Tophatter is an online auction site, but unlike Ebay, items are not listed. Instead they are scheduled and bidding happens live. This means that bidders have to be present during the scheduled times to bid for items. While the concept of a live auction might not sound like a huge deal, it dramatically alters the type of traffic you get as a seller. The difference is that live auction attendees are there to shop and aren’t looking for a specific item like the majority of Ebay bidders. On Ebay, if you list an item and no one searches for it, you’ll get no traffic. With Tophatter once an item is scheduled you’re guaranteed an audience. As a result, Tophatter is a great place for sellers that has unique and largely unknown products. It is also a decent venue for sellers that want to get rid of excess inventory quickly at a discount.
Seller fees at Tophatter are pretty straight forward, fees typically include a scheduling fee of $0.25-1.00 plus a commission rate of 5-15% if the item sells. While you have the option to host your own “Community Auction” where sales commissions are only 5%; the catch is you’ll have to promote the auction yourself. So unless you have a knack for driving traffic, it’ll probably be very difficult to pull off; and you’ll be better off sticking with Tophatter’s hosted auctions despite having to pay higher fees.
My one complaint with Tophatter was with their customer support. The scheduling process itself is rather simple, however you get the sense that the support staff don’t really try to help make the experience as seamless as possible for new users. For example, in order to sell an item, you need to first request it to be scheduled. The requests are then reviewed individually and are either scheduled or rejected. My first request was rejected after 3hrs of the request. I was informed by vague email stating that it did not meet their policy or guidelines, leaving me wondering what changes I needed to make. It takes a few hours for requested scheduling to be reviewed and about a day for emails to be answered. In the end it took 3 days before I was able to identify and resolve the issue when it could have been easily resolved a lot sooner if they had told me specifically what I needed to change from the start. Similarly when my account verification failed, they locked my account and notified me that my Facebook settings were too strict. Again no specifics on where and which settings needed to be changed. What’s even worst is that I sent them an email asking if they could be more specific and a day later I got a response that stated the exact same thing as before. Hopefully this was one off occurrence, because it could of been handled better.
Despite the not-so-good customer service experience, I still think Tophatter is something worth checking out. While you’re not going to be able to make a living just selling on Tophatter, it could potentially be a rather profitable secondary sales avenue. In fact, you’ll probably be able to sell more items on Tophatters than any other Ebay alternative like Ebid. And if nothing else, you’ll at least have some fun while your at it. After all, the fun factor is probably an underlying reason why so many buyers and sellers use the site.
If you are interested in checking out what a live Tophatter auction is like, click here.