Reservezoo

Reservezoo
Thinking of travel.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Review
of the
TOPHATTER AUCTION WEBSITE

Although Etsy is a on line site for people wishing to sell their craft, supplies or vintage items, a new kid on the block, has appeared.  This new venue is an auction site. I am sure you will be thinking of an auction site, similar to eBay, but this one is different.  It is a real live auction site. Participants are actively engaged throughout the sale. If you list an item to be auctioned you can be present while clients are bidding on your wares.  The new site is: http://.www.Tophatter.com.









When you register to play, you will be allowed to sell and to buy.  There are a lot of good deals that feature odd lots of jewelry, supplies, home decoration items and what-not’s.  If food is your thing, the cookies, taffies and the caramels will entice you to lay down your money. By-the-way. They accept Pay Pal payments.
When you have registered you will be asked the normal questions about who you are, and how you can be contacted. You will also be asked to make an avatar that will represent you in the auction rooms.  Yes, I said auction rooms. 
Bronze sculpture, "Thinking"  by Lazaroff
I also  tried this sculpture with a starting bid of $400.00
http://www.etsy.com/listing/91556218/bronze-sculpture-thinking-by-lazaroff
Tophatter offers auctions that run simultaneous in numerous rooms.  If you want to look at jewelry, you can open the auction room by clicking on the jewelry auction icon. If home products are what you are looking for, you can open "For the Home," auction room.  Clicking on the icon will open up an auction room, and you will see yourself, (your avatar,) standing in an auction room with all the other people who have decided to participate in this auction.  The more people the greater chance of having some good chunks of money changing hands.
Now if you are a seller you can list your objects in a similar manner as one does on Etsy or eBay.  You title the object, choose a category, add your price and fill in the information about shipping.  When you list, you find that Tophatter wants you to list your object at a price, that is, at minimum, 50% of your normal retail selling prices. So, if you sell an item on Etsy at $50.00, you should by rights list your item on Tophatter at $25.00. They allow you up load three photos of the item you wish to sell.  Remember, photos are important, so take your time to create beautiful images of your item.
Ceramic and pottery,  porcelaine vase, OOAK
This is one of my favorites yet it was not sold and it is very difficult to list.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/89900140/ceramic-and-pottery-porcelaine-vase-ooak
When you have completed this task you can then, list the item. There is one catch.  No… you do not have to pay to list.  It is free. If you are new seller, you will be limited to the number of lots you can list.  It the beginning, you will only be able to list one item at a time.  When you list the item, and it sells you will be able to list another.  If your objects sell fast and generate revenue, you will gain priority on listing over other sellers.
When someone purchases your item, you will receive an e-mail to your regular internet mail provider, and you will also have a red indicator that your item has sold, showing in item listings page on the Tophatter site.  Once that sale has been made, you will wait for the client to pay via Pay Pal and then and only then you ship the item.  If the client does not pay you can send reminders and if that fails you can cancel the sale without charge to you. Once you have been paid by the buyer, Tophatter will send you an invoice for 10% of the sale or a $1.00 dollar minimum charge.
The site is very exciting.  You will see your lot come up on the auction block, and will witness the comments of the viewers on the live chat box.  You will also see how the bidding goes.
Porcelain guilded decorative vase
I was sure that this one would sell under the Home Decor Auction.  But alas it did not.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/33530646/porcelain-guilded-decorative-vase
The menus provided by Tophatter are fairly easy to navigate and you will quickly learn the ropes. 
Tophatter is new, so there are some areas that they need to address.
For example; the archive listings, grows continuously without a method to delete unwanted lots. When you relist the old listing stays in the archives, and a new listing opens in the active list.  For what-ever reason, I cannot seem to clear the archive list. You can however, delete from the active list.  The longer the archive lists becomes the more difficult is will be to manage.  This observation has been raised with the staff, a few times by me, via the direct chat box. The process has not yet been modified.
There is one function of the site that I find frustrating.    When you have made a sale and you try to list again you may have to wait up to a week before your lot comes up for auction. Lately, listing has become impossible. The reason is the big sellers get priority.  This may seem like a great way to make money, but I personally feel that it will limit the scope of what potential sellers have to offer.
Ceramic porcelain celedon tea bowls for zen meditation and yoga pauses
These Teabowls were listed at $15.00.   I wondered how low does one have to go to get some excitement going in the auction,
http://www.etsy.com/listing/68900641/ceramic-porcelain-celedon-tea-bowls-for
When I say big seller, it does not necessarily mean that these sellers have generated a lot of money in sales. It could be because they have made many sales, or received positive feedback.
Tophatter has given a list of areas where one wins the priority points for listings.  They state that sellers with a high percentage of successful sales per items listed gain priority.  The average number of bids and average bidders per lot auctioned influence your priority level.  In addition, high final sales prices both in real dollars and the percentage of the retail price will help you climb the ladder of success. Finally, positive feedback is important.
The factors are not limited to the positive.  You can lose priority listing privilege because of a low percentage of successful sales per items listed.  If you have a low number of average bids and average bidders per lot auctioned will bring you down and importantly misleading items, including items with inflated retail prices, misleading images or incorrect descriptions will affect your standing.  Of course if you receive negative feedback from buyers you will drop in standing.
