City of Baltimore Takes Surplus to Net Auctions

Desks, file cabinets and books that have been gathering dust in Baltimore City Government warehouses for years are now seeing the light of day — or at least the light of the Internet — through an alliance with Classified

Baltimore’s Bureau of Purchases recently put its surplus goods up for sale on the Internet to reduce its warehouse costs and regain some cash for items it is no longer using.

It is not the first time Baltimore has thought of selling its old furniture and supplies, but past attempts to do so have fallen far short of expectations because city managers have little time or expertise in marketing and sales. “Bound by their budget, city managers did not have the capability to reach potential buyers of the accumulated surplus,” Classified said.

Through the Internet and Classified, Baltimore can reach more than 40 million customers per week. Because of that, Baltimore says it plans to shoot a little higher than the fire-sale prices it has charged in the past. It will also be more aggressive with its surplus, testing the Internet to move everything it has.

“Internet-based sales such as those conducted by Classified Auctions are rapidly proving to be the e-business tool of choice for many organizations. The City of Baltimore is seeking exposure to the largest target base of potential buyers, and I believe we have found it on the Internet,” said Joe Zissimos, of Baltimore’s Bureau of Purchases.

Mixed Results

Starting prices range from $5 for each of 100 elementary school desks to $30 for a gray metal cart on casters. The items may not be particularly glamorous, but they are useful to someone, somewhere, the city hopes. However, the experiment has yet to yield overwhelming success; after four days on the auction block, only three of the eight types of items up for sale had been spoken for.

On the Classified site, the Baltimore surplus items are so unique they rate in the “featured auction and major sales” category, which lists items on the front page of the Web site. Classified currently has auctions in progress in 21 product categories. Classified Auctions, based in Baltimore, lists thousands of items ranging from autos to beanie babies in an auction style format at its Web site.

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