Bonanzle was getting big buzz yesterday so I decided to try it out for myself. Just like any of the new auctions sites, a few people immediately twisted up their panties and decided it was the ultimate eBay killer.

Let me kill the suspense for you right off the bat. While there are a few things to like about Bonanzle, it has a very long way to go before it approaches the customization or the usability of eBay. I’m not saying that maybe in a few years it might be something great, but, sadly, right now, it isn’t that much different than everything else out there already.

I know I am probably going to make someone at Bonanzle cry by saying this but the interface, process and style of Bonanzle is very very similar to the failed Overstock auctions. Even stylistically they are similar though, to Bonanzle’s credit, they do have one or two things that give them an edge.

I listed some items today, played around, customized a booth and here are my Day 1 observations:

Right off the bat, the marketplace is much more similar to Craig’s List or Amazon’s marketplace. In other words, though you can add a feature similar to Best Offer that allows buyers to negotiate prices, everything on the site is fixed price, no auctions. This right here is sort of a deal breaker for any of us that make our living selling collectibles where the auction format and the demands of the day are the profit kings. That said, if you are mainly a Buy It Now seller, this may be interesting to you.

There are no insertion fees, only final value fees. Also, just like Amazon. The final value fees are also rather low which makes me wonder how this model is sustainable, but, hey, I like no listing fees! The good thing about this is that you can throw a lot of stuff up right from the start with no risk. From this page:

Final Offer Value 1 Fee
Less than $10 $0.50 ($0 if registered during beta)
Less than $50 $1
Less than $100 $3
Less than $1000 $5
$1000 or more $10

They accept money order, cash, PayPal and Google Checkout. Accepting cash is such a dangerous thing for all parties it seems like a terrible idea to offer it but, overall, no complaints here. The site lends itself mostly towards the Craig’s List/Pick-up crowd so I suspect that is why cash is an option. Some people will love the Google Checkout option.

They offer eBay and Craig’s List importing services that allow you to import both listings and feedback from the other sites. I tried to import my eBay feedback and, while it said it worked, nothing ever showed up. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe it takes more than the hour I waited. I do like this feature, provided it works at some point. I mostly sell auctions so I didn’t bother to import everything over from eBay, I just manually set up a few Buy It Nows on Bonanzle. I would love to know, from those who did do the process, whether it lets you pick and choose which listings during import.

Every seller gets a store (sorry, a “booth”) right from the start with Bonanzle power (Markdown Manager copycat). Since eBay makes you pay a heft fee for a store, this is a big plus. The booth itself is extremely similar in look and functionality to the Overstock Auctions stores. It’s great to be able to have all your items at a glance, be able to show your branding and have a place to direct buyers without having to shell out the extra money (like eBay makes you do). I also like how you can specify “favorites” which are basically featured items within your listings. A lot to like there. Secondly, their version of Markdown Manager, having a Bonanzle, as they call it, gives you several options for discounts and other specials which is a great idea. The only downside is that it is store wide, instead of customizable like the eBay version. But overall, all good stuff there.

You can give away free stuff! This is cute little idea that many sellers on other sites were doing anyway, so its nice that they made it official. You can specify items as “freebies” and then set rules such as “once a buyer has purchased 1 item they can have unlimited freebies” or limit the number of freebies per person. I usually throw free stuff into my listings anyway around the holidays so letting the buyer pick their freebie is a fun idea. I imagine buyers would love it!

Much less rules! To me, it feels like all the auctions sites start out this way until they realize that if they give us an inch, we will run wild. So I expect rules aplenty to crop up in the future but, for now, many less restrictions on link usage, fee avoidance, etc. So if eBay was cramping your style (or your favorite questionable tactic), you can set up shop again here.

The list your item page is very short.
This is a plus to some people, I know. For me, it just irritates me. It means that I need to cram all my info into the description since they don’t provide a place for me to specify. I suspect that, like the rules above, as they realize all the issue associated with sales, they will add more to this page as they go.

The site is rather buggy
at the moment and is lacking a few niceties. For instance, if you click on delete, it sometimes registers this as duplicate. While this is not as big an issue as the opposite would be (I would be really annoyed if it deleted the item I just made when I clicked duplicate) once you are in the duplicate screen, you are stuck watching their flash animation come to completion with no option to cancel out. This is just one example of a problem all over the site where they won’t let you cancel out of processes that you never started in the first place and where clicking one thing yeilds a different link’s result. OK, they are new. Slack cut.

In the same way, error messages are, in many cases, non existent. You upload a picture and then the picture simply isn’t there. No message telling you why or what the issue is with the picture, just no picture so you have to guess and check at the issue and edit the picture until it appears. Same thing with an item that you are posting, etc. You just get a big red or yellow dot and no indication of what needs to be changed. I am a busy seller. I don’t have time to play the guess and check game. Just tell me what is wrong.

Bonanzle handles shipping very awkwardly and there are several big problems. There is no capacity to add a handling fee and domestic and international shipping must be set at the same time. If you want to offer free shipping (an option called Seller Pays Shipping which may not immediately be clear) then you are forced to offer free shipping everywhere, instead of free shipping for US, paid shipping international. You also do not get to pick with methods of shipping you wish to offer, though they do offer calculated shipping. Not having sold anything yet, I am not sure how this will play out but I do not like this limitation.

  • Is the system “smart” about what to offer Media Mail on?
  • Priority Mail is much cheaper for sellers to use than Parcel Post, why can’t we specify that we prefer that method?
  • Will the system know what items are too large for International First Class?
  • How will the system know what can fit in a flat rate envelope?

This just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. If you offer fixed shipping costs, this might not be an issue but if you use calculated, this is a huge problem.

The default pricing is rounded to the nearest dollar.
While you can change this in the settings, this just reinforces the Craig’s List, we accept cash mentality. I know that some people offer pick-up and so this eliminates the need for change but for a marketplace in general, this is a very weird direction to steer people, in my opinion, especially if you want to be a professional marketplace.

Overall, this site is just like all the others that I double list my bulk inventory on. Just like A1, Amazon, Craig’s List, Google Base, Overstock, etc its another place to stick your stuff for a little more exposure. In it’s present form, however, there is nothing to make it stand out more than any of the other sites above which is its biggest downside. A few good ideas are not enough to save this site from its medicority and its similarity to other failed sites are, I am afraid, going to be what holds it back. I see nothing here that convinces me that this should ever be the first place I send my buyers, instead of just a “see also.”

I would love to be wrong on this! But for now, I will be staying where the buyers and the profit is and just use Bonanzle for duplicate listings.