I was sure that  this bowl would get a spot in the auction line up but I guess I just don't have it.
For example, when I sold the third item from my listings, I was told that I could now increase my listing opportunities to one lot per auction three lots at a time.  Meaning; that I can list on lot in "For the Home," one lot in the Boutique, and one lot in the Weekend Bazaar. 
This may sound great, but it is not.  I have tried to list a lot every day for the past two weeks, without success. When I questioned the staff via the chat box, which is very convienient,  I have been told that the auctions that I selected were full.  Yet when I look at the number of listings, there are only 8 to ten listings visible.
When the staff was asked why, I was told that the listing schedule was at 11:00am EST.  Yet when I try to list at this hour, I get the same sorry the auction is full. When I queried the staff as this time, the answer was, “sorry,” yes they were full, but not to worry as one could list via the Standby List.  After trying for a few days I became frustrated and asked again why, I could not list but others could.  The answer to this question was the the lots listed were from sellers who sold more than ten lots.  Finally I now know not to even try to list; just go to the standby list whenever possible.  
I managed to list this vase a few times but I guess $30.00 is too rich for the clientel.
Now what is the Standby list?  This is a method whereby one can list an object into an upcoming auction.  The standby list opens when the auction room opens.  This is normally one hour before the start of the auction. If you wish to list an item on the 11:00am auction for Home D├ęcor, you have to light up your computer about one hour before the scheduled sale, go to Tophatter’s website, and open the auction that you wish to participate with. If you are lucky there will be a way for you to enter a lot into the auction by clicking onto the “Add to the Standby List.”
From there you will go to a window where you choose one of your listings, to be put into the Standby List.    Sounds easy, right?
Now that you have an item in the “Standby List,” It will sit there, waiting for a buyer to place the minimum bid on your lot.  Once someone has place a minimum bid on your piece, it will advance to the regular auction listing, where you can rest assured that it will be sold at your opening bid, to the person who placed the bid. 
Would you believe it?  These bowls sold but the client decided not to pay for them.  I have sent two reminders over a week with no response.    I guess the $20.00 opening bid was a shock for them.
Once in the regular auction. you could quite possibly see the bid go higher.  This depends upon how the object interests possible buyers in the audience.   Lots will advance to the regular auction listings until a time when the regular auction list is considered full.  I do not know what criteria is use to determine that it is full.  I only know that the “Add to the Standby button disappears.
Once the auction becomes full, the standby listing is closed and those items that have not been advanced to the regular auction list will disappear.  So you wait until the next Standby opportunity and, start over.
Oh yes, if you use the standby window to list, you will have to check the little box that says that you cannot promote your item via the live chat window that is open throughout the auction.  This is not a problem as the staff does this regularly throughout the pre-auction period.
I gave this set of bowls away for $35.00
I was happy with the sale because it allowed me to move some old stock.
The whole process is easy, but the system is set up to make you run to the computer every hour or so, in order to have the opportunity to list in the standby listings.  Sometimes, you will go to the window only to find that the auction is already full and you have wasted your time.  This also makes me feel like the little mouse on the tread wheel.   Lately the auctions are closed to anyone who has not sold ten items.  This is another annoyance when trying to list.   When you enter the item you get a message that you piece does not fit the auction criteria and you are asked to list another.  The problem isi that you will not be able to list at all.  So you end up wasting you time again.  Why don't they just tell you straigh up that you cannot list rather than making you jump through hoops.
When the item is listed in the regular auction list, and is sold, and whe you receive payment, you will also receive an invoice from Tophatter for 10% of the sale.  An item that is sold for $50.00 will cost the seller   $5.00. If the item is sold for less than $10:00 the minimum commission will be $1.00 this is very much like the commission charged by eBay.  Only Tophatter does not take any percentage of the shipping costs like EBay.
I have been on Tophatter now for a while, and I have noticed that many sellers are not making any big money on their sales. The average ticket price going in the various auctions are around $20.00.  This is good for the buyer, but it surely must hurt the bottom line of the seller.   I asked some sellers why they were selling their stock as such low prices. The answer was, “Exposure.”  They believe that it is good marketing strategy, and that they are building a customer base.
This was another sale that gave me a return of $34.00.  Again it allowed me to move some old stock.
I have seen items being sold for three dollars.   The seller must give Tophatter $1.00, and Pay Pal their cut.  I cannot see any profit. On top of this, I see many sellers offering free shipping, and still maintaining a low opening bid requirement.
As a seller I would find this very difficult to accept. The shipping cost of the smallest item that I carry is around $16 to $20.00.  I cannot see giving free shipping with my product. Nevertheless sellers on Tophatter continue to do. Again this is a bonus for the buyer.
All in all, if you are a buyer this site can give you some great deals. Suppliers sell large lots of charms and if are close enough to the seller you can enjoy some really great cookies and candies. Every once in a while great objects come up and they sell at bargain prices.

