pictures of jewelry and cars,” said Gazin, who once helped Schwarzenegger and Texas Gov. Rick Perry auction some boots on EBay for charity. “It looked like someone in their basement that made a very amateur attempt to sell something.”

Gazin pointed out that the state refused to ship the cars, thereby narrowing the field of potential buyers and possibly losing money. And the state’s policy of no returns or exchanges, with “no exceptions,” would discourage buyers.

He also said that the decision to ship small items by parcel post instead of priority mail would indicate to an experienced buyer that the state doesn’t know what it is doing. Gazin noted that the state also referred people through EBay to its own website, where it was advertising the tag sale. Directing customers to off-site merchandise is prohibited.

Erin Shaw, a spokeswoman for the State and Consumer Services Agency, said in a statement: "State workers are not specially trained in listing EBay items, so we are very pleased with the tremendous positive response we've received on each and every item."

Usher Lieberman, an EBay spokesman, said that referring customers to a sale off the site is indeed a policy violation, but “we’re sensitive to the position the state finds itself in, and we’re happy to be helping them to raise the profiles of some items that they have for sale.”

Lieberman also said the state’s return policy notwithstanding, if a customer purchased an item that was not as described, EBay would refund the money and pursue the issue with the state.

As of this afternoon, the state had nearly $58,000 in sales on EBay and $9,000 on Craigslist, plus more than $1 million from sales of items offered in a Sacramento-area warehouse.

--Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento

 
Comments () | Archives (4)

I was supprised to read that a professional and experienced auction company was not used to accelearate the marketing of the items to be sold.
A garage sale is just that.
There are several professional auction companies that can do an excellent job in the state.
Why not start with.
The California State Auctioneers Association www.caauctioneers.org
The National Auctioneers Association www.auctioneers.org is anothe good place to contact a professional auction company.
A good auction will make and save the state more money than
trying to run a garage sale.

My opinion

Arlis Atkinson

Ebay is a total joke and with their exorbitant fees to sellers, the wrong place to sell anything online. But then again, we're talking about a decision by the fiscally ever-so-wise state of California.

Despite the comments of the reader below, InterSchola believes that eBay is an excellent way to sell surplus items for public agencies. interSchola has been actively assiting CA school districts with the sale of surplus for several years and has returned well over $3M to such clients! That said, we also agree with the comments in the article suggesting that perhaps the state could have achieved far better results by outsourcing this effort to an experienced eBay seller. Although the article above inidcates that the state sold nearly $58K on eBay, I fear that the cost of using state employees to list on eBay may be significant. InterSchola's model, when working with public school districts is a no risk, commission based model that results in significantly higher prices and significantly lower costs than if eachorganization was to use their own staff to list items individually - a school bus here, some food service equipment there, a modular classroom here, some shop equipment there. Check us out at www.interschola.com.

Why would you outsource? Do you know how much those places charge? You have not done your research. They charge up to 40% of the sales price. OK granted they will make a deal with the State and charge less because of volume. Still though, we are talking about listing an item and taking some pictures. All the money "they leave on the table" is equal to what the outside vendors will charge. Once they learn how to do the listings the state will save a lot of money. Yes there is a learning curve there but I think the people involved in it can learn how to list. It is not rocket science. The pictures should be good and they need to work on that but the description is just honesty and thoroughness.
The reason those third party listing services exist is because people are lazy and do not want to go through the trouble. There is no research done to prove that an Ebay listing service can actually do a better job and get you more money than an individual seller.

Oh and Melissa I like how you phrased your comment:'Interscola says...(as if interscola is some kind of independent research firm, it is just a 40% of the sales price listing service like any other) I fear the cost to use state employees....(who cares what you fear you are the owner of interscola, you are biased).GTFO with your lame shameless plug.


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