When I wrote the column titled Inside eBay, in which I bravely visited some of the less-traveled corners of that auction site, I was surprised by the site's sprawling vastness. The site offers almost every imaginable feature, and some you probably haven't imagined. Problem is, those features are spread hither and yon: some would be impossible to find without help from eBay's site map.
When I sat down to write an accompanying column about Yahoo! Auctions, I realized that the site is much easier navigate. Sure, there are plenty of interesting features, but the site is more intuitive and doesn't try to cram in everything plus the kitchen sink. Explore the site for ten minutes and you'll feel like a native.
Here are a few essential parts of the site that even natives may have missed.
Press the View Alerts link (available from just about every page on the site) to access Auction Alerts, a service that will e-mail you when new auctions of interest are posted. You can look for auctions that contain a particular word, auctions from a favorite seller, or even be alerted when new items are added to your favorite category.
The My Auctions page (http://auctions.yahoo.com/show/mystatus) provides access to your Watchlist -- auctions that you're monitoring but haven't necessarily bid on -- as well as the "Auctions Express" bulk loader tool for listing more than one auction at a time. If you regularly use the bulk loader and auction selling is a significant part of your income, investigate Yahoo's new Merchant Auctions service. Merchant Auctions (http://auctions.yahoo.com/html/promo1.html) is for power sellers: it lets bidders pay with a credit card and streamlines the end-of-auction process.
Check out the Options page (http://auctions.yahoo.com/show/prefs) where you can personalize your auction experience. Here you'll find the About Me profile, a blacklist (to block out bidders whom you don't trust,) and the ability to create your own "auction booth." Sellers can even customize the e-mail messages that are sent to winning bidders.
The site's help area (http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/auct/) is truly helpful. Besides the bidder and seller guides (must-reads for newbies,) the help area offers answers to frequently asked questions, an auction glossary, and details about Yahoo's charity auctions.
If eBay's jam-packed and sprawling site is like downtown Manhattan, Yahoo! Auctions is a drive though the redwoods: there's plenty of stuff to see, but it's a lot less cluttered -- and harder to get lost along the way.