This piece has been relisted a few times but I think the $90.00 price tag keeps it out of sight.
If you are seller, you best be ready to give your work away at very low prices in the hopes of generating a clientele base.  However, you will find a great crowd of people with common interests.  The chat box, prior to the auction, is busy with conversation between friends.
As for myself, I will try Tophatter for a while longer and hope that the frustration surrounding the listing priorities will temper with time.

********************************************************************



This is the final entry to this post.   It is 12 Feb. 2013.   I have finally closed my Tophatter account.   I felt that I would continue to play when ever I saw a moment free to post.  As time went by the opportunities to enter an object into an auction became more and more difficult. 
The website started to give brownie points to best sellers.  Most of the time these best sellers were giving their work away and calling it exposure or promotion.  Funny,  I never gained one sale from promoting on Tophatter.   My difficulty was that I sell a lot of expensive art and the public participating in Tophatter want low cost inexpensive deals.   So I became less and less popular to the point where I was only offered on area to try to sell my work.  

The auction was called "Bid More, Get More."    Sellers were expected to meet four criteria.   I could meet the first three such as giving value added deals such as buy on and get one free. or free shipping or coupons.  It was when they stated that I had to be present for the auction.  Meaning that I would have to sit at my computer so that I could say,  "Hi Jack,   How are you Mary,  Hope I get out of stanby,  Oh choose me please and on and on."   That finished it.

Strange when I tried to cancel my subscription I was told to satisfy my financial arrangements.  It appears that I took an auction where I had to pay for the listing.   Odly, I never at any time did this.  But, there is was from November last year.  An invoice for $0.75.   What I don't understand is that Tophatter never sent me the invoice.

So I cancelled.  Guess what?  The asked me to write a statement why I was leaving.  I left it blank and they did not allow me to cancel my account untill I gave them an answer.   You can guess my response.

Am I bitter.   No.   They have the right to make money.  It was just the method that developed. 
 

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for the detailed review. I dislike sites that cater to the popularity contest. Sounds like a nice way to move old stock but that requires somewhat pricier items in the first place to make it worth the fees. Not a site for me then! Thanks again for the review.

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  2. I will continue to try to see if there is potential. You are right. It is a good way to get some of the old stock out of the studio.

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  3. Thank you Terrance after I said what i said on THater (SRY) Katie muted me guess she couldnt take the truth. I have tried and tried to get on listing and so far have one slot. I see so many things (CHEAP) things go for so much and ART is nothing. I can not lower myself to sell cheap stuff from the dime store just to get the sales to be able to list more. Maybe TH is just not for me. Katie muted me cause she said I was causing trouble--hmmmmm truth is trouble --- needless to say I continued to chat with her in private-- and i have nothing good to say about that chat
    Just must continue on ---

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  4. Hi Tammy;

    Your comments are well taken. I was present during this exchange and I must agree you were definatly not liked by the inside group. One seller had about 5 minutes to boost the selling price.

    I have spoken with the staff many times and I get no real answer. I am afraid that it is becoming an inside clique.

    If TH does not come up with a better formula I am afraid that it will not be a success. They should realise that one good piece of art can make them more commission that a two dollar sale.

    Thanks for your comments.

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  5. Yup !! also people are going to get tired of the same ol stuff- I have been watching for a couple weeks now and it is the same stuff--- Just a real bummer cause I thought it was going to be a great thing- and it could be -maybe- i think they need to see the downfall of it all- I mean everyday in four or five auctions you see the same hairclips ok and they are not added in by standby.. Hope they wake up or they are going to see the downfall- We are not the only ones seeing this but beware keep your mouth shut or u will be muted.... Thank you for sending me this link- I am not crazy after all lol

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  6. I just updated this blog to reflect the latest annoyance. The more and more I come to the site the less and less I enjoy being there.

