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BRING IN THE MIDDLEMAN ONLINE AUCTION STORES HELP PEOPLE SELL ON EBAY.

Byline: Candice Choi Staff Writer

A vintage amplifier lying around Peter Katz's home recently fetched him a pretty penny on eBay - and he hardly lifted a finger.

Instead he just dropped the amplifier off at The Garage Seller, a vendor that sells other people's wares on Internet auction site eBay for a cut of the profit.

EBay drop-off stores like The Garage Seller, Quik Drop and The Web Corner are turning the discarded wares of technophobes across the region into a brick-and-mortar goldmine.

The Garage Seller expanded to four locations after opening a shop in Studio City just eight months ago, and owner Peter Mehrian said two more are on the way. The Web Corner in Woodland Hills and a Quik Drop location in Simi Valley also recently opened for business.

Fueling the growth of such storefronts is the seemingly worthless artifacts collecting dust in homes across America.

``Everything has a value,'' said Mehrian. Apparently so: Sales at the Garage Seller have been escalating between 30 percent and 40 percent every month since it opened.

AuctionDrop, a nationwide drop-off site that partners with UPS, estimates there is $20 billion in discarded merchandise lying around in the nation's homes.

So what are people digging up from the dark recesses of their garages and attics?

It ranges from beat-up Winnie the Pooh dolls to sparkling scooters to antique sofas, said Omar Elkassir, co-owner of the Web Corner in Woodland Hills. At the Quik Drop in Simi Valley, owner Alan Weinstein said he recently got a car transmission. And Weinstein thinks he can sell it.

The Garage Seller even hocks cars, boats and real estate.

Here's how it works.

A customer brings in the item they want to sell.

To pass muster, the item typically needs to have a minimum value of about $50. The vendor will then research, photograph and write up the product on eBay. Once the item is sold, the cusomter is mailed a check.

The vendor keeps a commission ranging between 20 percent and 80 percent, depending on how much is made.

Selling on eBay can be a cumbersome, time-consuming process, Weinstein said. ``You have to know how to load the digital pictures and know how to do the write-up.''

Places like AuctionDrop also have the savvy to dry-clean a wedding dress and put it on a mannequin before posting it online, said Kathy Wilson, spokeswoman for the chain. A regular seller might fetch less for the same dress by just snapping a picture of it lying around their apartment.

Katz uses the Internet to read, research and write but selling is slightly beyond his comfort. ``I'm somewhere between tech-savvy and a Luddite,'' he said.

Drop-off auction stores can bring people like Katz and a ``whole new segment of sellers to the eBay community,'' said Hani Durzy, spokesman for eBay. There are about 1,000 drop-off locations listed on eBay, which created a ``trading post'' in July listing drop-off locations. Those places alone garnered sales of at least $25,000 a month.

San Carlos-based AuctionDrop recently partnered with UPS. Now people can drop off their wares at any UPS location to be sent to AuctionDrop free of charge. If the item isn't worth anything, AuctionDrop will send it back - again, free of charge.

AuctionDrop has sold about 40,000 items and mailed out $2 million in checks since it was established in March 2003.

It's essentially the modern-day consignment shop, Wilson said. Unlike a consignment shop, however, Wilson said AuctionDrop has the entire online community as potential buyers.

Recently, someone brought a vintage stereo to the Garage Seller that fetched $2,220, Mehrian said. Another person brought in a high-end amplifier that sold for $900 and yet another person brought in a comic book collection that sold for $2,300. ``We get a lot of sports memorabilia - that sells well,'' Mehrian said.

Candice Choi, (818) 713-3634

candice.choi(at)dailynews.com

EBAY DROPOFF STORES

The Garage Seller

www.thegarageseller.com

15719 Ventura Blvd., Encino

(Also in Studio City, Woodland Hills and Brentwood)

(818) 784-5005

Quik Drop

www.quikdrop.com

1782 Erringer Road, Simi Valley

(805)583-5544

The Web Corner

www.thewebcorner.com

19509 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana

(818) 345-7443

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) Quick Drop store manager Connie Wate holds a guitar for sale online as owner Alan Weinstein looks on.

John Lazar/Staff Photographer

(2 -- color) Peter Mehrian holds a set of golf clubs in a storage room packed with eBay inventory at The Garage Seller in Encino.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer

Box:

EBAY DROPOFF STORES (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 28, 2004
Words:763
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