This is the start of garage sale season. (Or should I say "tag sale" season for those of you on the East Coast.) Such sales give average folks the chance to make some extra money by putting out items for sale. But what about those who live in apartments without a front lawn, or in condos whose boards prohibit such sales?
That was the question facing Jonathon Papsin, 27, just a few years ago. Papsin wanted to unload many of his old college possessions. But he couldn't hold a tag sale at his apartment in Westchester, a suburb of New York City. Then one of those "Wouldn't it be great if?" moments occurred to him.
"I thought, there must be a way to hold a sale. So I decided to create a Web site where people could hold a virtual sale."
The result is Tagsellit.com, a site that combines high-tech virtual sales with the low-tech practice of cleaning out your basement and offering your castoffs to anyone who wants them.
Papsin launched Tagsellit.com in 2008 with his business partner Matthew Dorman. It's a site devoted to garage sales, flea markets and tag sales of all sorts. It gives anyone a chance to sell a large quantity of household goods at once for a nominal fee. "You can upload up to 200 items on one sale page, and people from all around the nation can make an offer," explains Papsin. "The buyer and seller work out the shipping and the price. There's also a local advantage - if a neighbor can see the couch you are looking to sell online, he or she can come in person and pick it up."
Obviously, Tagsellit is treading on territory already covered by some big players: Craigslist and eBay. But Papsin (who is the company CEO) and Dorman (who is its Chief Technical Officer) have positioned the site to serve a niche: people who aren't selling antiques, and people who love tag sales and flea markets.
"Obviously, if you are selling a $5,000 antique, you won't be using our Web site to sell it, you'll go to eBay," says Papsin. "eBay is a global marketplace, and it is primarily an auction Web site. We're local, and our sellers offer everything at a fixed price. Craigslist has just one For Sale section, so there's not much exposure. The advantage to using our site is tremendous exposure. We also have a greater search capability than Craigslist - you can search both locally and nationally."
Another advantage is low cost. If an individual seller puts five items or less up for sale, there is no charge. For up to 20 items, the cost is only $1.25 for two weeks. For up to 100 items the cost rises to $6.95. Charges are higher for commercial businesses that want to unload inventory. It's up to sellers to take photos and upload them, but the site can present several hundred photos on a single Web page. Although items are offered at a fixed price, haggling does go on between buyers and sellers, just as at a "real" tag sale.
The site offers PayPal and credit card payments for sellers, but often, buyers and sellers meet in person. "We have had a lot of good testimonials," says Papsin. "A woman in South Carolina was helping her grandmother sell household items, and her grandmother's town didn't allow sales outside of community. She wanted to get rid of a bunch of things, so she put hem up for sale on Tagsellit. Someone responded, and they arranged to meet the buyer at Wal-Mart, with all the things in back of their car. It went very smoothly."
And Tagsellit goes beyond functioning as a marketplace by offering an online "bulletin board" where sellers can advertise their garage sales, flea markets, benefit sales, and commercial sales, all for free. "People list their street address and sale information and the website creates a Google map that allows pros buyers to search buyers." An estimated 1500 flea market vendors around the country list their sales and bulk upload listings from individual sellers.
Papsin, who studied business administration, says bargain-hunting runs in his family. "I come from a family of pack rats, I guess. My parents used to take my brother and I to flea markets when we were kids. We would run around and look for vendors who had GI Joes and Matchbox cars."
After graduating from college, he became a licensed real estate agent. "One common issue I heard from clients who are relocating was, "How do I get rid of items?" Craigslist didn't work, and eBay didn't work with their auction format because they just wanted someone to pick their stuff up right away."
He and Dorman, an advanced programmer who has helped develop large-scale websites for Fox Television, MTV, and Car and Driver magazine, met in January 2008. They invested $7,000 of their own money to get started, and most of that went for legal and accounting fees. Dorman got started building Tagsellit.com in late February, and after three months, the site was online.
The two are constantly revising the site to improve functionality and provide new features. They are the only full-time employees, though they use a public relations firm for marketing and employ some interns to help out. And they have kept their "day jobs" in Manhattan all the while.
Tagsellit.com went online on April 28, 2008. Since then, the site has used social networking and word-of-mouth to grow to 2000 registered users and about 3000 unique visitors per day. Many users take advantage of the free sale format. At any time, 8000 to 10,000 sales are listed nationwide. "Really, it has grown pretty quickly," says Papsin. "Our friends tell it's amazing: "What a genius idea. You don't have to sit there and auction things off.""
"We probably work 18 hours a day, each of us, which is hard because I am 27 and single, and Matthew is 30 years old with two kids under two," says Papsin. "The biggest challenge has been trying to keep up with our own developmental ideas. We are just brainstorming every day."
"We are still having a great time with the business, and are excited to see what the second year will bring," said Dorman. "It is exhilarating, building a brand from non-existent to even what we have now, especially when it is your own company."
The pair is proud of their iPhone application, Find Tag Sales, a utility that helps individuals locate sales around the country. They also plan a new visual design for the site, which will appear next month, as well as many new features for Tagsellit.com users, including a garage sale checklist that sellers can use in the weeks leading up to a sale, and a spreadsheet that allows them to keep track of prices and product details.
These last two features are free utilities for members - they're not moneymaking features in their own right. That indicates the prime motivation for Papsin and Dorman: they're having fun.
Papsin, for his part, still frequents tag sales, and he maintains a "continuous sale" of his own merchandise on Tagsellit. "Last summer, I went to an estate sale, and I was waiting in line with these people who were all older than I was. I found a 1980 New York Yankees patch, a set of sugar glasses, and some unopened Scotch in the bar downstairs. I got everything for $8. I'm so glad Matt and I made the dive and started this company. It's been a blast."
More information about selling on Tagsellit.com is found here