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Online appraisal company closes shop

Chicago-based signed a deal in March to promote its services on auction leader eBay--has shut down, according to a message on the company's Web site.

    Online appraisal service has shut down, according to a message on the company's Web site.

    The Chicago-based company, which signed a deal in March to promote its services on auction leader eBay, told customers in the note that it would complete appraisal orders or refund fees soon. Customers can access their accounts until June 15, the company said.

    " is no longer operating," the company said in its note. "All pending requests for our Personal Advisor service will be cancelled at no charge. Thank you for your support."

    Eppraisals representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

    Eppraisals is only the latest in a long list of dot-com companies to close shop in the last year. Earlier this year, online media company Quokka Sports shut down and filed for bankruptcy. A similar fate struck online convenience store, which closed shop and laid off 1,100 of its workers.

    But the Eppraisals closure is one of the first signs that the dot-com downturn is having an effect on the relatively healthy online auction market. Although auction search company Bidder's Edge closed its doors in February, that came after a lengthy, costly, losing court battle with eBay.

    Although eBay has seen its shares sag, its stock price has remained relatively healthy compared to other e-commerce players such as and Priceline. And in contrast to those two companies, eBay has consistently posted profits.

    Eppraisals officials warned eBay earlier this week that the appraisal company could soon close shop, eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said. eBay has already begun to remove links to the service from its site, he said.

    "We're disappointed," Pursglove said. "The feedback we were getting from users was very positive. They really liked it and thought it was a valuable service."

    Matt Goebel, formerly the vice president of corporate communications at Eppraisals, said the company's financial difficulties were no secret to employees. Goebel, who left the company this spring and now works for Accenture, said that a lack of funding and customers contributed to Eppraisals' demise.

    "I'm convinced that the company was a good idea," Goebel said.

    Launched in late 1999, Eppraisals garnered attention in the auction industry in part because of its chairwoman Leslie Hindman. Hindman ran her own auction house that she sold in 1997 to Sotheby's, wrote newspaper columns and hosted two cable television shows.

    Eppraisals raised $12 million in a second round of funding in May 2000, led by Tribune Ventures. Representatives for Tribune Ventures did not return calls seeking comment.