Review: A.I.D. 2.1 (formerly Bid Watch)
Requirements: Mac OS 8.5.1 or higher, some functions require Internet connection
Price: $29.95 online purchase, demo available
Online auctions have become a way of life for many Americans, and almost an economic force to be reckoned with. eBay still leads the pack, followed by Amazon, Yahoo!, and some smaller, more specialized auction sites such as AuctionMac. Even Apple has acknowledged the importance of online auctions by adding support for Amazon and eBay auctions to its Sherlock 2 search engine (in the shopping section). If you are engaged in a lot of auctions however, it’s easy to lose track of the details. What items were you bidding on? Which ones were you selling? Did you get a check for that old Swiss clock? Did you ship your husband’s old football helmet? Did you already pay for the Beanie Babies you won for your daughter? And did you leave a feedback for that auction? How much did you sell that TV for last year? With some people doing dozens or hundreds of auctions each year, it gets very easy to lose control. This is what auction management software is for. Many of these programs are FileMaker standalone databases, and A.I.D. (formerly known as Bid Watch) from ‘FileMaker Expert’ Epigroove is no different in that respect.
A.I.D. is a tool for people who use online auctions. A lot. And it is very powerful for that. It allows you to view the items you are currently selling and the items you are currently bidding on. It archives winners and losers for both bidding and selling auctions. It also allows you to create various reports about your auctions that inform you about the status of payments, shipments, feedback, and correspondence. Information is either downloaded over the Internet (saving you the hassle of having to type everything by hand) or entered by the user.
For example, you can toggle the feedback status of an item by simply clicking on the line of that item beneath the feedback icon. The interface is of course limited by what FileMaker supports, and while it is relatively pretty, I found it rather hard to use in the beginning. Once you get used to it, it’s not quite as bad but it still doesn’t thrill me. Information about an item is saved in a neat way, including the picture if available.
One very nice feature of A.I.D. is the ability to automatically generate customized correspondence with the winner or seller of an auction, taking this tedious task out of your hands by filling in the actual information into a template you specify. I just wish it would do the feedback as well! :-)
You can tell the effort that went into A.I.D., and the developer constantly releases new and improved versions, but overall the program has several shortcomings. It is still buggy, failing to update information or updating it incorrectly. This is a big problem because the mistakes can go unnoticed and negate the entire advantage of such a tool if it requires you to check each auction by hand for a wrong update.
And although A.I.D. is a nice tool, it is simply overkill for the average user. eBay’s “my eBay” feature provides some of A.I.D.’s functions for free. A.I.D. is also rather overpriced compared to its competition. While functionally at the top of the crowd, you pay a hefty premium for that. Most auction trackers are around $10 to $20. Although they offer less features, some nice ideas can be found in these cheaper clients that A.I.D. is missing, such as being acoustically notified if a new bid was placed on an item or notification if a buyer with bad feedback bids on your items. Another big drawback is A.I.D.’s limitation to eBay. There are many more auction sites out there as mentioned above, and it would be nice if A.I.D. supported them all in a consistent way. Auctioneer Pro, for example, is a commercial program for $24.95 that supports Amazon, eBay and Yahoo!
Nevertheless, A.I.D. is a good idea, and if Epigroove can iron out the last bugs, adjust the price, adopt some ideas from its competitors and open its doors to other auction sites, it will become an invaluable tool for involved auctioneers.