close this bookVolume 7: No. 74
View the documentAsian entrepreneurship
View the documentInvestment
View the documentResearch software (in our CRS 7.37 digest this week)
View the documentAuction sites

Companies spent nearly $35B last year on Internet infrastructure, Web sites, and data protection. Commercial returns are low because only 15% of US homes have modems, even fewer have fast browsing capability, and only 5% of the population have any interest in shopping via the Web. It may be 10-15 years before the Internet captures significant retail trade. [IBD, 10Oct97. EduP.]

Yahoo! lists over 150 auction sites (but none that specialize in barter). eBay AuctionWeb is one of the largest, possibly getting $20K/day gross from $2-$3 average per transaction. Buyers can usually find good deals on computer memory, software, and other volatile electronic goods. Buyers and sellers often both get a better price than if the goods -- often overruns, overstocks, or discontinued lines -- were sold through a liquidator. (On the other hand, people willing to shop discount catalogs may find merchandise for the same price as the seller.) Direct sellers also get the buyer's name, for possible further sales, and the buyer gets to look around for related merchandise from the same seller or from others. eBay is building infrastructure for 5M auctions/day by the end of this year. (They were doing 7K/day in April, and growing at 25%/month.) Unlike most web services, it hasn't had to do much advertising; sellers take care of that when they announce their merchandise in other forums. [Fred Hapgood , Inc. Tech, 9/15/97.]

CyberQuest's bid4it site allows sellers and buyers to set their own prices -- even using automatic algorithms based on available inventory, trading activity, and received bids. More than 60 categories, usually of brand-name merchandise in close-out sales or with 30-day return policies. The seller may remain anonymous. , 1-800-315-9900. [Michael F. Malone , URLwire, 15Oct97.]

American Auction serves a worldwide market, offering computer hardware and software, collectibles, sporting supplies, etc. Free to buyers, and currently free to listers. . [Chuck Gabbard . Marshall D. Simmonds , net-hap, 26Aug97.]

Another auction site for computer hardware is . [, 04Aug97.]

One interesting use of this technology is to auction off advertising space (or "real-time impressions") on the Web. Advertisers set up a "media buy" record with FlyCast Communications Corp., specifying what kinds of sites they prefer and how much they'll pay. Then every time a user requests a page on a FlyCast-subscribed site, FlyCast sends the highest-bidding banner ad. In essence, it's a microauction -- and since no sales reps are involved, costs can be kept low. . [Fred Hapgood , Inc. Tech, 9/15/97.]

The TravelBids site, , is a reverse auction with travel agents bidding for your business. You pay $5 to post your itinerary; travel agents then bid on how much of their commission they'll kick back to you if you let them handle your reservations. The service guarantees you'll save at least 6%, and you may save as much as 20%. [Joel J. Smith, Detroit News. SJM, 29Sep97, 1E.]

The eBay AuctionWeb site may be offering as many as 50K items at a time. The commission goes from $2 to 5%. People who offer unusual items often get contacts from other people with the same interests. . [Mike Cassidy, SJM, 12Oct7, 1G.] (Or , or .)

More than 100 online auction sites are listed at . It includes a BidFind search engine for finding sites where specific items are up for bid. Many auction sites are limited to specific types of merchandise, such as fine wines at . Good sites for computer equipment and general merchandise include eBay AuctionWeb , OnSale , Haggle Online , and First Auction . [Edward C. Baig, BW, 11Aug97, p. 98.]

In a Yankee auction, the top several bids may all win merchandise from a batch of identical items. Klik-Klock Online Dutch Action -- which offers clocks, jewelry, and gardening tools -- automatically drops prices every few seconds until someone takes the seller's bid. Some auction sites offer special services, such as automatic rebidding up to your specified maximum. [Edward C. Baig, BW, 11Aug97, p. 98.]

Some general tips: Make a low bid early on, since the first bidder wins in case of a final tie. (Bidders on multiple items in a batch get even higher preference.) Sellers often set very attractive minimum bids, and sometimes people win at that price. Make your last bid at least 20 minutes before closing time, to allow for posting delays. (Sometimes the final action is "fast and furious.") If you don't win, there's a good chance that a similar item will be up for auction immediately after -- and it may go for a lower price. Pay with a credit card, for maximum protection against fraud -- but sales are final, so know what you're bidding on and how much you're willing to pay. [Edward C. Baig, BW, 11Aug97, p. 98.]

(I should try selling a few Computists International memberships via auction. Might give me some feedback on pricing the service; no doubt a big slice of humble pie as well.)

-- Ken