Online Auctions Show No Respect? Start-up Says It Has the Site for You

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Web start-up BargainBid.com naturally wants to separate itself from the established online auction sites. So the company is hammering away where executives say other auctions sometimes fail: It's promising to show its customers a little respect.


"When you look at companies that are doing community auctions, for example, there's always the risk that ... you send a check in and you never get anything," said Manny Jimenez, vice president of business development at BargainBid. Or, "you wind up getting something that's touted as, 'Hey, almost brand new, looks great.' And then when you get it, it's all dinged up."


BargainBid, Melville, New York, began a $14.5 million promotional campaign this month that coincides with the company's formal launch. And in a move reminiscent of Priceline.com's highly successful use of "Star Trek" icon William Shatner as a spokesman, BargainBid will get out its message by tapping a guy who's built a career on being disrespected - Rodney Dangerfield.


The comedian's bug-eyed, contorted mug will be emblazoned across banner ads totaling 30 million online impressions, and his voice will drift across radio airwaves in major U.S. markets. Beginning in December, Dangerfield will tout the "wholesale auction" firm on billboards in New York, followed by a national outdoor campaign in the first quarter of 2000. BargainBid plans network television commercials for Dangerfield next year as well.


BargainBid auctions computers and related goods to businesses and consumers through its site at www.bargainbid.com. Unlike a typical community auction site such as eBay Inc., San Jose, CA, BargainBid solicits bids on goods it is reselling, especially excess inventory.


Company founders Kishor Chinchwadkar and Robert Joslin are the principals of Logicare Inc., a privately held $430-million offline computer wholesaler also based in Melville. BargainBid is not a subsidiary of Logicare, but the younger company will take advantage of Logicare's developed product channels. More reliable delivery equals more respect for customers, according to Jimenez.


"The benefit that we have over competition is that getting access to computer products is a relationship game. We've got those relationships already," Jimenez said. He said BargainBid can get hold of products from all the major computer makers, including direct marketing giant Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, TX, a company that often is finicky about who resells its computers.


"When you look at the wholesale business, it's a multi-billion-dollar miscalculation market. You gear up to sell X and the demand is less than X, and you need to be able to move those products. This is where companies like us step up to the plate," Jimenez said.


BargainBid will benefit from a ready-made fulfillment system as well. The company has shipping infrastructure ready to go and has hired an outsourced call center to handle customer service.


The firm kicked off the first round of several e-mail promotions this week. Jimenez would not talk about that push, except to say BargainBid is testing several lists and will send out "close to a million" e-mails over the next couple months. He also declined to discuss ongoing talks for one or more online portal deals.


Early radio spots have begun as well, most notably ads read live by Howard Stern on his syndicated show. BargainBid hired 2/47 Media Inc., New York, to place and serve the banner ads. The campaign's creative work is being handled by agency Ruder Finn, New York.


Jimenez would not comment on whether - like the arrangement between Shatner and Priceline - Dangerfield's compensation includes a stock holding in BargainBid. Regardless of how sweet the deal for Dangerfield, BargainBid certainly hopes his celebrity will yield success on a par with Shatner's performance for Priceline.


"We've had people say, 'Why Rodney?' And our response is, 'Why not Rodney?' Everybody knows who he is. He's a fun guy," Jimenez said.
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