My experience with the online bidding industry (Swoopo.com and Haggle.com)

So, in the past week, I’ve spent under $200 on Swoopo.com and Haggle.com. Why is this news you should care about or what’s my point? I’ll start off with Haggle.com (Update: Please see a Haggle employee’s commentary on the points I raise in this article. )

Haggle.com’s premise is “simple”:

  • Bidding on an item is not free. According to their website, you can purchase your bids in bulk (packs of 20, 40, 75, 150, 300 or 600). Each bid costs $0.55 i.e. 5 cents less than Swoopo.com and unlike Swoopo, you get discounts for the more bids you purchase.
  • Everytime you add your bid to the ‘pot,’ time is added to the auction’s TTL (time-to-live) in 10s increments.
  • Everytime you add your bid to the ‘pot,’ money is added to the price of the item (10 cents flat).
  • Haggle.com has no way of verifying if someone is using automated clicks to bid. If this is an acceptable practice, I’m not sure why Haggle’s not clearer about this.
  • Haggle.com has no way of letting you know if the auction is nearing the end. That is to say, do auctions go on ad infinitum or is there a way to know that the auction is getting close to being over? And no, the countdown timer on the website does not count.
  • Haggle.com‘s way of increasing the time-to-live of the bids and not giving users a broad hint of how close the auction is to ending makes me conclude that this site is more of a time and money waster.

Hence, I conclude: Haggle.com is truly not worth the time for me. If you disagree, check out thiseHow article on tips for bidding on Haggle.com. In the short lived time my account was active (as of this writing, I’ve sent in a request to cancel my account), I noticed 2 user accounts that were eerily similar to one another (UCantWin and UWontWin) that pretty much took over all the bidding and expectedly, won about 60% of the items being bid upon. Haggle.com claims they have checks in place to spot scammers like said user, but quite frankly, I recommend you bid cautiously. Sour grapes, *shrug*. YMMV All I’m saying is: see for yourself. Buy a few bids and watch the rats come to play. Even reading the Facebook forum for Haggle.com gives one the impression of a clique that knows something *I* don’t. Oh well, I’m taking my money and going to play elsewhere. All I’m saying is for the time/money investment, you are more likely to have heartbreak and a lighter wallet. Which brings me to Swoopo.com.

Swoopo.com has a much more interesting way of doing the online bidding thing.

  • The auctions are all different. What does this mean? They have auctions where bidding adds amounts ranging from 1 cent (so-called “penny auctions”) to auctions where amounts like 20 cents or 50 cents are added to the ‘pot.’ This is drastically unlike Haggle.com which (as of this writing) has a fixed amount that your bid adds. Each bid costs $0.60 and you can buy bids in pcks as well.
  • The auctions have “different” time limits (so to speak). What does this means? Well, all auctions proceed at a different pace based on the time each bid adds to the time-to-live of the auction going on. With Haggle.com, your bid adds 10 seconds flat to the timer. With certain auctions on Swoopo, your bid can add 10s, 15s or 20s to the pot. This allows you to be able to strategize and use your time/bids/money wisely!
  • With bids placed on items, you also have the option of purchasing the item being bid on minus the amount of money you’ve spent in bids on the item! Granted, on the surface, this sounds like a great deal, but it’s not. The odds are in favor of you getting a better price by searching online yourself, but it is small way to console yourself after loosing to that stupid bidbutler which is a Swoopo-sanctioned way of bidding for items in your absence. Like all tools, use carefully as you can easily exhaust your precious bids by getting in a bidding war when the real battle has yet to be fought. 😛

This post is nowhere exhaustive. Online bidding is tiring (seriously) and can result in some real harm being done. It is a lot like gambling and you need to know when to step away from the computer or fold your hand. In my case, I had the good fortune of pulling an all-nighter last night while fixing a friend’s computer when I decided to give Swoopo a fierce shake. 😛 Beginner’s luck was on my side because after spending $130 worth of bids, I won a HP dv7-3080US laptop for $50. Un-freaking-believable. hp-dv7-3080us.png Not only was beginner’s luck on my side, I had the important element of *time* which is the biggest factor. Remember the all-nighter I pulled? Well, I didn’t start bidding on this laptop until about 5am. Before that, I had wasted about 150 Swoopo bids on random items I thought I’d *swoop* in on. Here’s a hint: if you think you’re on the verge of winning something, you’re not. Here are some random tips I’ve learned in my short time on gambling/bidding on Swoopo.com:

