Wednesday, September 07, 2011


I was caught by an eye-catching advertisement on a website,  which advertised fun deals. (Its business name is actually a reversal of the two words). However, the fun before the deal gives you a clue to its magnetic form of operation. 

It is a curious dealing forum which is supposed to be selling overstocks of items or liquidated company goods. The dealers even offer international shipping. The first hook is the introductory page where you see iPads, iPhones, Kindles, etc.  marked 'sold' and at low prices, while counting down continues on attractive deal prices with other items.   It looks fun and appears exciting; it is meant to entice you in to to buy what seems to be a real snip of a bargain. Before you can join in the bidding/dealing, you have to register to participate. I didn't go that far.  Instead, I did some research. Things that look too good to be true, usually are just that, too good to be true.

The punter has to pay for every bid s/he makes. The bids are priced at 60 cents, (presumably, there would be additional exchange rate costs for every bid if you are in the U.K).   Every time your bid is topped, the countdown, whichever stage it is at, has time added to it, (about 15 seconds) to allow for further bidding. The 'winning' bid is that of the last bidder where no-one has come along in time to top the bid.  This system leaves open many ways of manipulation,  inside and out.

You would have to be a pretty clever clairvoyant to work out when to bid and get what you want without spending a lot of money on trumped bids, or, you will need to have devious software that can read the bids and dive in on the last second to obliterate the gazumping hordes, trusting that there would be no manipulation of the system elsewhere.  

The company sweats the assets in bids to take good profits from the sales - as that's what they are, as far as the company is concerned - while you, the bidder, have the fun of next to impossible odds of paying for lots of unsuccessful bids. The aim of the process, is to sell 'desirable' goods based on many bids to obtain the profit the company wants. 

Those people who do obtain what they bid for in the forum, may visibly have a good deal, say $250 for an ipad,  the cost of their [numerous] bids, plus exchange rates, if you live abroad, and possibly import taxes.  In the final reckoning, there may have been no real purchase advantage. One thing you can be sure of, there will be a lot of disappointed bidders having to pay for their empty bids.

This is an interesting retail business model.  The excitement of the game could run away with people, and an awful lot of 60 cents bids would yield nothing. This is, in reality, a commodified gambling forum where the odds of getting anything are likely to be a lot less than winning the sweepstake or the lottery.

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