A Better Auction Site - ideas?


We've seen a lot of discussion here about problems with eBay. I share your frustrations, though personally have had only minor problems. I think, in the US at least, there is room for a competitive auction site. I'd like to discuss some ideas here.

Anything posted in this thread is free for the taking. If you love the ideas and want to start a new company, go ahead. If you have a great idea, be willing to share it here. If all that comes of this is that eBay feels pressure to do better, it's been worth it. But honestly, there's good reason for a different auction site. I am on medical disability and do not have the energy to take on this challenge.

The history of monopoly in the US reveals that only government-mandated monopolies survive. All others have been challenged by upstarts. In nearly every industry, new ideas topple established giants. eBay is subject to the same market forces.

For purposes of discussion, I call this "ABAS" (A better auction site.)

So, here are the basic ideas:

  • Try to balance the needs of buyer and seller, rather than being primarily a seller-oriented system.

  • Require a credit card to be associated with every ABAS account. Some transactions may be settled with paypal or check, but if you want to play, buyer or seller, you need to be credit-checked. This keeps people from flipping accounts every few weeks.

  • Bids require a credit-hold, much like renting a car or a hotel room. If you bid up to $100, then your credit card has a $100 hold on it. This minimizes bogus bidding, and clears the way for fast transaction processing.

  • Credit card payments are automatically escrowed; when you win an auction, your card is charged, but the seller doesn't receive money until a shipment goes out and a valid tracking number is entered. (Additional escrow procedures could delay seller payment until the item is received and verified.)

  • Auction listings are done in a consistent format with somewhat limited formatting. No external links are permitted. ABAS isn't designed to lure you into a seller's site. Listings include unlimited text and a reasonable amount of pictures (10 high-res or so) at no extra charge. Listing fees are reasonable and fixed price.

  • Prices must include handling. Only actual shipping charges are permitted. Most items require a shipping weight to be declared in advance, so the buyer can use (provided) tools to look up actual shipping charges from USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. Buyers have recourse if they find a seller has inflated a shipping charge to include handling. (i.e., if you paid $5.00 for shipping and find the package arrives with $3.00 postage, the seller owes you $2.00)

  • Underlying technology would be very database driven, with client-server type tools available to power buyers and sellers, permitting instantaneous, continuous update of information. Power buyers could track many auctions in progress and see what prices look like. Standard APIs would permit others to write software to access the database.

  • Communities of buyers and sellers could enhance areas of ABAS, by defining extra attributes applicable to listings. For example, if the HP Calculator community wanted, it could establish a "RAM SIZE" attribute, making it easy for all listings in this area to show RAM SIZE. Database tools would make it easy to search on these attributes. What's unique here is that the community gets to enhance, not just ABAS personnel.

  • ABAS would seek relationships with at least one credit card company (AmEx?) and one shipper (USPS?) but not exclude others

  • ABAS would encourage equity participation by frequent users; your ownership in ABAS would grant you a minor discount, but make you interested in overall success of ABAS.

  • Feedback for Buying and Selling are unrelated. Members would have two feedback scores, for their two roles. Some postive feedback accrues from following the rules and using the built-in payment and shipping options, which are designed to protect buyer and seller. I think much work needs to be done here, to fix the problem in eBay that feedback is held hostage, and there is pressure on all to give only positive feedback.

Your thoughtful feedback is welcome. I truly appreciate the creative thinking power present here in this forum.

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