  1. Wee hours of the morning are the best time to place bids. Odds are only dedicated bargain hunters like yourself are up which is both heartwarming and troubling at the same time.
  2. Seriously, focus on what item you absolutely want to win and bid only on that item.
  3. I repeat, to avoid wasting time/money/bids, bid only on items you are deadset on wanting to have. Ideally, you want to win just 1 item so don’t be greedy and try to win 3 items at once. Chances are: someone else is deadset on winning that 1 item and you won’t get it if your heart is not in it.
  4. Make sure you are absolutely committed to the task (after ensuring that you are only doing the bidding in the wee hours of the morning to weed out drive-by bidders) and that means putting your money where your bids are. You need to spend money to make money. In my case, was spending ~ $200 between Swoopo and Haggle worth winning a ~ $1399 laptop computer? Hell-mother-bleeping-yeah. 😀 Pardon my *ahem* colorful language.
  5. Bid smartly and plan to bid smartly. Wait until 3s to go before placing your bids. Update: I have since learned that bidding late might not be the smartest idea due to internet latency, etc. In my experience bidding for hot ticket items like the iPhone 3GS, chances are the auction won’t be ending soon especially if you can see that there is a lot of activity during the last 15 minutes. Have your timer beside you to give you reminders to double-check on the auction. Sometimes, bidbutlers get into bidding wars that yank up the time. Initially, I was pissed, but I realized that because I was in the auction to win, I would do what it took i.e. wait the bidbutlers out! Because Swoopo has a great way to let bidders know if they’re getting ‘close’ to the auction’s end, I was able to have my finger on the trigger button and I quite simply won because I hit the “bid” button at the right time!

To cut this epic tale short,

  1. Gambling is not for the faint of heart (like me). I’m still shaking from the experience and I definitely don’t recommend all-nighters although the allure of winning a D90 for $50 is irresistible. 🙂 Swoopo is definitely legitimate (they’ve been featured in the New York Times and the Economist) and according to this comment from a Swoopo employee from 2008, they were losing money on 70% of auctions! I would like to know what the profit margin is on the remaining 30% if his statement from 2008 still holds true. 🙂
  2. Don’t do it! 50% of me feels I won by luck (but I will admit that I set myself up for receiving Lady Luck’s gift! So be ready!) and part of me wants to thank the Almighty for that because (i) my hubby needs a laptop and for 4 months now, I’d been watching laptop prices like a hawk (ii) the specs on this laptop are to DIE for. No, really. I could not have customized the laptop better myself! 6 GBs of memory with the Intel core i7 chip and Nvidia graphics? Sign me up! 😀
  3. Results I’ve experienced through the tips shared may not bring about similar results for you. If you lose the shirt off your back, please don’t blame me. I can’t say this strongly enough: your. mileage. may. vary. I’m hanging up my bidding shirt until my next all-nighter which I don’t plan to do anytime soon.
  4. If you’re not a scammer and have actually won stuff from Haggle.com, more power to you. All I’m saying is Haggle needs to be more helpful in weeding out miscreants. Their site is made with good intentions, but you know what they say about the road to damnation being paved with good intentions.
  5. I have not actually received the laptop yet.. I have since received the laptop from Swoopo.com! I’ll reserve judgement on Swoopo.com’s method of handling auction wins once the laptop is in my possession. I am cautiously optimistic that Swoopo is legitimate and that they will ship the laptop promptly and that it will be as described. If the above is not the case, I will not hesitate to invoke my rights to ask for my money back if fraud is suspected. As always, before doing business with any company, have a look at their site’s terms of usage as well as their refunds/returns policy!
  6. Lastly, Swoopo.com is not without those who cry “foul”. See Crunchgear’s post on Swoopo and here’s someone’s opinion about Swoopo on the site, RipOffReport.com. Lastly, check out Penny Auction Watch for help in finding out if that site you heard about is too good to be true.
  7. Here’s another Swoopo user’s account of his experience with Swoopo.com, and a blogger’s take on Swoopo and yet another blog on Swoopo’s business model.

As my father-in-law said, until my next “spend-money-quick” scheme (LOL), I bid you adieu!

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Jane Ullah

I wear many hats. In no particular order, I am a: wife, geeky blogger, a twitter-happy aspiring photographer, and passionate about things I believe in.