I must confess that I'm an online auction addict. I've been a dedicated eBay buyer since 1998, and I've scored great deals without having to leave my home or office. With auctions, it's often the thrill of the hunt: finding something online that's difficult to locate at a neighborhood retailer or grabbing an item you're crazy about at a bargain price.
But there's another worthwhile reason to join the ranks of online auction buyers: It's good for the environment. Silly, you say? Not in the least. For those of us who promote organic living, it's a terrific way to save gas and support sellers whose values mirror yours. Organic food and merchandise offerings are also growing exponentially as green vendors and consumers discover ecommerce opportunities.
I don't have enough space to cover the ins and outs of buying safety, so I'm going to refer you to eBay's Buying Overview, which provides a thorough explanation of how to register and shop wisely. This article will showcase a sampling of organic foods, gardening supplies, books and other goodies on two of the top online auction sites: eBay and Amazon.com.
eBay is the uncontested leader in online auctions. The site is easy to navigate, and you won't find a wider selection of products -- from the sublime to the ridiculous. When you register on the site, use the "Search" feature to find what you want. Enter the word "organic," and you'll be amazed at the variety of product listings that pop up.
Many sellers have online eBay stores that specialize in organic goods. RPM Services Store, for example, markets all types of sprouting seeds: broccoli, buckwheat, flax, alfalfa, daikon radish, adzuki beans, fenugreek and many more. Prices start at around $3, plus shipping. At press time, the proprietress, Sprout House Rita of The Sprout House, had completed more than 1,300 eBay transactions, with a 100% feedback rating. (If you're unfamiliar with the importance of feedback ratings, click here.) She also sells organic-themed books.
Eden Home and Garden offers great deals on organic huckleberry seeds and compost bins, while Sunset Hydroponics specializes in hydroponic gardening and lighting systems, organic gardening nutrients and potting soil. For herbs, visit Allseasonscatering, which offers organic chocolate mint, applemint, spearmint, creeping thyme, chives and other plants.
If you're looking for organic pet treats, check out the listings from Snaks 5th Avenue, an all-natural and organic gourmet dog bakery. All treats are homemade, containing no salts, dyes, sugars, fillers or preservatives. Snaks sells festive whole-wheat biscuits shaped like ice cream cones, doggie donuts, cheese twists and carob chip cookies.
Organic coffee beans are a hot seller on eBay, so visit Invalsa (shade-grown green Bolivian beans), ARCO Coffee (traditional roasts and flavored coffees) and Mission Grounds, which donates profits to groups that build orphanages around the world.
Everyone I know has ordered something from Amazon.com, but many shoppers fail to realize that the site hosts Amazon.com Auctions. Its selection is far less extensive than eBay's, but you can find some great gifts and personal items. Click here to browse the auction categories, and don't forget to enter "organic" in the search field.
Amazon's second special area is Amazon zShops, a place where sellers can list books and other merchandise at competitive prices. You can search for items at the zShops main menu, but there's actually a better way to shop. Simply log onto Amazon.com and search for the book title you'd like to buy. Once it comes up, you'll see a link to "Used & New" copies. Click on it to find copies offered by zShop sellers. You can easily compare prices and books' condition before committing to buy.
For example, former Vice President Al Gore's new book, An Inconvenient Truth, has a regular retail price of $21.95, but Amazon sells it for $14.27 (a 35% savings). Even better, you're eligible for free shipping if your order totals at least $25 (some restrictions apply). But if you click on the Used and New link within the book listing, you'll find new and used copies from zShop sellers that start at $13.85 -- and the price will decrease with time. The only catch? If you buy from a zShop, you don't qualify for free shipping.
Other online auctions sites are not as popular as eBay for general merchandise and Amazon for books, but you may find exactly what you need by visiting them.
Be sure to check your favorite auction site regularly, as merchandise changes daily, and there's always a new bargain around the corner. I suggest:
- Yahoo! Auctions (all kinds of merchandise)
- Amnesty International (music, posters and memorabilia to raise funds)
- Goodwill Industries (the charity's online auction site)
Play It Safe
For additional information on online auction safety, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Online Auction Guide for Buyers and Sellers.