Your back room is bursting and your closets are crammed with last century's laptops, predigital camera equipment, or printers past their prime. In the back of your mind, you see yourself selling it all on EBay to get some coin back while clearing the clutter. But it takes so much effort to gather the stuff, photograph it, write descriptions, and ship it off. Why not let someone else do everything for you?
Enter drop-off stores, a fast-expanding specialty in the EBay economy. Their premise: Make EBay selling ultra-easy for busy people.
You simply drive your goods over and fill out a form; then at the end of the auction, you get a check if your item sells or the item returned to you if it doesn't. At your request some stores will even donate a nonselling item to charity for you or donate the proceeds of a sale. However, the ease of a drop-off store will definitely cost you: Most stores charge a hefty 35 to 40 percent of the eventual selling price of your goods, plus up-front fees for listing and handling. For a list of such stores around the country, go here.
Most stores are local, but several companies are now making a national push. AuctionDrop, which started with a few storefronts last year, recently made a deal with United Parcel Service, so you can now take items you want to sell to any of over 3400 UPS Stores. PostNet, which has 500 national franchises that provide copying and shipping services, has just added auction services; it expects 100 of its stores to be selling on EBay by year's end. And Circuit City is testing drop-offs in Atlanta and Pittsburgh with eight stores called Trading Circuit.
Do these services live up to their pain-free-selling promise? PC World put three to the test. We used an AuctionDrop storefront in California; a PostNet franchise in Georgia; and Sellers' Market, an independently owned store in Connecticut. We brought to each store a new, unopened $100 GoVideo DVD+VCR Dual Deck and a $60 Strait-Line Laser Tool System--all purchased at Costco. We also put the same items up on EBay ourselves (see the chart for our results, and read our selling tips).