eBay shop is king of yardsale circuit

Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Mike Hadad, owner of iSold It in Gaithersburg, watches as staff member Kaydian Beckford packs up a set of Transformer toys, which sold on eBay for more than $300.

The abandoned guitar collecting dust in the attic or the old bike taking up space in the garage can fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay without owners ever touching a computer.

That’s how Mike Hadad of Potomac, owner of the iSold It drop-off store in Gaithersburg, turns other people’s trash into treasure, he said.

‘‘There’s this trend that’s going toward the idea of only holding onto something for a few years,” said Hadad, 48. ‘‘When someone’s done with it, chances are, someone else is looking for it.”

So for a fee, Hadad’s store in the Shops at Potomac Valley shopping center will take in those mounted boar heads or vintage Playboy magazines to post on the popular online auction site. Store workers coordinate everything from taking digital photos, to writing descriptions, to monitoring bids.

Then, when it sells, owners get a check in the mail, reaping the benefits of their unwanted belongings.

Drop off stores like iSold It are picking up steam across the country as more people — even the very busy or technology-challenged — look to tap into online commerce, said David Crocker, spokesman for the 182-store iSold It franchise based in Monrovia, Calif.

‘‘Some people don’t want to learn how to post things on eBay. I think most could figure it out, but the reality is they’d rather have an expert do it,” Crocker said. ‘‘With the right description, the right photos, we can make them a few extra bucks.”

There are nearly 12,000 registered ‘‘trading assistant” stores in the United States that help individuals or businesses market their items on eBay, such as AuctionDrop, Bidadoo and — the largest — iSold It, according to Dean Jutilla, spokesman for eBay’s North America corporate headquarters.

Customers who aren’t computer savvy or want to maintain their privacy are drawn to the stores, which are seen as a convenient, one-stop shop, Jutilla said.

These ‘‘trading assistant” places, after selling goods to the highest bidder, make their profits from commission.

Hadad’s store, which has overseen 6,500 auctions in the past year, charges a 30 percent commission on the first $500 sold and 20 percent on any additional amount above the $500.

Hadad also won’t take items valued at less than $30, he said.

While most of these shops pepper the California areas where eBay has its roots, Hadad’s shop in Gaithersburg is an example of the growing trend, Crocker said.

When it opened in August 2005, the Gaithersburg iSold It was the first in the Washington, D.C., area. Two others in Virginia have since opened their doors.

They will continue to grow, Crocker said, as long as the Internet shopping market makes money.

The Gaithersburg iSold It is selling between $40,000 to $50,000 a month on eBay auctions, with owners getting up to three-fourths of the purchasing price, Hadad said.

On average, the items are selling for about $100, he said, although something as pricey as a dual gas grill recently fetched up to $7,000.

Hadad, a former vice president of a software business, delved into the venture because he believes stores like these will continue to expand as more people, especially in a busy metropolitan area, look to services that make their lives easier.

That could also mean more collectible teddy bears or used camera equipment going eBay’s way, as the urge to purge grows, Crocker said.

‘‘Now, for anything you buy, you have something to sell,” he said. ‘‘It opens up a whole new era.”