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  7. The latest move by Tophatter is to prepare the users to the idea, of listing fees. It has not happened yet, but get ready for it. It will happen.

    I do not object to paying fees in order to list in the auction. However, the plan is that the listing fees, will be add an item only to the Standby list.

    Imagine paying a fee, probably a few pennies to add you hard work, to a list that is not the active auction.

    To get off the standby list, someone must make the minimum bid asked. Many visitors to Tophatter do not understand the principle. So one will be paying and not have an opportunity to sell.

    I don't know how others will accept these listing fees, but I will probably close my account, if and when this happens.

    At the moment the listing fee is not active. But, when you attempt to add an item in the Standby listing, you will notice that there is a new box, that you will be required to check, that authorizes the website to apply a fee against your account. The fee is waived at the time of this comment. I imagine that once it becomes active, an invoice will be sent to the user at the end of the month.

    The scent of money is in the air. Get ready for it.

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  8. So far from my observation, Tophatter is a rough market for anyone with actual unique handcrafted items (and artists). It seems to be a great place for people who do hand-assembled or charm on a chain type necklaces; I see those sell for sometimes three and four times what they do on Etsy - saw one assembled piece go for about $135 when its etsy value is probably around $25.

    Tophatter is terribly risky; if you want to get people hooked it seems like outside of boutique you have to set a starting bid at $3 or less. If I did that with my prints I wouldn't make any money if someone snagged it at the opening bid. If I put it up for $1 I'd be losing out badly. I tried listing a necklace from my other shop that's worth around $24 and opened with $8 and though it'd had lots of views and people liked it, nobody touched it. I can't stomach risking losing money, or barely making anything off of an item. Even I have won two auctions that were a complete ripoff for the sellers - and felt guilty about it.

    Right now, Tophatter has lost my interest as a seller because it's nigh on impossible to get started there; I don't want to end up in early morning auctions (huge money losers it seems) and that's all I see when I finally DO get an opening for a listing.

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  9. Denise
    Thank you for your observation.

    What you say is quite true. There is a good chance of loosing money, yet there are times when someone could hit a good price due to a bidding frenzy. Winning a bid, for some buyers, is often more important than the actual value of the piece.

    Many sellers are starting with low bids in hopes of increasing their visiblity in there other online shops. They use Tophatter as an advertising venue. The low price is a marketing device. Others use Tophatter to dump old stock. They don't really care if they make profit. They hope to recoup the material costs. This is why there is a lot of junk being offered as low prices.

    The last para you quoted, is the area that, is frustrating many sellers. It is getting more and more difficult to get visibility by getting listed in the actual auction. When the fees kick in, that might change. Fees may also bump out a lot who sell as such low prices.

    Unless Tophatter starts to increase the starting bids they will have to resort to other ways of gaining revenue. This is why I am sure that there will be a listing fee rolled out in the next little while.

    I am just hanging around to see what will happen.

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  10. Well, here is an update. Tophatter now allows you to post your pieces, (depending on your level,) to the standby list, in advance of the auction. So one can post on at least three days before the action. I notice that they have included the agreement to pay an amount of money to do this. At the moment it is waived, (freeeeee,) but wait for it. I am sure, if the new policy is popular, they will initiate the payment requirement.

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  11. I too have been muted for trying to warn people.

    tophatter is FULL of people buying $2-5 items from china and selling them as real gold, silver and platinum there. I provided them with indisputable proof and they said they can't do anything without actually seeing the product. So poor slobs going there and bidding think they are getting something that retails for $200 (it says so...) and they bid up to $100. By the time they realize it is plating PayPal time limit will probably be done.

    It could be so awesome, and yet it is being destroyed by it. Most of the sellers and one of the hosts are doing it. They also give priority scheduling to these people, so they are the ones in every single auction and sometimes promoted as the main picture for an auction.

    Disgusted.

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  12. Well, this is my last word about Tophatter.

    There is nothing wrong with the way they want to run the show.

    I no longer go to Tophatter trying to get a sale. I now stop by, from time to time, and reschedule as many pieces of work possible, and if there is an auction going on, I will try for the standby. If I get a slot, I smile, and move on to my other venues.

    I no longer worry about making the sale. In fact, I try to list my high priced items so that any looker will have to have the money to bid. Most don't.
    I do not really care if I make the sale.

    I now look at Tophatter as a place where someone will stop by, and see my work, and possibly come to my etsy shop.

    So,,,, as they say in the military. "I broke the code."

    So don't get yourselves tied up in a knot trying to sell an item at half price. Just keep listing the work that is high priced, and or, is no longer in your line. Someone may just see you items and visit your web store.

    Who knows, Tophatter may develope into a high priced on-line, live action, auction site. We can wait and see.

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