In online auction, buy a boat, feel like a governor

You still have a week to place that winning bid on Maryland's yacht

Material World

December 14, 2003|By Julia Furlong and Meredith James | Julia Furlong and Meredith James,SUN STAFF

With all of the hype surrounding the online auction of Maryland Independence, the official State of Maryland yacht, there will surely be a few novices going online to eBay to place a bid (minimum $150,000) on the 112-foot treasure.

To help any first-timers navigate the uncertain waters of online auctions, we enlisted the expertise of Jim "Griff" Griffith, eBay's first customer service representative and author of The Official eBay Bible (Gotham Books, $23).

While some have suggested the state could just have effectively used a yacht broker to handle the boat's sale, Griffith, perhaps not surprisingly, disagrees. He says that using eBay is not only appropriate, but probably the best option available.

On The World's Online Marketplace, he says, Maryland will "reach a wider audience and get better prices."

We'll wait for the end of the 10-day auction - it began Thursday and ends next Sunday - to see if that prediction holds water. (By press time Friday, though, the Independence had drawn 12 bids, with a top bid of $157,000.) In the meantime, a few eBay commandments for would-be yacht buyers from Griffith:

Always read the seller's "feedback"; that is, the comments their customers have written about them after previous sales. In this case, of course, "You know who the seller is," Griffith says. "It's the state of Maryland, and you can trust them." We trust that he's right.

Read the item description carefully for the "terms of service" the seller offers, including shipping and handling prices and policies. For instance, will you have to pick the Independence up or will it be delivered to your driveway or dock?

Use an online payment service like PayPal Buyer Protection (an arm of eBay). Griffith says it makes transactions very secure: "The other party doesn't see your financial information." Surely a good thing when dealing with a cash-strapped state.

If you have any other questions ("Does that come with a dinghy?"), "you should always e-mail the seller before you bid," says Griffith.

To find the Maryland Independence auction, go online to www.ebay.com, hit "Search" and type in the terms: 112' Maryland Governor Yacht Boat.

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