Money! Money! Money!! Did somebody say money?
I knew that might get your attention. It got mine too! As a full time home based eBayer of 12 years, I was immediately hypnotized by the prospect of an alternative to eBay, especially in seeing the flurry of bidding activity on Catawiki.
There is a lot you need to know about Catawiki before you think about getting involved, especially if you do not live in Europe. I caution you on a number of different levels no matter what country you are joining them from:
1. If you consider how American based eBay sellers (and most European, Australian and Canadian ebayers) responded to the idea of China being invited to sell their products on eBay U.S., EU, AU and CA, you will understand how many of the Dutch auctioneers of Catawiki may view you. If you are not in the Netherlands, you are NOT favored. Many Netherlanders don’t understand that the American media, it’s financial fraternity and their political actions is not a true representation of most American citizens, they assume we are all equally self entitled and brash.
2. A seller on Catawiki has no control of their product listing once it is uploaded to the site. You can not delete or edit your product description. You will have to contact the Auctioneer to make any changes. I know many eBayers will preload their listing apps or schedule auctions days and weeks in advance. You can’t do that on Catawiki. Only upload what you can afford to pay for, out of pocket for shipping costs and a very lengthy turnover time. If you list too much too fast you will get in over your head. I found this out the hard way when 32 of my auctions were listed over a period of 3 weeks. 32 auctions x an average of $28 per shipment = 896 USD out of pocket. I don’t know too many Micro businesses (ebay sellers) who can afford this, especially when the profit turnover can take anywhere between 4 weeks to 6 months and your inventory is in limbo. That’s significant and can bankrupt you.
This also means if you are the type of business person who works by the, “more eggs/more baskets” philosophy, if it’s a one of a kind or single item, you will need to remove it from every other site once it’s uploaded to Catawiki because if it sells on ebay before it even goes to auction on Catawiki, you are S.O.L. The auctioneer will most likely let the auction run anyway knowing full well the product is not available. Catawiki in turn will dock 50% of the final value of said product and claim it as a fine for misbehavior regardless of whether or not it was your fault. If this happens, you can try to e-mail your auctioneer to stop the sale or to cut the listing but in my experience, the auctioneer will have little regard for your wishes, wants or needs. I’m tempted to believe there must be a commission agreement somewhere in the mix to encourage such behavior.
The example I will use is Sigrid Markus. I e-mailed her on several occasion with the request to return my auctions to me for deletion. Several e-mails were sent for her to stop listing my items for auction. All of my requests were ignored with the exception of one response, “Do I really need to pull your auctions?”…. um… YES! I’ve asked you well over a dozen times already! I’m in over my head and you are destroying me!
3. You may not communicate with bidders or potential bidders. Some may think this is a good thing, but if you have an issue as the one I pointed out above, your winning bidders will not be very pleased. This leaves you open to feedback negativity.
Communication options do not become available until after the winner of your auction has paid, otherwise, the only communication you will have is with your auctioneer and I highly suggest you keep communications with the auctioneers to a bare minimum. When someone has that much control over your product, it also means they are in control of your success or failure. The last thing you want to do is step on their toes, even mistakenly.
4. Be sure you fully understand the rules, especially the post/after auction rules! You may think you understand them because they are written very brief and seem very simple, but those simple 1 and 2 sentence rules in no way represent the depths of the actual policies.
For example, depending on how quickly your product description has been reviewed, approved, auctioned, sold, and paid for, it will take a minimum of four additional weeks from the time you’ve uploaded your product to the site before you will actually see a payday.
If your buyer, who is allowed three weeks and even longer in many instances, waits until four weeks after the sale, this moves your first possible payday to eights weeks.
Payday can very easily extend trice if there is an issue with delivery or upon delivery. Your payment date will be pushed back again another two to three additional weeks. In some instances you may never actually get paid at all and you will also have lost your product.
Catawiki has a habit of throwing curve calls by quoting rules that you never saw, signed or agreed to. Here is my example; Approximately 2 months after I requested the closure of my account due to the fact that the auctioneer, Sigrid Markus, was clearly not acting in my best interest, I received an e-mail notice that I was going to be “fined” for unbecoming behavior of my assigned auctioneer! Due to the fact that she continued running auctions despite my repeated requests to stop, and the lack of ability to communicate with potential buyers and bidders, they buyers were duped into believing these items had been sold to them when in fact, we were underhandedly manipulated by the likes of one Sigrid Markus.
The Catawiki finance department gave me warning via e-mail that they would be withdrawing X amount of Euro from my bank account without my authorization to cover Ms Markus’s shopping spree.
5. Only list what you can afford to lose.
Catawiki receives payment from their buyers and places those funds in an interest bearing Escrow account. Funds will not be released to you until the buyer of your product has indicated that the transaction has been completed to their satisfaction. If your buyer indicates dissatisfaction of any kind, your payment remains in escrow until Catawiki deems it payable.
