As some of you may know, I recently held a Partner auction over on Tophatter. They contacted me asking if I was interested, and since my own shop was moving so slowly at that point I decided to take a chance.
I've put together a list of Pros and Cons based on my experience, along with some words about my specific auction, in the hopes of helping you make your decision if you were asked or thinking of applying.
- Great way to move a lot of your stuff and clear out your inventory
- Perfect if you're more concerned about spreading the name of your brand and getting your products out to people than you are about money or any sort of profit
- Can result in actual Etsy purchases
- Gets more attention to your Etsy page
- Good way to find out what people think your work is worth and get opinions, and see what can be improved
- No listing fee
- Tophatter take a full 30% from your auction
- Tophatter take a full 30% from any shipping you charge
- People are not inclined to spend lots of money, seeing Tophatter as more of a bargain bin than an auction house
- May get requests from Tophatter auction participants to offer extra things specifically to them for a lower price in the 'auction' spirit (ie lower prices)
My auction went surprisingly well, but there were a few issues. A couple of people entered the virtual auction room and started saying rather unpleasant things about my work. You are, of course, at no different risk of this being on Etsy - if people wanted to, they could quite easily slam you through Etsy, but being in the auction does make it a little easier.
Another problem that occurred was that one of my lots bugged out. Lots of bids were placed, but some people said they were unable to bid properly on it, and the person who, according to my invoice, 'won' the listing after about 10 bids didn't actually bid at all.
Another issue was that several people didn't pay. Tophatter take this quite seriously, and since the buyers weren't responding to my messages, I cancelled the lots and left them negative feedback with the reason from the drop-down menu as "no payment". If the individuals do this frequently they will end up permanently banned. So don't get excited if one of your lots goes for a surprising amount, because there's a good chance that they may not be planning on paying. The individuals that didn't pay, I noticed, had all been silent throughout the auction. This isn't to say that if people are bidding but not talking that they won't pay, but the individuals who are speaking in the auction room while bidding are more likely to.
The payment system is a bit weird, too. Unlike Etsy, you have to actually accept the money in Paypal, rather than it being automatically credited, so I had to click accept many, many times across 2 Paypal pages. But I suppose it was a nice nuisance :P
I was quite angry, however, to see that Tophatter take 30% of your shipping price. They most certainly should not be making a profit off of shipping, as I certainly wasn't - in fact, I was charging less than the full cost of actual shipping to keep people happy. It wasn't until I payed my Tophatter invoice that I found out they take a cut from shipping as well, so I ended up getting only half of the money needed to actually ship everything. It may well have said in the fine print that they take 30% from shipping, but they did conveniently leave that information out while I was talking to their representatives.
Overall, I wouldn't do it again, because I'm based in the UK, so I didn't make as much as I would have if I was in the US, and I lost out a lot on shipping, having to fill a lot of that in from my own pocket.
These are all my real experiences and opinions after holding a Partner auction on Tophatter with 44 lots. 41 sold, but 7 ended up unpayed. I've posted this information through hopes of helping people make their decisions. If you go ahead with it, I wish you the very best of luck! It's a really fun experience, butI can't say I'd do it again, given the overall results. It wasn't financially worthwhile for me.