|Online auctions have caught on, and the rush to bid and sell
has overwhelmed a few sites, and transformed the rest. Here's an update on the
auction sites we recommended in our book The Best of Online
Shopping. --Lisa and Jonathan
By the way: If you haven't read our book, you'll get a sense of the way the online scene business is changing, as you browse our report, and you may spot some items you want to bid on.
And if you have news to report on any of the sites in our book, or discoveries we
should know about, please email us at ThePrices@swcp.com.
This site has been incorporated into CNET Auctions, which focuses on the same high-end computer gear as Auction Gate did. (See our review of CNET Auctions under Discoveries).
Neat idea: PriceDrop, a special area where the price comes down as each new person bids for the item, so the merchant sells more items, and makes it up on volume. For instance, on our visit, a two-button serial mouse with a retail price of $29,99 was going for $3.72. Samples of other Price Drops with next or starting bids:
The Personal Account Manager tracks all your bids. Bid Alert lets you know if you have been outbid; BidMax lets you set a maximum and have a robot bid up to that point, to keep you in the running.
Auction Universe has a new look, and a new name- Auctions.com.
Faster loading, simpler listing of items for sale, and a better way of dealing with all your bids on one page, called MyAuctions. Now, if there is a category you visit a lot, you can learn the 4-digit code, and enter that to go there directly, rather than having to click four times.
They have also begun offering items that are just for sale (before, they had something called First Bid Wins, which was essentially a sale, but now they call it For Sale). To encourage charity bidding, they now offer stuff like a set of artfully decorated cows from Chicago.
The site carries regular individual classified ad auctions, as well as auctions from merchants. For instance, their section called the World of Products includes more than 700 gift items from dealers such as Gems Direct, NFL Charity, Closeouts USA, Speedgear, and PC Connection. (You can zip right to the auctions by a particular merchant through a directory called Merchants Central). The browsing categories seem reasonable but whoever sorts items into the categories is, well, a bit odd (for instance, the drama category contains a bunch of novels). The advanced search works OK, mostly because it searches the actual description of the item, not just the title. Interesting twist: this site has alliances with sites in Australia and the UK, so there seem to be more items posted from around the world than in on other auction sites we have seen.
Sample items up for bid:
eBay is still the biggest auction site, with more than 3.5 million items for sale in 3,000 categories. They now get more than 1.5 million page views a month. This is the nations yard sale, with literally tons of stuff you never knew you needed (and mostly, you dont). Books, movies, and music, collectibles, dolls and figures, sports memorabilia, toys, and bean bags are all categories with more than 300,000 items in each. So if you have a hankering for a particular item, eBay is a great place to start. And if you want to marvel at what other folks are selling, you can spend hours just browsing with your mouth open.
The biggest problem is that eBay is so big. If you are a specialist in some particular area of pottery, you will find dozens of attractive auctions. But if you are just wondering about buying a plate, well, you may be looking through 200,000 auctions. And step back, because eBay is going global, with sites featuring local auctions for Australians, Canadians, Germans, Brits, and Japanese. Soon eBay will be the world's garage sale. But just as they expand, they are shrinking. You can now shop locally, to cut down on shipping charges, and speed up delivery. You pick a region in the US, and find auctions from folks in that area, arranged in local categories.
Sample items for auction:
Want more details on how to use eBay auctions? See our Online Auctions at Learnlots.
No response. Have they died?Excite
Good news: Excite has split auctions from classifieds ads, which were the original attraction of this site. The ads continue in their own area, but ads are just ads, with a single asking price. The auction area features merchant offerings, but includes plenty of items that once would have appeared in the newspaper under Used Gizmos. But at least you know which items are really up for bid, and which are a set price, or best offer. Because the auctions are new, some areas have only a half a dozen items, but others offer several hundred. Given Excites popularity, though, we predict even the smallest niche will soon fill with auctions.
The search allows you to look for sellers near you, recently launched auctions, or ones near closing. The advanced search is great: you pick a product category, and the screen changes, offering you criteria that relate to the product you chose. For instance, if you choose Underwear, the form changes to let you specify the color, size, and condition. Browsing is OK, with the categories broken up into sensible chunks, so you don't have to scroll and scroll.
Tip: If you go to the main Excite portal, the auctions are carefully hidden under Shopping. Better to use our URL to go direct to the auctions.
Note: Even if you are an Excite member, you have to register separately for the auctions.
Want more details on how to use Excite auctions? See our Online Auctions at Learnlots.
Fast comes first here. They have crammed in more of their 30-minute auctions (21 a day now), so you can enter, bid, and win or lose within a single visit.
Plus, they maintain most inventory at their warehouse, so you are really dealing with First Auction, not a private party; good and bad news is they charge your credit card as soon as you win an auction. That speeds up shipment, and means that you have the credit card company to help you in a dispute, but gosh, there goes the money right away.
