I recently paid a visit to one of my favorite Internet sites — eBay. I have done a small amount of buying and selling on eBay and, for the most part, I have had good experiences (except for that darn carousel slide projector which doesn’t want to work). On this visit, I looked around for furnaces and condensing units.

I got a little more than I bargained for.

I found a 16-SEER condensing unit from a major manufacturer on the eBay auction site with a starting price of $1,999. Here is some of the text from the ad, which is included verbatim, complete with grammatical errors:

“By customer request we have placed the Best of the Best Unit’s on eBay this Week. Just look at all you Get. Save thousands of dollars on This top of the Line Central Air System.

“Don’t Miss out on this special Offer I will not list this. This low again. I’ve put together Three packages at Below Contractor Pricing Just to See How many Bid’s We get. Our Contractors are currently selling these same Unit’s for more then 5,000.00 and for as much as 8,500 with The matching 96% Gas Furnace.

“This high quality unit has simple and easy to follow instructions on installation. It should take the average person 4-6 hours for a simple change out. I will provide simple phone support for any questions or walk through you might need.”

Nowhere in the ad does the seller mention that the buyer needs a certified technician to charge the system or that the system must be inspected after installation.

I then went on to look for a furnace. Here is an example of what I found at eBay (the text here is also verbatim, except for the manufacturer’s name, which was deleted):

“This is a 80,000 btu upflow 90+ nat gas furnace-3 ton drive. Add $50 for propane. The label may read [Brand X, Y or Z]. They are all the same product line. Item must be shipped-no pickup. Items are new and unused in original box. They are surplus merchandise.”

So now, if I am an eBay buyer and a homeowner, I can purchase and install my own equipment. I can also buy all types of manuals explaining how to install the equipment, along with the necessary ductwork.

Business For Sale

As an added bonus, I can purchase a duct cleaning business at eBay, which was listed at $19,300. I couldn’t find any contracting businesses for sale when I looked last week, but for some reason I suspect that at least one or two have been offered up to the general public.

I also went to a Web site that was referred to on eBay. Its address is www.orderacdirect.com.

Its opening sales pitch reads:

“The booming Do-It-Yourself market has created a huge segment of consumers searching for a better, more cost-effective method than the traditional high-margin option offered by local contractors. Now you can take control of equipment selection and pricing options from the comfort of your home. It really is as easy as 1, 2, 3.”

In all fairness to the operators of this Web site, they do include the following statement:

“Once you receive your equipment, simply have a properly licensed local contractor install the system in your home or office.”

So at least the people who buy their equipment can call you to do the installation.

On the other hand, maybe they will read the book they buy at eBay, perform the installation in four to six hours and then call you to charge the system. Then again, maybe they can have a “friend” charge the system and save the expense of paying you to do it. And who gets inspections nowadays? Too much trouble.

There, all done. Now you have one less customer to sell to.

John Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1294, 248-362-0317 (fax), or johnhall@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 08/25/2003