COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: For Sale – Online Classifieds

TRAVERSE CITY – Scanning the classifieds can often leave us feeling overwhelmed. We ponder the meaning of abbreviations, long to see a photo, and ask an endless string of questions to each seller.

But, thankfully, the arduous process of reading the classifieds is changing as more companies post them on line.

Virtual Classifieds is one of them. This Traverse City-based web site went live nine months ago and is already exceeding Chris and Karry Barolo’s expectations.

For years, they dreamt of starting a business together and spent many nights during their 13 years of marriage brainstorming potential business ideas, often after long hours at work. A close couple with a strong marriage, they envisioned working side-by-side one day.

That goal was realized when Karry began to research the best way to sell her car. She looked in the newspaper and commented to Chris, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could put a picture in the classifieds, too, and get an idea of what the cars look like?”

She had finally struck on an idea they could both sink their teeth into. Shortly thereafter they made their business plan and contracted with netRadiant, a local Internet service provider, to design and host their site.

At Virtual Classifieds, $19.95 buys 30 days of advertising available seven days per week. Because there is no charge per line, customers can buy an unlimited number of words for an in-depth description. And, if you live within 50 miles of Traverse City, Chris will come out and take a complimentary color picture of the item to post on the site. The added detail and picture saves time for both potential buyers and sellers.

Their competition is fierce, however. Specialty sites, like monster.com with its nationwide “help wanted” list of approximately 250,000 jobs, and cars.com, advertising new and used cars across the country, have surged in popularity.

Locally, the Traverse City Record-Eagle publishes their print classifieds on line at no additional charge.

But the Borolos are optimistic about their niche.

“We have kept this to northern Michigan to keep a homespun feel,” says Chris. “A lot of people feel the Web is getting too big. Our site is very simple and easy to navigate through. And though there are other classified web sites, they don’t offer to come to you and take a picture. Most people who live in Traverse City aren’t going to buy a used car from someone in California, but they will from someone in Kingsley! “

Their classifieds focus on the same categories found in the newspaper: Vehicles, Help Wanted, Household Goods and Furnishings, Pets and Livestock, etc. On average their site gets about 200 “hits” or visits per day.

“The business has met and exceeded my expectations at this point,” says Chris. “The more people get computers and the more the Internet grows, the more we will grow. If this works out, we will pursue it as far as it will take us.”

Virtual Classifieds can be found at www.tcads.com. Ads can be place by e-mail at VCInfo@TCADS.com or by phone: (231) 935-4383.

Those who live outside the 50-mile radius of Traverse City can still send their own picture to the company via snail mail or e-mail. BIZNEWS

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