APPLETON (AP) - The city of Appleton has made $2.5 million by using eBay to sell hundreds of surplus properties, vehicles and items seized by the police department.
The city used to hold live auctions once a year, but doing so took a lot of preparation and the results were mixed, The Post-Crescent Media reported. Jeff Fait, the city's purchasing manager, said eBay is cheaper and saves the city the effort of storing large assets for months awaiting a physical auction.
"We once had a dump truck that we expected to sell for about $20,000. In a week, it sold for more than $60,000," Fait said. "It depends on finding two buyers that really want it and you watch it take off."
The city has sold about 1,500 items on the online auction site since starting the program in 2004. The auctions are posted on Mondays and last for one week. Items on the block this week include a garbage truck and a 2000 Chevrolet Impala with about 69,000 miles.
Profits generally go to the city's general fund to offset expenses and reduce taxes.
Leroy Fischer of Appleton is a frequent bidder. The president of Fischer-Ulman Construction has purchased two pickup trucks and a dump truck online, and says he's been pleased with the results.
"They do a really good job as far as putting the product out there and getting a good price online," Fischer said. "Years ago with the live auctions they had to pay the big auctioneer fee."
The eBay site still charges a fee, but not nearly as much. For example, when a retired police squad car sold for $2,952 this month, eBay charged $52.
The city of Neenah also has set up an eBay page, although it hasn't sold as many assets. Since 2010 it sold eight of 18 listed vehicles, bringing in more than $50,000.
"We post a list price based on the trade-in value we get from a dealer," said Joe Wenninger, Neenah's director of information systems. "If we can't sell it within 10 to 15 days we'll trade it in at that price with the dealer."
Like the city of Appleton, Neenah has seen a number of products sell for a surprising profit. In 2011, a snow plow that was posted for $7,600 ended up selling for nearly $17,000.
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