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No reserve at online auctions

Have you ever auctioned off something with a reserve of $1?

I’ve run quite a few on Trade Me and, apart from one in which I suffered a reasonably significant loss, they have generally worked out satisfactorily. Goods seem to find close to their actual worth.

You can list an item at the price you’d really like to receive but could soon tire of listing it week after week and paying listing fees week after week. With a $1 reserve, it’s all over, sold, within the week or even a shorter time if you so choose.

I have a $1 auction in its last hours as I type this, so am flicking between Word and Google, which is why this piece might become a little dis…jointed.

I can report that I have already checked back three times and so far there has been absolutely no movement since I started typing this piece. The same bidder is still leading.

For those who have only had experience with live auctions, let me advise that there is no need to gesture in an online auction. Raising a hand, touching your nose or tugging an ear lobe will get you nowhere apart from looking pretty silly.

There is no auctioneer’s banter: “Sold to the lady with the gentleman’s hands around her throat!”

I’ve just checked back again. Still no movement.

The last few minutes are where it can get really exciting. Wise, experienced bidders don’t show until the last stages; they know it would only encourage other bidders so they sit back like furtive felines waiting to pounce.

And the last two minutes can actually last much longer than that because every time a new bid appears, another two minutes is tacked on to the auction’s run. To keep up with the runaway bidding you’ll hit ‘refresh’ more often than you ever have before.

You’ll start shouting at your device as the bids near the price you were hoping for.

“YES!”

Refresh.

“YEESS!”

Refresh.

You could be punching the air and whooping with delight, though, equally, you could be pleading for someone, anyone, to place a bid. Any increment would do.

I’ve just checked back again. No movement.

If you do reach the price you were hoping for, there is bad news in store.

With greedy haste, Trade Me will email you to let you know your account is now in debt and you owe them [amount appears here].

They call it a “success fee” to soften the blow a little.

So, after they take their 7.9 per cent, your take is not quite as rosy as it was. And if you are GST-registered, things are about to get even worse. You claimed the GST when you bought the item; now that you’ve sold it you have to pay it back at a per cent of the sale price.

Any profit is being seriously eroded.

I’ve just checked, and there have been twenty new bids since last I looked, each taking me a little closer to my hoped-for price.

For a seller, the best thing is a bidding war between two people, both of whom really want the item. They will often even go over the top price they had planned to pay. Those two may continue the war but I’m picking the ultimate winner will not appear until the last minute or so.

And that is exactly as it turned out here.

Random fun fact: I remember once listening to a “Buy, Sell or Exchange” show on the wireless. A caller had a wardrobe to sell, and when asked how much she wanted for it, she replied, “Just a near offer.”

So, I’ve reached the end of this piece. I’m going, going, GONE.

    Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

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