Still, with this business model, you dont have to worry about whether or not an individual seller is going to package your glass doughnut properly, or even send it. Sample items:
For a lot of used golf clubs, and a few new ones, this is still the place to tee off. You can bid on a wide range of iron sets, wood, putters, irons, and wedges, and if you win, you have two days to OK the clubs before the purchase is final.
A nice search mechanism lets you specify manufacturer, price range, year, shaft type, shaft flex, and other criteria, so you dont have to wade through long lists of clubs you dont want. Many of these auctions involve an asking price, and if the bids dont reach that level, the seller can just plain refuse to sell.
Neat extra: an electronic blue book lets you figure an accurate value for your used clubs.
Caution: During the last months, this store went through some tough times when their host upgraded the server, and Infinite Auction had to debug all their scripts. We like their apology, explanation, and offer to cancel any bidding that got screwed up. But on our recent visit, they had no auctions in most of their categories, even though their Sweet Specials looked tempting.
Also disappointing: the main menu disappears when you go to a page, so that once you have read the product description, you only have three choices: to bid, go home, or go to the index, which is lame.
Nice new feature: a store offering chips, hard drives, mice, at fantastic bargains. The question is whether you want the item. You won't be able to learn much about it here because there is a product name, and a picture, but not much more.
Still, they do tell you the shipping costs on the same page as the picture. So Infinite is the place to cruise if you know what you want, ahead of time.
Sample Sweet Specials, with initial bids:
Note:The URL is actually for sweetdeal.com. If you try www.infiniteauction.com you get a note that their site is being reassembled. Dont you just hate those Under Construction signs?Onsale at Auction
Sold to Egghead! For this new, combined auction site, see our review in Discoveries.up4sale
Auction Annie, the animated auctioneer, is pounding her gavel on a lot more classified ad auctions than the site carried a few months ago. In fact, Auction Annie has become the official greeter, with the slogan, "Free auctions forever." Most of these auctions involve items that would otherwise have shown up in classified ads. So if you are looking for action figures, Beanie Babies , dolls, trading cards, or comic books, this is a good site.
The site advertises the auctions ending within the next 24 hours, so you can go right to the ones that are at their peak. Good sign: the site warns potential cheaters that the FTC will investigate any seller who sends a substitute product or refuses to deliver the goods after the winning bidder has paid. With auction fraud leading the list of online problems, up4Sale is on the right track to warn sellers that they are legally obligated to deliver. Another good call: they now insist that any one coming from a free email address such as HotMail check in with a credit card, because many sites have found this reduces fraud. And now once you register you can get express login.
Caution: AOL users have trouble here because the old browsers keep redisplaying old pages instead of fetching the latest version, refusing to display graphics, disconnecting without warning, and showing the same error message over and over, even when the problem has been fixed. (Workaround: Sign on AOL then use Internet Explorer or Netscape instead of the AOL browser.)
Sample auctions, with current bid on our visit:
If you like the Vegas shtick, click here for auctions that deal with casino chips, sports memorabilia, and products they candidly called Weird Items. The gambling paraphernalia gives this site its smokey atmosphere, but there are some other items here. By the way, you can buy the whole site, if you want it badly enough (they have a For Sale sign up on the home page). In the meantime, they distinguish themselves by refusing to take any money off the top; what you bid is what you pay, to the seller, not them.
Excellent feature: listing an item for sale is now free, and you can put up as many items as you like. (Special merchandising still costs extra). You can even link from this free auction to an auction you post on some other site. Only a year old, this site doesnt have anywhere near the volume of eBay, but, by our calculations, each category averages about 8 items, some of which are intriguing. The site is now plugging what they claim no other auction site offers, an automatic reposting of your auction if it fails to get any bids. (Actually, several other sites do offer this option, but perhaps not with exactly the same wrinkles).
Webauction, now known as MyAuctionWarehouse
Having started life as some kind of outpost of the Warehouse catalog company, WebAuction is now morphing into MyAuctionWarehouse, to emphasize the connection with their parent.
Listings are free, for now. Computers still form the bulk of the auctions here, but they also offer airfare, electronics, flowers, food, gifts, home office supplies, sports gear, and vehicles. The computer stuff does not all come from MicroWarehouse. Individuals and other merchants post auctions in this area, some with reserve prices (that is, a bid level that must be met before the seller will release the product). Pretty good selection, with reasonable prices.
Note the new URL: http://myauction.warehouse.com
Bigger and flashier than ever, the auctions sponsored by Yahoo! are also as well organized as the rest of the Yahoo world, compressing hundreds of thousands of auctions into a tight space. For instance, the day we revisited the site, they were running 270,839 auctions of toys , including Pokemon and Beanie Babies. Nice touch: charity auctions, where the point is to bid even more than the item is worth.
|Want to find some more places to get in on the excitementof bidding or selling? Check out our Discoveries: New Auctions to Win.|
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Copyright 1999 Jonathan and Lisa Price, The Communication Circle
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