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Internet Auctions: The New Customer Service

Over the years, internet auctions have changed the way people look at a traditional auction. They give anyone with a computer the ability to buy or sell goods at any time. This article talks about internet auctions and customer service. Specifics may vary from auction to auction; however, the following information includes helpful and important guidelines from which everyone can benefit.

Ebay has unlocked many doors for traditional auctions by opening up the world of Internet auctions. They created a need for Ebay sellers to have product to sell on the Internet which brought a whole new group of buyers to traditional auctions. Most importantly, Ebay made the word “auction” a household word. The typical consumer knew of auctions prior to Ebay but had many misconceptions about traditional auctions and what is sold at auction. Ebay helped to educate consumers that are now purchasing at online auction about the benefits of the auction method of marketing, and this education has produced many new attendees for traditional auctions.

Although Ebay has changed greatly over the past few years and those changes are not the focus of this article, one thing that has remained the same for Ebay is customer service. Ebay realized it was important to make the auction buyer and seller comfortable with their online transactions. So they created a feedback forum, which allowed both the buyer and seller to report on transactions and create an honor system based on the information. The use of the feedback forum became so successful that both buyers and sellers alike go out of their way to resolve disputes to avoid negative feedback.

If you have every bought or sold on Ebay you also know that the feedback forum can almost be used as a type of ransom to hold over a buyer’s or seller’s head. For example “if you don’t send me the power cord for this gizmo I purchased even though your ad said it wasn’t included, I am going to leave your bad feedback.” Savvy Ebay users have learned how to effectively deal with such bullying tactics. However it does not take away from the beneficial system of a feedback forum.

The Ebay users that are now attending traditional auctions have come to expect the same sort of honor system within traditional auctions that was created by the feedback forum of Ebay. Traditional auction firms have sold for hundreds of years using the “as-is” clause or the caveat emptor warnings at our auctions. They are not set up to issue refunds or offer guarantees. But with the makeup of changing buyers and sellers traditional auctioneers need to revisit some of these old “wash our hands of the situation” sorry no refund policies.

First, Ebay educated their customers, so traditionalists need to do the same. It isn’t good enough to say that everything will be sold “as-is”. They need to thoroughly explain what that means to a buyer. If they are selling electronics at an auction and they have not tested the item for working condition, they need to state such either in the description for the item or in our signed terms and conditions. There are auction firms that offer a three day trial guarantee. So if the item purchased doesn’t work when someone tests their purchase, they can return the item. But the auction firms that offer such a guarantee are often selling their own inventory and not that of consignors.

Second, traditional auctioneers must take a softer and gentler approach with these new customers at our auction. Simply stating that the Uniform Commercial Code which is adopted by all states except of Louisiana allows them to sell “as-is” will not satisfy this group of auction buyers that have been indoctrinated by Ebay. If this is the policy of the auction house, then it needs to be announced in the opening introduction of the auction and the auctioneer needs to work the buyer beware warning into the auction chant. To treat these customers with disdain when they ask for a refund for their non-working purchase only means they will never return to the auction, consign to the auction and of course will tell all of their friends about their terrible experience with the traditional auction.

Deb Weidenhamer is CEO of Auction Systems, the Southwest’s most active auction and appraisal company. Check out our website for our internet auction schedule or call 800-801-8880 for more information.

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