Progress 2007 Economic review & forecast

County opens auctions to online market

April 21, 2007

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Douglas County government's difficult experience last year with a now-defunct auction company prompted county officials to further explore eBay as an auction alternative. The county's foray into online auctioning has proved successful - and time-consuming.

During the last couple of years, the county has used eBay to sell used and surplus equipment, including sheriff's patrol cars, county vehicles and heavy equipment such as dump trucks, said Jackie Waggoner, purchasing agent for the county.

Using eBay helps the county reach a broader customer base than traditional live auctions allow, Waggoner said.

"I think it opens the market," she said, adding that in today's world, "people respond electronically."

One of eBay's advantages, Waggoner said, is the company's far-reaching scope because it commands a large portion of the online auctioning market.

But eBay is not without problems. Waggoner said eBay required too large of a time commitment because she had to organize all auction details, including posting photos, overseeing payment transactions and responding to e-mail and telephone inquiries. Waggoner is the only person at the county involved with listing property for auction on eBay.

The county will look at other online auctioning sites that could help streamline the process. But Waggoner finds too many positives from online auctioning to drop the practice, or eBay, entirely, she said.

"We still feel like it is a good avenue," Waggoner said. "I don't want to say we aren't going to use eBay."

Although the county may continue to use eBay, Waggoner recently met with employees from Purple Wave Auctioning, a Manhattan-based company that conducts live and Internet-only auctions.

The company would relieve most of the time commitments associated with an eBay auction because Purple Wave would handle all details of the auctioning process, said Aaron McKee, president of Purple Wave.

Purple Wave employees would photograph the property, place the property on its Web site, www.purplewave. com, respond to buyer inquiries and collect payment. The company then would contact county officials to transfer payment.

Unlike eBay, Purple Wave does not assess a seller's fee. Instead, the company assesses a flat 10 percent buyer's fee to each closed auction. EBay charged the county about a 5 percent fee to list each piece of property, whether or not the property sold at auction, Waggoner said.

If the county were to use Purple Wave, all property would remain on site in the county, which would give interested community members the opportunity to view the objects in person and ask questions.

Waggoner said she envisioned county officials would set up a specific time and place for interested parties to view the property. Purple Wave, like eBay, allows anyone to bid on its auctions.

The county could list property with Purple Wave within one month, Waggoner said.

Waggoner expects the county to continue to offer vehicles, heavy equipment and personal items such as desks and chairs through online auctions, she said.

The county does not have any property listed with any online auction sites at this time.

Journal-World intern Derek Korte can be reached at 832-7261.

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