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[ PREVIOUS STORIES ]

03-22-03: Tri Star finds success with eBay class
By JEAN ZEHRINGER GIESIGE
Standard Correspondent

     Let's say you're sick of hearing your friends talk about how they bought all their Christmas gifts on eBay, or how they went on eBay and got a whole box of mint-condition, age-appropriate blue jeans for their family for a song, and on and on and on, and finally you decide to check it out. Credit card in hand, you arrive at the eBay Web site, and within minutes you are drowning.
    "EBay hasn't done a very good job of organizing the site for beginners," said Lisa Sheppard, instructor with the adult education program at Tri Star Career Compact.
    That's why, for the past three years, Tri Star has been offering evening classes on how to navigate through the world's largest internet auction site.
    "You could learn it on your own," Sheppard said, "but it's like going to Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a big city, and you could drive there and try to find your way around. Or, you could ask somebody who's been there where to go, what exits to take, where to eat. And you'd have a lot better time."
    The eBay class has been a popular one at Tri Star almost from the beginning, said Sheppard and fellow instructor, Lynne Ray, who leads the eBay class. Each time the course fills up - and it nearly always fills up - they schedule another session. Ray on Thursday night taught the third and final session to the 12 people in her current eBay class. The next such class, which is already almost full, will begin on April 10.
    The eBay Web site, with 65 million registered users, is the world's biggest flea market. Sellers register with eBay peddling collectibles, treasures that they've found at neighborhood garage sales, their kids' outgrown clothing, the contents of their attic, or anything else imaginable. Buyers browse through thousands of listings looking for that one thing they can't live without, or anything else that catches their eye.
    "The great thing about eBay is that there is something for everyone," Ray said. "Conversely, it shows that there are customers and collectors who will buy just about anything. Where else could you find a buyer for a $2.1 million missile silo, or a whole town in California?"
    The growth of eBay has been phenomenal, she said. There were 2 million items sold on the site in the fourth quarter of 1997 and 195 million items sold there during the fourth quarter of 2002.
    "It started out as this underground thing, but it has become mainstream," Ray said. "Now, you here references to eBay from David Letterman, you read stories about eBay auctions in the newspaper."
    Those references draw a lot of people into the Tri Star class.
    "Some of our students have never been on the Web site, and they want to go there and explore," Sheppard said. "Or they've bought items, but never sold, and they want to learn how to do that. They come to the class to be pioneers, so they can go back and teach other family members how to do it."
    Ray said the class also draws local business people who want to expand their market.
    "They look at eBay as another market, a way to supplement their sales," she said.
    Judy Waterman of Celina, a student in the current session, said she came to find out what eBay was all about.
    "I'm here just out of curiosity," said Waterman, learning to use the site
with Ray's help.
     Everybody starts at the beginning - and no one knows where they might end up. Ray pointed out a story in the February issue of eBay's online newsletter about a seller whose 1941 Clipper Pale Beer can brought $19,000.
    "I've always liked to go to auctions, so the very first word I ever typed on an Internet search engine was the word 'auction,' and that took me to eBay," said Ray, who like many others has since established herself as an eBay seller. "The amount of people who have quit their jobs and now sell full-time on eBay is almost overwhelming. There are quite a few of them in the Mercer and Auglaize county area, selling everything from collectibles to cars."

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