There are no written terms associated with how long Catawiki can hold your funds. If they decide not to pay you, you’ve lost the item, you’ve lost the out of pocket expense of shipping the item, and Catawiki is not motivated to disburse funds for which they are collecting interest on.
I repeat: If you make an error. If a buyer has a complaint. If your product is delivered to the wrong address….. if you piss off an auctioneer…. you can plan on waiting an extended and undetermined amount of time for your payment to be dispersed to you. You may never get paid at all as your money sits in escrow collecting interest for Rene Schoenmakers, and if you think he’s going to let go, forget it! He’s in the business of making money. You’re loss.
6. Just because someone claims to be an expert, it does not mean they truly are. Catawiki’s best selling point is their auctions are curated. While this may be the case, it will not be unusual to learn that you actually have more knowledge than your expert auctioneer. The example I will use again is Sigrid Markus, Fashion Auctioneer. Imagine my astonishment when she contacted me with a price comparison for a no longer obtainable gold and pearl necklace by sending me a link to a BRASS and CLOTH/velvet BRACELET from Fall/Winter 2014. That’s a big mistake and a very costly one, not just for Catawiki but for YOU as a vendor.
There are other things that most people involved with fashion know, for example, The correct spelling of fashion brand St John is not Saint John. Balmain & Zara are two of the most celebrated fashion houses in the fine fashion world and should not be excluded from any presentation, and Escada is NOT an unknown brand. I’ve heard of fudging a resume to land a coveted job but these are pretty significant mistakes and after having been employed by Catawiki’s fashion department since 2011, it’s just appalling that she still doesn’t know these very simple and basic fashion facts.
7. Catawiki does not offer a customer service line. Communications with auctioneers and customer service is limited only to e-mail. Response time is slow, and Catawiki only responds during certain hours a day. Often there will be no response at all. It is extremely frustrating.
As I think back, with millions upon millions of collectors in this world, Catawiki is an unsaturated market for a reason.
8. The Catawiki website says, “Our auctioneers assess all lots submitted as soon as possible. Our goal is to review your lots within a week. However, for themed auctions or highly popular auctions, the assessment may take a little longer. The moment your lot is accepted, you will receive an automated message.”
Well I can tell you right now, the above quote which I pasted from the website is not true. At least it wasn’t for me. After the first week had passed, and seeing my products had not been reviewed, I wondered if maybe my items were being included in a themed auction. My product is fashion so it was definitely a possibility and it would certainly explain by my auctions were not being included in the Thursday night Fashion listings for several weeks.
After two weeks of watching fashion auctions running without the inclusion of my products, I assumed the delay was a simple case of “Slow to get started blues”.
After the third set of fashion auctions started without my fashions included, I started to wonder if maybe the auctioneer wasn’t seeing my submissions or maybe there was a glitch in the e-mail form. I found myself making excuses to explain why she was not responding. I decided maybe I should contact customer support but there is no customer phone number (red flag). Since there is no customer service number and the auctioneer in control of the fashion category was not responding to me (another red flag), I chose Facebook. I was met with an enthusiastic response and the representative who messaged me assured me Sigrid Markus would be contacted expediently to find out what the hold up was. In the interim, an e-mail appeared in my box from Ms. Markus explaining to me that she was, “very busy” and, “did not have time to translate my product listings”, at which point, I mentioned perhaps she did not see that I already translated the auctions for her… which brings us to another red flag – never ever piss off an Auctioneer at Catawiki. Read this paragraph again if you need to because this what I am describing is what got me into hot water. I pissed off the auctioneer. I made her senior officers aware that she wasn’t doing her job. However innocent of a mistake it was, she would certainly let me know exactly what she thought of me going over her head.
Always remember, an auctioneer is in complete control and is very empowered. Your survival on Catawiki depends solely on your relationship with your auctioneer. If you do not play well with the auctioneer, the auctioneer can and will make your life hell.
Sigrid Markus (fashion auctioneer), not only listed dozens of products knowing that I was not able to keep up with the out of pocket cost of shipping and in all of my pleas and protests she refused. She also knowingly approved a duplicate listing and sent it to auction. She admitted to Catawiki administration that she had acted inappropriately but as a result, funds from all 32 of my auction listings remain in escrow, including the out of pocket shipping costs I incurred as a seller. She single underhandedly sabotaged my potential to be a great part of the Catawiki family.
Did you know the United states does not have a regulative policy with the Netherlands? With Leading Edge Capitol and Lorrie Norrington posing as, advisers you may stand half a chance by contacting the FTC but your chances are very slim.
If you are an eBayer looking for a new home or if you are an American looking to explore Catawiki, be afraid. Be very afraid!!