Pennsylvania enters the field of online sales
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HARRISBURG -- Psst! Yes, you -- we're talking to you. Want a good deal on an Australian kookabura cricket bat?
You're not into cricket? Then how about a golf putter in a handsome zippered case?
Don't play on the links? Maybe you'd want to bid on tools, scissors, pocket knives, corkscrews, men's and women's belts or other items the state is auctioning.
This isn't a joke. It's a new online public auction that the state's Department of General Services started last week. The state received all these items, plus plenty more, from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
And how did the feds get the stuff? Baggage inspectors took it off passengers who tried to get on airplanes with the knives and tools and other implements that could cause danger. The government calls it "surplus property."
The items were seized from passengers boarding planes at airports in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, as well as out-of-state airports in Ohio, New York and New Jersey, said General Services spokesman Troy Thompson.
The state has actually been getting the contraband items from Transportation Security for the past several years, and has been selling it to people at a warehouse in Harrisburg. The sales of seized items have netted $700,000 for the state's general fund, Mr. Thompson said.
But now a new technique -- the online public auction -- is being tried, in an effort to reach a larger audience and generate more funds for the state.
"Online sales of TSA surplus property present a great opportunity for the public to get items they want for a good price, while generating revenue for Pennsylvania," said GSA Secretary Sheri Phillips. "We're excited about getting this program started."
The state has contracted with a firm called GovDeals, which last week opened a bidding site. Potential buyers can access www.govdeals.com on the Internet, and see a search box at the top. Plug the words "Pa state surplus" into that box and three pages of available items, with 10 items per page, will appear.
Brand names of items will include Leatherman, Swiss Army, Gerber multi-tools, Craftsman, Gucci, Prada and Oakley. The list also includes some nonthreatening "lost and found" items such as sunglasses and jewelry left behind by travelers.
Ten new items will be added to the online site every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Mr. Thompson said that 10 previously listed items will be deleted when 10 new ones are added. So the list will always contain 30 items. Bidders will have seven days to make an offer before an item is removed and the highest bid naturally wins. In order to place a bid, a person first has to register; this can be done at the upper right-hand corner of the GovDeals website.
As of Friday, here were some of the more interesting items up for auction:
• a batch of 50 Gerber pocket knives for $301
• a 7-pound batch of Buck pocket knives for $201
• the cricket bat had a bid of $10.50
• a group of five pool cues was going for $120
• a bid of $47 was offered for a zippered case containing "one compact wood golf putter practice set"
• 20 "assorted used Leatherman tools'' were going for $165.
• a high bid of $32 was made on 18 pounds of assorted male/female brown belts"
• someone bid $27 for 15 pounds of "assorted plastic-handled scissors"
• ice skates for $15
• garden tools for $15
• pipe wrenches for $15.
Two extra charges will be added to each sale price, Mr. Thompson said -- the state's 6 percent sales tax, naturally, and an administrative fee. If the auction price for an item is, say, $100, the state Department of Revenue will get $6 in sales tax revenue. Also, a 7.5 percent service fee will be added, with that $7.50 going to GovDeals. As a result the state general fund will receive the entire $100, he said.
Further information is available from General Services at 717-787-3197.
First Published April 8, 2012 12:00 am