Lights, camera, auction...


He has been making money off Facebook selling Amazon returns. Put it down to his IT skills, social media savvy, ability to conduct an online auction and getting the timing right.

When the Covid-19 circuit breaker measures kicked in last April, most non-essential retail shops had to close temporarily, forcing people to shop online. That netted a tidy extra income for techie Wilson Paul David and Ms Nicole Victoria, whom he married a year ago.

While e-commerce sites such as Lazada and Shopee saw a surge in sales, others started auctions on social media platforms.

Mr Paul, 33, an Internet of Things (IoT) specialist in the automotive industry, started an e-auction platform - EdenTech Auction on Facebook - and got his friends to contribute to the $600 needed for the initial inventory of tech gadgets. The products were purchased from an Amazon wholesaler.

But Mr Paul could not choose the the items. "When our package arrives from an overseas wholesaler, the box contains mystery tech items which we will only know after unwrapping the packaging," he said. "Sometimes, you could get a bag full of cables and if you are lucky you could get high-value items like PS4 (gaming console)."

He added that most of the items are made in the United Kingdom and considered factory rejects. "The items are rejected for reasons like a dent in the packaging but they are all in good working condition," he said.

There are wholesalers reselling products returned to Amazon. Amazon stocks the returned items in pallets in its warehouses. The pallets are sold to wholesalers, who sell them to others.

Mr Paul makes it a point to test the products before putting them up for auction.

He conducts the online auctions from home. Before starting the auction, he stacks up the products neatly on a table in front of his phone camera, which is secured to a tripod.

To create a buzz, he and Nicole, 32, decorate the backdrop with LED strip lights and play upbeat music throughout the auction.

When the auction goes live on Facebook, Mr Paul usually introduces his non-premium items, such as digital pens and headphones, first. When he has enough viewers, he starts auctioning premium products such as gaming keyboards and smart video doorbells.

The starting bids range from $0 to $15. The products are sold to the highest bidders, whose bids are reflected in the comment section of the live feed. During the auction, Mr Paul chats with the viewers in English, Tamil and Malay, keeping up a lively patter, including quizzes and jokes.

Concurrently, behind the scenes, his wife monitors the bidding process on her laptop and deals with the sales and administrative matters such as payments and delivery arrangements.

Conducting an online auction requires tolerance, warned the couple. For example, viewers will constantly ask for a particular product to be showcased, but they will disappear the moment it is flashed on screen.

"Those who have no intention to purchase will ask unnecessary questions or leave comments that are unfavourable to the product," said Mr Paul. "Controlling your emotions during the auction is a tough thing."

It is not easy to conduct an auction for nearly four hours at a stretch, as he does. All through, he has to stay lively and focused to attract viewers and bidders. On random weekdays, Mrs Nicole uses the same Facebook platform to sell earrings and women's fashion accessories at fixed prices.

If the couple have difficulty selling some items, they will give them away as free gifts to customers who meet a minimum spending amount.

In the first half of the year, the business was profitable. But with shops reopening, it has taken a hit.

"In the best month, I made a profit of $800, but with the increased competition from e-commerce platforms, our viewership has been on the decline," said Mr Paul.

He has taken to collaborating with other e-auctioneers to sell his items by tapping their extensive networks.

He and his wife are passionate about their e-auction hobby and love the interactions with families and friends who join in.

"When customers are satisfied with the product and leave a positive review on our Facebook page, it gives me immense satisfaction for the work that goes behind it and for being able to make them happy," said Mr Paul.

"Those who have no intention to purchase will ask unnecessary questions or leave comments that are unfavourable to the product. Controlling your emotions during the auction is a tough thing."

- Mr Wilson Paul David


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