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Buy.com hopes garage sale lures eBayers  Send a link to a friend

[August 08, 2007]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Buy.com is looking to steal some customers from eBay with a new shopping service for online hangouts like Facebook.

On Tuesday, Buy.com Inc. launched its Garage Sale service on the social networking online site Facebook. It's intended to let users post and sell items on their profile pages.

Unlike eBay, which charges sellers a listing and final transaction fee, Buy.com is charging a flat 5 percent commission for items sold. Buy.com processes the transactions, which means consumers must use credit cards to pay for items. Sellers get their money via eBay Inc.'s PayPal or a check from Buy.com.

"In essence, we're empowering the social networking sites in some fashion to compete with eBay, but we're processing the transactions behind that," Buy.com Chief Executive Neel Grover said.

Garage Sale users can't auction items off to the highest bidder, but Grover said Buy.com is looking into allowing users to haggle with sellers and read buyers' comments within the profile page. Right now, any bartering would have to be done via e-mail.

During a recent test on Facebook, Garage Sale listings showed the item's name, a snippet of its description, price, a photo and an "Add to Cart" link.

Grover envisions the service benefiting social networking sites by encouraging users to spend more time looking at profiles, and aiding consumers by allowing them to sell things without hopping over to eBay.

Also, with Garage Sale, buyers and sellers are more likely to know each other, setting it apart from other online commerce avenues like Craigslist, Grover said. He sees his service as different from the Marketplace section that Facebook offers for buying and selling items; there, users can list items that will show up on their profiles, but buyers won't always know sellers.

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Eventually, users of Garage Sale should be able to search outside their network, too. The company intends to let consumers search for items up for sale on Buy.com. They'll also get alerts about what their friends are selling.

Garage Sale is not Buy.com's first foray into social networking -- the company owns social shopping site Yub.com. Grover said it created Garage Sale with technology it acquired by purchasing online commerce technology company Shoperion.

Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Buy.com plans to make Garage Sale more widely available by releasing the code or the application to other sites. Grover said the service will be available elsewhere -- he wouldn't name names -- and on Buy.com itself by the fourth quarter of this year.

Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said Garage Sale sounds like a promising idea in theory.

"If they can ... create this network where people are buying and selling their own products, it is potentially something that could end up on eBay's radar. Nobody has really been able to successfully compete in that online barter market with eBay," she said.

The failure of many companies -- including Yahoo Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. -- to take on eBay is not lost on Grover. Still, assuming Buy.com can implement Garage Sale across various social networks, "we definitely see ourselves as competing with eBay," Grover said.

"We're not trying to create a site people are going to come to. We're going to where all the traffic is," he said.

[Associated Press; by Rachel Metz]

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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