I am suffering from a case of auction advertising fatigue on the Web. Every morning I see 15 or 20 ads for auctions on various sites. I used to open most of them looking for a nugget of useful information. Now I just feel overwhelmed, and maybe open a couple. Machine tools are my business and even I won’t open the undifferentiated commoditized email barrage, so I doubt most people care anymore.
The Internet auctioneers have diminished the quality of their offerings by both showing the reserves and hiding the reserves. I think eBay has actually become more transparent because it has become more an advertising vehicle than a selling medium, at least on the industrial side.
I am highly cynical about most auctions today unless I am looking for items like shelving or office equipment. Many auctions are extensions of the dealer process without the opportunity to negotiate directly with the seller. Because auctions are supposed to imply unfettered, unimpeded competitive bidding but do not deliver it, they are becoming more and more ignored events by sincere buyers.
This should be a period of aggressive buying of machinery. Business has been strong for at least two years and tax breaks are available now but could vanish next year. IMTS just whet a lot of appetites, but I see a lot of tentativeness. I think it will subside after the election, but the Caterpillar and Cummins profit warning will add to the sense of caution.
Wall Street is extremely gloomy. Small business hates Obama, but is just “mild” about Romney. Teachers are striking and winning raises from weak governments. Nevertheless, the stock market has had a big year. Retail is doing rather well with a very nice “back to school” period. Restaurants that have tweaked their menus toward value are thriving. And Silicon Valley is red hot.
I just spent several days in Palo Alto, toured the Google campus (lunch was delicious and FREE) and observed the crazy housing market firsthand. Prices for homes are rising rapidly now, and that is from stratospheric levels that never tanked. My 3,000 square foot house in Chicago worth $150,000 on a good day would be worth $2.5 million in Palo Alto. And 1,200 square foot, 50-year-old houses rent for $4,000 a month. It’s a different world in the land of Google, Apple and Stanford.
The Web is certainly working for some people. I read an interesting article in Bloomberg’s Businessweek (excellent publication now, 10 times better than the old rag and far superior to Forbes and Fortune). The piece told about a site for teachers called “Teachers Pay Teachers” (TPT), which is a marketplace for lesson plans. One teacher has made $1 million for the last year or so churning out extremely clever and thoughtful lesson plans and units for kindergarten. Teachers buy the lessons because they are really good and save them enormous amounts of time. The site takes a 15 percent cut. Business is brisk and expanding rapidly.
I also learned in Bloomberg Businessweek that my dead cell phone has value. An outfit called EcoATM has installed 150 automated kiosks where people can stick their old phones into a machine and it will spit out a cash offer. If accepted, the seller just leaves the phone and takes the cash. A slightly damaged iPhone 4 or 4S is worth $175, a beat up Samsung Galaxy S is $60. Nifty idea that fills a need. The used phones are then refurbished and many end up being exported.
Question: Do you wish you were living in another time?