Baltimore Auctions Extra Supplies Over Internet

The city of Baltimore yesterday wrapped up its first round of cyberauctions. The city is hoping to clear out thousands of surplus items from its warehouse via the emerging online market.

But sales of the goods, which the city has been hawking online since early June, have been a little slow.

"I like the exposure, but I've been a little disappointed in the activity," said Joe Zissimos, buyer supervisor for Baltimore's bureau of purchases. "You have a mental picture of the World Wide Web and the millions of potential buyers out there ...but there's going to be growing pains. Still, the market has nowhere to go but up."

Classified Auctions.com, the host site for Baltimore's auctions, enables online consumers to buy surplus goods that otherwise would be available only to a few people aware of the opportunity. Items include books, office desks and other things the city doesn't need or want anymore.

An added twist, however, is that the site also allows individuals to sell commodities online. Right now, the city does not attach a fee for the service but plans a $1 charge per item in the future.

"The site was designed to really help anybody," said John Brown, vice president of sales and marketing at Classified Auctions. "It allows the city surplus, and individuals, to reach a national marketplace and get their items out there at a low cost."

Other government entities also are experimenting with online auctions. For instance, Pennsylvania's Department of General Services signed a deal a few months back with an Internet auctioning company to see how online auctions would perform in the world of government purchasing.

Pennsylvania's online auction experiment differed from Baltimore's in that its focus was on business-to business trading. In that case, electronic auctions enabled the state to buy commodities such as coal, office furniture and aluminum used in the production of license plates.

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