FoundValue: A Twist on eBay Trading Assistants
By Mark O'Neill
FoundValue is a new eBay consignment service with 10 full-time employees and 80 sellers ("specialists") in 24 states. But unlike other eBay consignment chains, FoundValue has one characteristic that makes them stand out from the crowd: they do housecalls, so brick & mortar stores are not required.
Stella Kleiman founded the San Francisco-based FoundValue. "When I started my own business, I realized that people wanted to use my services because they didn't want to deal with the hassle of selling on eBay," said Stella in an email to AuctionBytes. "I also learned that they viewed going through their own things, choosing what to sell and then dropping their stuff off somewhere was also part of the hassle equation. When I offered to come over and help them sift through their things and let them know what sells, they were much more interested in my service."
The specialists in each state do the housecalls, pick up the items, list them and sell them on eBay. The winning eBay bidders send the money to FoundValue headquarters. The company processes the payment, sends the specialist and the consignment customer their commissions from the sale and does all the accounts and paperwork.
The specialist is responsible for mailing the item to the winning bidder, doing eBay feedback and customer service and dealing with complaints.
Since the FoundValue specialists are scattered throughout the U.S. and are independent contractors with their own businesses, the eBay feedback system is how FoundValue manages to maintain an "overview" of a specialist's eBay sales and to make sure that FoundValue's customers are satisfied with the service. According to Stella, any FoundValue specialist whose feedback rating falls below 98% could have their membership terminated. "We don't promote any Specialist on the FoundValue website until they have sold a certain number of items and have gone through our training," Stella said.
Specialists are required to buy a business kit which costs $150 plus $15 in shipping & handling. There is also a $10 monthly membership fee, and FoundValue keeps part of the commission from each sale - 7 percent of the item's final selling price.
The commission fee structure is on a sliding scale. For items that sell for up to $250, consignors get 65% of their item's selling price, the Specialist keeps 28%, and FoundValue gets 7%. Specialists earn 16% for sales between $250 and $1000, and 12% over $1000. Specialists can also make bonuses for sponsoring and mentoring new members into the FoundValue network.
Stella said FoundValue's share goes to pay Specialist bonuses for mentoring and training, hosting, bandwidth, eBay API fees, software licensing, and overhead (software development, salaries, etc.).
Specialists are required to purchase Business Kits that contain training guides, photography accessories, packaging supplies and promotional and marketing materials including brochures, business cards, sales agreements and a FoundValue email address. Specialists can terminate their relationship with FoundValue at any time with no penalty. Specialists receive access to an automated system which shows the status of payments, email and auction management, and access to marketing materials.
With regulations coming into place in certain states about the legal requirements for online auction sellers, how does this affect FoundValue and their national network of sellers?
"I think we would all like to see eBay take a more aggressive lobbying position here," replied Stella. "Most of us would prefer that this business not end up subject to 50 different state regulations. As the situation clarifies on the ground, state-by-state, we would look to help our Specialists understand and comply with the laws in their states. If the laws and regulations stick, we would attempt to take a more proactive role in facilitating Specialists to become certified or whatever else the law may require."
FoundValue members adhere to a code of ethics designed to give a potential consignment customer more comfort that their goods are being sold by someone that knows what they are doing.
Stella emphasised that FoundValue does not promote the auctions, the specialists do with the help of the marketing materials provided to them.
"We have been very fortunate," said Stella. "We have received PR exposure through news articles, radio and television interviews that have increased awareness of the services we offer allowing our Specialists to gain additional customers and rapidly grow their business."
And in this business, you can meet all sorts. "Recently, one of our Specialists in New York was invited by a Realtor to visit a property, an old Masonic Lodge she had on the market," relates Stella. "She was inspecting the interior of the building when she discovered a wide array of ceremonial robes and props including a coffin complete with ceremonial skeleton. It was by far one of the most unusual home visits our Specialists have had to perform to date."
FoundValue Business Kit includes:
- The FoundValue Essentials Handbook which contains the FoundValue Business Manual, Training Guide, & Essential Information
- A Start Smart Photo Studio which contains two reflector clamp lamps plus two photoflood bulbs, a full size tripod, and a white backdrop.
- A Start Smart Shipping Station which contains packaging tape in a dispenser, a roll of bubble wrap, packing tissue paper, and adhesive package labels
- A suite of marketing & business materials including welcome booklets, brochures, sample business cards, FoundValue sales agreements, FoundValue Datebook, postcards, and an Ask Me About FoundValue pin.
$10 monthly membership fee includes:
A web-based, easy-to-use solution that organizes all your FoundValue operations:
- eBay listings
- inventory tracking
- customer management
- email management
- payment collection & disbursements
- educational and research resources
- a FoundValue business email address & personalized FoundValue website
- access to professionally designed marketing materials and sales aids
Stella said many Specialists start with a new eBay User ID that is FoundValue-branded, but it isn't required, and some decide to keep the User ID that they traded with before. Here are some selling IDs of FoundValue specialists:
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