Sunday, April 01, 2007

Concierge selling services: Reverse your model!

There are a ton of people in the business of packaging up your stuff to sell on eBay. AuctionDrop are the ones that come first to my mind, but this article lists about a dozen.

The basic premise is that a local business can provide a service involving listing, packaging, shipping, and managing the paper trail for used goods and make plenty of money. All these people have focused on sellers thus far -- I suppose on the theory that the motivation to clean our your garage is stronger than the motivation to buy some shiny object in a faraway place.

This is silly, because attraction to shiny objects is deeply human. In my previous post, I discussed a multi-city search for a Performax sander. I'm a woodworker, and I've decided it's time that I had a sander in the shop because I'm tired of two-week gaps in projects while I take a pile of panels to the mill. In my quick survey of Craigslist, I found broadly similar sanders that I would buy in cities ranging from Boston to Los Angeles -- at prices ranging from $850 to $2800. Now, guess which one I want to buy? But do I even want to deal with the hassle of trying to arrange buying something remotely and shipping it to myself? Unlikely. I may even have a tough time having a serious conversation with the seller, given that what I want to do bears a strong resemblance to some well-established scams.

AuctionDrop and others should step in to this market.
"Listing, packaging, shipping, and managing the paper trail for used goods" can work with the causality arrow pointed in both directions -- or, said another way, as a post-purchase rather than pre-purchase option. I want to be able to get an approximate quote from AuctionDrop to drive to zip code 90210, pick up a purchase weighing 300 pounds, put it in a box, and send it to me in 94025. I want to be able to loop them in to the email chain after I buy something in Boston and have them deal with the details. Inspection of the goods at a basic level would be great, too -- there would have to be some significant liability waivers, but "I plugged it in and it ran" is certainly something that they could indemnify. This could be very lucrative. In order to get the $850 sander vs. the $1800 sander, it's easily worth it to me to pay someone $500, and I can't imagine that shipping costs from LA are more than about $200. There's a fat margin in there waiting to be exploited by... someone.

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