Area’s first certified eBay trading assistant opens in TC

TRAVERSE CITY – Let's say you've got an old Lionel train set you've decided to part with. What's a fair asking price? Will the relatively small Traverse area market yield your asking price? Do you run a classified ad in a daily newspaper? For how long?

Maybe your business has just completed a technology upgrade. What will you do with the older, yet still viable equipment?

Whether you're an area resident wanting to clean out your garage or attic, or a business owner looking to recycle office equipment, The Drop Spot, the area's first certified eBay "trading assistant" might be your solution.

"Look at us as an on-line consignment shop. Antiques, auto parts, books, you name it, we'll creatively market it for you," says account manager Scott Bowie.

No item, apparently, is too large or too small. The Drop Spot recently sold, crated and shipped a motorcycle to a Minnesota buyer.

"That's probably our largest single item to date," says operations manager Steve Swaney. "It was a 1996 Suzuki Katana 600."

Swaney is no neophyte when it comes to on-line auctioning, having owned his own computer sales business, dealing almost exclusively on eBay. Following that venture, he operated his own video production company. Both of those backgrounds served him well in auctioning a recent item.

"A customer brought in an American-made 1896 Regina mahogany music box," recalls Swaney. "Rather than posting a digital photograph on the eBay listing, we actually produced a video of the item, allowing potential buyers to not only see, but to hear the music box play. Our goal is to get the potential buyer as close to the item as possible. The music box went for $5,500."

While the on-line auction business is a new concept for owner Mark Bowie, he's no stranger to the area business world, having co-founded and operated Twin Bay Glass, Inc. for over 25 years.

Bowie says he was introduced to the on-line marketing idea on a recent trip to California. Upon returning to Traverse City, he was further inspired by the reaction of those he approached on the venture.

"Family and friends expressed an interest in exercising their entrepreneurial muscles," he says. "We became excited about creating something with our own personalities."

It has certainly turned into a family affair. Along with Swaney and son Scott, The Drop Spot is staffed by wife Chris, who handles much of the digital photography, and niece Candice Craggs, who assists in customer service and marketing.

The younger Bowie learned first-hand how effective on-line trading can be. Curious as to the potential marketing power of eBay, he first visited a local pawn shop, looking to unload a power tool from his days in the construction trade.

"I was quoted $75, tops," relates Scott. "I came back to The Drop Spot, listed it on eBay and ended up getting $330 from a guy overseas. I had my money that same day through PayPal."

Swaney relates how a local business benefited from the power of on-line trading. Following a cafeteria remodel at a local educational institution, the food service contractor was left with all the older kitchen equipment.

"We were successful in finding a buyer, got the customer a good return, and, on top of all that, they got out from under the storage fee they'd been paying on the equipment," he adds.

While their emphasis is on on-line selling through eBay, The Drop Spot has seen success through other media as well, according to Bowie and Swaney.

"We want people to know we're not just restricted to eBay," says Scott. "We want to be known as savvy sellers."

Swaney concurs, adding that while eBay is their "bread and butter," the staff will seek other methods in trying to get the customer their best price, citing a recent example.

"A customer had an antique refrigerator to sell. Our market research revealed that eBay would probably not, in this case, bring top dollar," says Swaney. "We found an antique appliance classified website, which turned out to be the more effective medium."

Motorcycles, refrigerators, power tools. It's one thing to sell them. In most cases, they still have to be shipped to the buyer, sometimes overseas. The majority of items sold are packaged by The Drop Spot staff. For the more massive merchandise, which often involves crating, the services of a professional packager are called upon.

Selling fees are tier-structured, with a rate of 35 percent for the first $200, 30 percent for the next $300 and 25 percent after $500.

According to Scott Bowie, this is a great time to try out The Drop Spot's services.

"Right now we're covering eBay's fees ourselves, which run about 10 percent," he states. "This is something even franchises in large cities do not offer, so it's a great introductory promotion for our customers."

Acknowledging the small percentage of fraudulent on-line trading, Mark Bowie says there is no risk for The Drop Spot customer.

"The entire process is worry-free for the customer. We assume full responsibility for a smooth transaction. After all, our entire reputation depends on customer service."

The Drop Spot is located at 545 E. Eighth Street in Traverse City. Hours are Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m-6 p.m. Call them at (231) 922-0015 or visit their website at