Hurricane Katrina Donations Could be Many Millions More - EBay Sellers Try in Vain to Help

Yesterday I saw a mention in someone's email ezine about a kind person who had an eBay auction with the proceeds going 100% to help victims of the horrible Hurricane Katrina.

It struck a chord with me because I had wanted to set up something similar, but found that the "eBay Giving Works" charity program seems to be terribly flawed for us small sellers. I had researched it the day before, eBay goes through Mission Fish to handle the administrative tasks and distribution.

Here in a nutshell is how I understand it works. You set up an eBay auction and pledge a percentage of the proceeds to go to a charity. You pick the one you like. If the auction sells, the buyer pays you, and Mission Fish charges your credit card, taking out $3.00 per transaction for their fees, plus 3% to cover credit card fees. That's reasonable, they need to cover their overhead and payroll expenses. Then Mission Fish sends the balance to the charity.

The minimum donation per item has to be $10.00. Again, so far so good, I can understand that.

Now, I noticed in the auction that I visited that the seller had set up a dutch auction, with 1000 "lots" available, each for $1.00 each, with the proceeds going 100% to her favorite charity that would get food to the Katrina victims. I was about to place a bid for several $1.00 lots (a dutch auction lets you "win" as many of the item as you like, all at the same price).

Then it hit me, why couldn't I do the same kind of dutch auction, maybe she had found the way to get around the $10.00 per item restriction, and found that it was a minimum $10.00 per auction. It would only make sense that it would work that way, since Mission Fish charges the seller's credit card, if all 1000 lots sold, that would be $1000 for the charity, Mission Fish would take $3.00 plus 3%, the seller would collect (hopefully) the $1000 from the buyers, and all she would be on the hook for would be the eBay fees. Those fees, plus her hard work, would be her personal contribution.

So I went back to eBay and Mission Fish and researched the deal again. I found out that sure enough, in a multiple item auction, Mission Fish requires a $10.00 donation from the seller for EVERY ITEM that sells in a multiple-item auction (dutch auction).

So, if the seller had 1000 lots at $1.00 each, and they all sold, Mission Fish would have charged her credit card on file for $10.00 for each lot, a total of $10,000.00! And they would have taken their $3.00 + 3% fee for each of those 1000 lots, more than $3,000.00 for their trouble!

At that point, I realized the seller either had deep pockets and was matching contributions 10 to 1, or she misunderstood what would happen to her. I sent her an email, and to end a long story, she indeed misunderstood, was obviously fairly upset at the prospect of paying $10,000, and ended the auction early.

Now, I'd like my readers to do one of two things. If you think that eBay and Mission Fish are mishandling the charity program, as I do, please contact one or both and point them to this blog entry, or just write your own letter with your thoughts.

You can contact Mission Fish here:
http://www.missionfish.org/Help/contactus.jsp

eBay is always more difficult to contact, but you can try starting here:
http://pages.ebay.com/help/contact_us/_base/index.html

The other thing you could do is support the eBay seller's cause, she had to end the auction but she took the trouble to set up a web page for donations, you can access and support it here:
http://www.flipidy.com/secondharvest.htm

Perhaps with enough pressure on Mission Fish, they'll get together with eBay and allow dutch auctions to be counted as a single donation, instead of multiple individual items, and encourage more charity in the future.

For those with homes, families, relatives or friends in the devasted area, my hearts and prayers go out to you. I hope this information will in some small way help someone somewhere.

Dennis Becker is author of a regular blog about different ways of earning money on the Internet, titled appropriately enough "Success On The Internet".

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