Archive for Sunday, August 13, 2000

Wichita-based site TheMerc.com conducts its first live auctions

Web site runs into initial software problems but starts service

August 13, 2000

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— TheMerc.com was originally going to be up and running sometime in June.

But software problems slowed Wichita's answer to auction site eBay.com.

"We have been doing things slowly, getting the bugs out," said Tom Orr, vice president and co-founder with Jay Feist, who also is chief financial officer of Feist Publications Inc. TheMerc.com is a private venture by Feist and Orr; it is not a part of Feist Publications.

Getting the business going has been an incremental process. TheMerc.com took a big new step Saturday when it conducted its first live auctions.

The company plans to incorporate online, interactive auctions into its business, but that's still some months away.

Besides conducting auctions, TheMerc.com accepts items to be sold online a business that's already under way. It now has from 1,500 to 2,000 items listed, Orr said. "We have people signed up online who are starting to put up quite a bit for sale," he said. "We have been pleasantly surprised at how things have been going."

The company's first live auctions was to be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at its 45,000-square-foot building northwest.

While the auctions are not interactive on the Internet, a person can log onto the site, look at what will be sold, and enter a proxy, or absentee, bid for any item.

If no one bids higher during the auction, the online bid is considered the highest.

TheMerc gives an example on its Web site: If a bid, say $200, is the highest before the start of the auction, and the last bid is $100, the bid is changed to $101 because TheMerc replaces the online bid with the maximum bid needed to win the item, in this case, $1 more than the last bid.

Bidders eventually will be able to bid interactively during auctions, Orr said. "It is going to require an all-new software package that we have to write ourselves." He said the company hopes to have the interactive element up and running within a year.

The 10 a.m. auction features items from the inventory and fixtures of Anne's Loft and Kansas Concession, which are being liquidated.

Orr thinks the auction will take at least two hours to sell the oak rocking chairs, mahogany buffets, collectible glassware and hundreds of other items.

The 7 p.m. auction, expected to run three hours or more, includes such items as furniture, oak file cabinets, mirrors, breadmakers, baseball cards and Tonka-brand toys.




More: www.themerc.com

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