By Doug Koztoski
With our current economy starting and stopping and reversing direction with quickness like baseball legend Jackie Robinson in one of his classic rundowns, it is nice to hear about something business-related growing in several positive directions.
This bright light is Wensy.com, an auction website with no fees in any form for buyers and sellers.
Fed up with paying fees on their stamp and coin transactions on eBay, Darren Bock and his brother-in-law bought an auction platform they liked, tweaked it and then launched Wensy.com in June 2007.
“I built the site for those who were tired of paying fees or who could not afford to pay fees. Because I have been blessed in so many ways, I felt the calling to give back to others. Wensy is my way of giving back,” said Bock.
“I have never collected one penny from any member. I will never have to collect any money from a member” said the 43-year-old director of an intensive care unit in the cardiovascular wing of an Arizona hospital.
About 3,600 people are registered members on the site, and membership “has been doubling about every five months.”
In addition to the no-fee element, Bock emphasizes strong customer service. “I want to treat all members as though they are the most important, answer all their questions, give members a site where it was easy to list items and buy items.”
Bock said he has spent about $10,000 of his own money chiefly to pay tech types to maintain and upgrade the website. A nominal amount of money he receives from ads that are clicked on via Wensy puts a dent in his $100-a-month cost to advertise the auction site on Google.
So what does Bock, who spends about 20 hours a week answering Wensy e-mails, get out of all this? “I like to see people using the site and I’m helping them do it. It’s fun to watch the site grow, it is exciting,” he noted.
One of the most successful listers on Wensy was, according to Bock, somewhat skeptical about the site when it was in its infancy.
“He asked me about charging no fees, He was very hesitant about joining the site because he thought he would go through all the time of listing items and Wensy would fold or we would start charging fees,” he recalled. “I am proud to say that he has now sold over 900 items, has a feedback score of 782 and not one negative. On top of this, he has not paid one penny in fees despite selling over $12,000 worth of items.”
Online auction veteran Herb Peer has listed several sports items on Wensy, with modest sales for over six months, but he sees the site’s potential.
“In the end, the excellent customer service, and the free aspect of the site will eventually catch on,” said Peer. A community element with Wensy has already taken hold, he noted. “There is camaraderie among members that one cannot experience on a large site like eBay.”
James Taylor has more than 1,400 sports items on Wensy and he sees the site’s possibilities, as well. “It just needs more traffic,” said the dealer.
In the meantime, Taylor said a niche already exists on Wensy for some sports hobbyists. “This is a great place for player, team and set collectors to pick up the inexpensive cards at very low cost, unlike eBay.”
At press time, about 37,000 listings populate the site and the leading category is sports memorabilia, the first Wensy section to crest the 10,000-item level. Several of the sports listings are “raw” cards from the 1980s and newer, and many of those ultimately go for less than a dollar or two, partially because bidding can be sporadic.
Yet, on occasion, Wensy prices reach eBay levels, especially with sports cards in the $3-$10 range. Other leading categories on Wensy, and their estimated “census numbers” are: Coins and Paper Money (8,000), Collectibles (4,100), Stamps (2,400) and Music (1,900).
Sharing the fun is a big part of Wensy, and Bock even tapped into the community when creating the site name. “I went online and I looked at five letter domain names that were available for sites and I pulled those names off and I sent them to my son who is a fifth-grade teacher,” he said. “The class voted on which name they liked best and Wensy.com got the most votes, so we went with that.”
Bock: To the Future
And what about 2009, what developments does Bock see on the horizon for Wensy? For starters, video.
“It’ll probably be about a 30-second clip that members can have for an item,” he said. “If they have a coin, for example, they can show the front and back of it and talk about the coin – like a little commercial.” Other improvements, he indicated, will surface as the site evolves.
“I have always listened to my members. They have dictated where Wensy will go,” Bock emphasized. “When the site first started, we did not have a good invoice system. We built an invoicing system. They wanted the ability to bulk relist items – we added this. Whatever the members need, we will provide it for them.” SCM