EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 211 - March 16, 2008 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 8 Lower Fees, Fewer Bids

By Jan Perry

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A lot of long-time loyal cyber-sellers began looking for an auction alternative following the recent controversial fee and policy changes imposed by the perennial auction mega-site - eBay. Although it has had competition online for several years, as of yet, no one site has stepped up to truly give it a run for its customer base. But the folks at (or OLA as they call it) are hoping to do just that.

The biggest advantage OLA offers sellers is a flat membership fee with no listing or re-listing fees and no final value fees (that's the percentage of the highest bid that goes as a commission to the auction site). Plus OLA offers some important freedoms that eBay does not allow. Sellers are welcome to include personal website information in their listings and communicate directly with OLA members about the items up for sale. Also, multiples (say 20 identical hammers intended for 20 separate sales) are listed on one page rather than the eBay system, which forces sellers to create 20 individual listings (and pay 20 individual fees).

You do pay for listing upgrades like extra photos (over four) or prominent placement on the listing page. But those fees are the same or lower than most auction sites.

There is another important difference. The set closing time for items on eBay allows an individual to grab an item at the last second. (It's called sniping). On OLA, if multiple buyers are still actively bidding when an auction reaches its official closing time, that time is extended so that, just like at a traditional auction, bidding continues until only one bidder is left.

Creating a listing is straightforward and will be extremely easy for anyone that has sold on other auction sites. (There's a good tutorial and a Chat Room specifically for anyone that's new and wants some help.) But sellers that are used to fancy backgrounds and themed page designs may be disappointed with the site's "no frills" appearance. And those that like to have the auction site step in when there's a problem with a buyer or seller or item might not be comfortable with OLA's stance on the subject. All they do is bring buyer and seller together. They do not mediate disputes. (Their feedback system does allow for changes of heart and late follow-ups, however.)

Joining OLA is a two-minute process and is free for basic buyers (who then have a maximum bid total per-day limit of $1,000) or $4 monthly for verified buyer members. (They have unlimited bidding/buying privileges.)

Sellers have three options. A "Verified Seller" ($8 monthly) is entitled to bid without limitations, communicate between buyers and sellers via a private O-Mail account, use chat rooms, and view/post feedback. They may list and sell as many items as they choose with no listing fees or final value fees using the simple form on the site or the free downloadable bulk listing tool, O-Lister.

A "Charter Member" ($96 annually) is entitled to the same benefits but they also receive $100 worth of auction enhancements (additional photos, featured status for selected auctions, activation of "End-It-Early" feature) at no cost as well as "Buying and Selling Online" a how-to CD with step-by-step instructions.

Finally, there are "Founding Members" ($196 the first year and $96 guaranteed each year thereafter for life). Founding Members receive the same benefits as Charter Members although the enhancements package bumps to $200. A special icon identifies them, and their links are accessible from the site's home page. They also receive a $200 bonus software package with computer games, cookbooks, maps and more. And they can set up a virtual store (called "My OLA House,") that is linked to their auctions. The store is free for the first 12 months.

The sight is campaigning heavily for the latter. In fact, they're actively looking for a million sellers to take advantage of the "no fee increase" promise and benefits package and join the Founding Member movement. (So far they've signed up approximately 500.)

So it all sounds great.

The tough part for the OnlineAuction crew is going to be delivering enough buying traffic to tempt established eBay sellers away from the security of the auction giant. While I found tons of items listed, it's much harder finding listings with bids. As one PowerSeller put it, "It's all about name recognition. There's eBay and then there are all of the nameless others. Everyone knows what eBay is. Very few people could even name another auction site."

That may be true today. But with discontent among eBay members, some well-timed national exposure and an ever-growing groundswell of word-of-mouth support, OLA just may have what it takes to overcome anonymity and play David to eBay's Goliath.

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About the author:

Jan Perry is a freelance writer currently living in Northern Kentucky. She has authored a web site review column for The Cincinnati Post for the past 10 years ( along with features on everything from rock climbing in Red River Gorge to her wild ride in a Red Baron biplane. She's been an eBay member, buying and selling, since 1997 and a collector of many things just about all of her 56 years. She's in the process of selling a collection/accumulation of more than half-a-million new, used and antique buttons through eBay. She has written an as yet unpublished mystery book and is currently working on her first novel.

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