Ask the Expert: Jacquie Denny, Everything But The House

The Founder and chief development officer of Everything But the House (EBTH) has sold a rock band’s tour bus, a live horse, and other oddities. She offers a few tips on how to be a savvy shopper.

How can a buyer choose a reliable online auction site? People tend to take the advice of a credible friend at work or a neighbor who has shopped a site. You can also check the Better Business Bureau. I recommend that you find out how much business a site does. Most auction sites publish archives of sales. Check the results. People tend to use services that work. We have people who buy with us and then turn around and sell with us. That’s a true indicator of an auction company’s success.

What are the advantages to shopping via online auctions versus retail? You can shop seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This gives you time to research and ask questions. There’s no dealing with inclement weather, traffic, and gas usage. You can share the shopping experience with friends…. You are supporting a family through one of life’s transitions. You’re also being “green” by purchasing items in the recycle, repurpose, and reuse space.

Is there anything you should avoid purchasing through an online auction? You can purchase anything that goes into a 10-inch by 10-inch by 10-inch box and ship it for less than $15. But if you pay as much for shipping as you do for the item, it becomes less of a bargain, and you’re less excited about this purchase. For larger, more cumbersome items, shop a local or regional market within a few hours’ drive because shipping can be a factor.

What common mistakes do first-time shoppers make? Not preparing. They look at the first picture, get excited, and don’t read the description, which gives the size and condition. And they start bidding. (Why would you read [just] the first chapter of a book?) And know the auction site’s policy in advance. At EBTH, we take multiple photographs of an item and include a condition report. If something arrives damaged, you can call and achieve a resolution.

There’s also the “oops, I hit the wrong button” error…. One lady said a cat walked across her keyboard. We worked it out. But do review the bids you put in. Also, new bidders, or those shopping for gifts, can get too emotionally involved. On our site, the “max bid” feature helps you avoid this problem.

How should shoppers prepare for an online auction? I call this the battle plan. Learn the features of the site and utilize the “favorites” feature, if available. This aggregates the items you’re interested in on one page and makes it easier to bid and track your items. Also utilize the “sort” feature, if available, to gain insight into the number of bidders or what an item is currently going for.

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