I have a rant and I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.
I received two separate emails, a day apart, about my domain lists I have up for auction at Sedo and Afternic. In the past six years, I’ve sold over 400 domains between the two, and both auction sites worked well enough in the transfer process to keep me satisfied with their services. They take a minimum of 15% commission on my domains sold, and that’s fair, if they do the work to earn it.
Here’s the rub: As far as I know, based on their emails to me, neither Afternic or Sedo filter their total domain catalogs on an annual basis as a matter of keeping their inventory fresh for new buyers. Two domains I sold on my own last year, were still listed with Afternic and Sedo auctions as they had been for at least five years. This month, these two domains were “bought” again, and both Afternic and Sedo just “assumed” I still owned the domains. (Note that I listed over 1000 domains with each auction site.)
I had to inform both companies that I no longer owned the domains. I advised that they should have checked the whois, or at least emailed me prior to agreeing to sell the domains (which they sell through automated means) to make sure I still owned the domain. Automation is great, but you can automate a quick email to a whois registrant address asking “Do you still own this domain? We may have a buyer”.
When we broker a list of domains for a client, we always check the whois to make sure the domains are current, if they are soon to expire, and that they are, in fact, owned by the person offering them for sale. That’s a no-brainer. I charge a range of commissions for my work, depending on the extent of active promotions I do in reaching buyers for my clients. That’s where I earn my sales commission. Then the expectation of any buyer of domains I represent is that I’m offering a domain name that I know I can sell.
However, it seems that maybe using Afternic or Sedo just means you’re only “borrowing space” from them to use their “listing service”. You know they aren’t actively promoting your domain unless you pay extra for it. If someone happens on your domain while searching their list of domains, and wants to buy it, there is no “due diligence” made by either Afternic or Sedo to double-check whether you still own the domain after several years.
So exactly WHAT do these listing services do for you in selling your domain? Process the sale? Bring in the buyer? Are these sites actual “auction sites” where they go out and find specific buyers for the category relevance of your domain? Or do they just wait until someone comes to their site and searches to find your domain? Obviously, the latter didn’t work for the two domains I sold that were listed at Sedo and Afternic for many years, because I sold them myself first.
What I don’t like is these messages from them: (in part)
“The revised User Agreement and acceptable use policies pages apply to all Sedo users and, where applicable, to domains listed for sale in any Sedo user account. Each Sedo user is responsible for maintaining a domain list that accurately reflects domains that they still own and wish to sell. If a user account creates failed transactions due to an outdated domain list, that account shall be suspended at Sedo’s discretion, and reinstated only when it has been reviewed and outdated domain listings have been deleted.”
Oh, OUCH. Now, are we supposed to be “scared” about Sedo making us domainers do their inventory work? Is Sedo taking this hardline stance with domainers who may have thousands of domains listed with them? Seriously? What if those big portfolio holders refuse to do this “demand”? Sedo makes a good commission on selling their domains, and since most of the input and management of the domains uploaded to Sedo is required to be done the seller, I’d like to know where the 15% commission for Sedo is earned? Is it because we are so blessed to have Sedo list our domains, based on their media presence and solid reputation? However, the main questions is: Has it reached a point in this industry where the “big guys” have the gall to post that kind of ‘sucker’ rules for their own SOURCE OF SALES COMMISSION INCOME?
And the message from Afternic wasn’t much different.
“Can you take a look at the attached spreadsheet and send back a list of domains you no longer own so I can bulk delete them? I don’t want to guess on this and remove domains you do still own. Please let me know as soon as possible so we can get your portfolio up to date.”
How about this? For the commission that these listing/auction sites are charging, why force domainers who have listed over 1000 domains with these so-called “auction sites” to waste their time reviewing every single domain in their catalog that they sold outside the domain listing service that charges domain sellers significant commission? Why should they force their own clients to “clean up” their catalog for them? I don’t know about any other domainer, but for me to do this, I’d have to spend hours reviewing each and every domain for whois info and check my database.
Look at it this way: You have 2000 domains. You list them at five different domain auction/listings websites. You sell a few of those domains on your own. You now have to go through FIVE auction/listing websites, look for the domain you sold, then delete it. You have to remember to do this every time you sell a domain. And the kicker is this: What if you never listed that domain on ANY of the five domain auctions sites, and you spent hours searching for that domain you just sold, and came up empty-handed?
The job of a listing/auction site is to check and confirm their auction items. It’s not up to domainers to go do it for them, especially when these auction sites are being paid a nice commission when they sell one of your domains.
Are you too busy to do the work your auction site should be doing for you to earn their commission? Probably. I am. Do you think it’s fair that auction sites make you do the “cleanup work” for their inventory when it should be their responsibility to make sure a domain they are about to sell is actually owned by you?
Trying to be logical and fair here. Comments welcome!
Otherwise, I truly like Sedo and Afternic, but let’s stop putting profits in their pockets when they aren’t treating the source of their income with respect and accommodation.
UPDATE FROM SEDO:
I was impressed to receive a “go-ahead” from the obviously up-t0-speed executive, Neil Kavenaugh, to reprint some emails from Sedo regarding the task of maintaining a huge inventory of domain names for sale through listings and auctions on Sedo. I’d like to thank Neil Kavanaugh for having the guts to comment on my harsh post regarding my claim that auction sites were putting the responsibility of maintaining Sedo’s inventory, which for me, negated their right to charge 15% commission on YOUR domains you sell through their “service”.
Neil makes some strong points I have to consider, which means you do, too! Here are his remarks:
“Stephen – feel free to post and thanks for asking. Please keep in mind the verification process is a challenge. Between privacy settings, multiple emails per acct and large registrars blocking us from running “bulk’ checks – much of this is manual process that absolutely requires the assistance of domain owners. Perhaps this will improve in the near future as the industry grows more standardized.
We do run WHOIS checks on our listed domains, but unfortunately many names come back as “unverified” for a multitude of reasons and we must verify with the domain owners. In this case, Christina had sent you a list of solely the domains that we could not verify through WHOIS(see attached). We very much need the help of our portfolio owners to verify these instances so that we do not have inventory for sale that is not owned by the listing customer. While we certainly play a role, verifying ownership is ultimately the responsibility of the owner. When we sell a name that is no longer owned, it obviously provides a poor customer experience and reflects poorly on Afternic (as well as our industry as a whole).
We have a hard working Customer Service team here that has a big challenge in verifying the nearly 4 million brokered names on our platform, and your cooperation and assistance in verifying the names that Christina had forwarded to you on the 14th is certainly be a big help.
Thanks very much in advance!
Sedo – Director of Marketplace Sales
My response to to my readers about Neil: Neil is a straight forward no-nonsense Sedo representative in an executive position who clearly and confidently replied to my post. That’s whats we like to see, yes? No “corporate speak”, just answers to our simple questions. Even if we have more questions, or our questions weren’t answered completely, having somebody from Sedo taking the time to address these issues is a legitimate step in CS maintenance by Sedo. This, in my book, is what all domain investors are looking for.
Score: Sedo +1
Thanks Neil, and we welcome any further communications from you regarding Sedo’s policy on keeping clients’ large portfolios maintained by Sedo at the level that Sedo assists in reviewing those portfolios at least annually, to make sure that they are current and updated. If there is a question about it, a simple email to the “past” listed owner for confirmation makes all the difference in the world.
“Successful Domain Management™”
LINKEDIN.COM RESUME: Linkedin.com/in/successclick
TitleDomains.com (Domains For Sale Archive)
“Own Your Competition™”