New Service Lets Buyers Inspect Items through Someone Else's Eyes
By Greg Holden
Seeing is believing. That old maxim applies especially to big-ticket items you're thinking of purchasing online. If you're looking for a car that costs $10,000, $20,000 or more and that has to be shipped to you across the country, you want to make very sure the photos and description are accurate and the seller can really be trusted. Perhaps another saying more accurately describes this: Trust but verify.
That's the way Mark Caywood felt when he wanted to purchase a high-end projector on eBay a few years ago. He wanted to send someone to view the item in person, not necessarily because he felt the listing was fraudulent, but because he wanted to make sure the item was being represented correctly. He realized there was a need for a service that would provide a real live person - a "looker" - to check out the merchandise and make sure it wasn't being unintentionally (or intentionally) misrepresented.
That was the idea behind WeGoLook, a personal inspection service for anyone who is thinking of purchasing something online. For $49, an individual can purchase a basic report, prepared by a "Looker" who lives in the seller's area and travels to see the item in person. Additional fees provide for videos (an extra $20), getting a working demonstration of the item (an extra $20), or getting help with shipping ($29 plus shipping) - see more about WeGoLook fees on this page. You can even pay $25 extra to get a licensed appraiser to appraise the items based on the looker's photos.
The key to the service is the network of Lookers that has been assembled by the company. Lookers can fill out an application on the WeGoLook website. But they don't just choose anyone. The company conducts background checks to make sure the candidate has no previous felonies.
"Our team began our recruitment of Lookers while we were still developing the site," explains Smith. "We chose mobile notaries, process servers and field inspectors as our primary base. They make up about 80 percent of our Looker community. We chose them due to their professionalism, mobility in the field, possessing the proper equipment. Our next phase of recruitment will include retired policemen and women. Many of the Lookers let us know if they have a hobby such as eBaying, autos, etc. It helps with certain jobs."
Johnny Moritz, 68, a Looker who lives just south of Houston, Texas, has 50 years' worth of experience in business for himself. "I had a sign business (ApolloBanner.com) I've worked at daily for 15 years," he says. "I learned about this Looker service on the Web and thought it was the best new service business I have seen in 20 years. The job of Looker/inspector looked like fun and it is."
Asked if he ever encounters hostile or uncooperative sellers who don't want inspectors on their property, he said that's not the case. "People I see are great," he comments. "I am in and out in less than 30." Lookers are paid half of the total cost of an inspection. If a "Look" costs $49, the Looker receives $25. If a Look costs $122, the person gets $61.
Autos and other vehicles sold on eBay, Craigslist, or other sites are obvious candidates for inspections, and auto inspections are available for $129. "We are working with a heavy equipment inspection company, RV company, and marine inspection company to provide reports for multiple vehicle categories," says co-founder Robin Smith. But WeGoLook also inspects animals for sale and even verifies prospective online dates to see if the descriptions you see on a dating ad are really accurate.
Buyer Paul A. Barros hired WeGoLook to purchase a car on eBay Motors after considering several other inspection services. The other companies were either slow to respond or seldom provided service in the area where the car was located: El Paso, Texas.
"When I called WeGoLook, they asked me to sit tight for a few minutes while they located a "Looker" in El Paso," he recalls. "I was absolutely floored (in a good way) when they called back a little while later to say they had contacted the seller and the Looker was going to be meeting the seller in just a few hours. The inspection went off without a hitch and I got my report via email that same night! I can honestly say that without WeGoLook, my eBay Motors purchase could have turned out really poorly or not at all. WeGoLook's whole idea of having a network of "Lookers" at your beck and call seems to be very well-suited to today's web marketplace."
Barros mentions one important advantage of getting a personal inspection: insurance. "WeGoLook confirmed the vehicle was in good shape. The report and pictures was sufficient for my insurance company to issue coverage so that the vehicle would be covered on my drive back from El Paso."
Sellers, too, can take the initiative and include a link to WeGoLook in their sales descriptions, thus encouraging prospective buyers to have someone inspect their items. "The lack of credibility on the seller's part can be easily overcome by having our independent report posted," says Smith. "I believe more sellers will realize this as our services become better known."
WeGoLook has been online for about 18 months and went out of beta at the start of 2011. Currently, the company provides inspection services "almost anywhere in the U.S.," but has plans to go worldwide.
To Johnny Moritz, the benefits are clear: "If you buy any big ticket item and live more than 200 miles from where the item is, this Looker service is the best way to save time and money."
Do you have an interesting story about your business or a set of tips to share with other ecommerce entrepreneurs? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you may be profiled in a future EcommerceBytes column.
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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