Shopping online has become a norm for many people, as it offers both convenience and opportunity for savings. One form of online shopping that has been gaining a substantial amount of popularity is the form of online auctions and more specifically “penny auctions.” As penny auctions continue to grow in popularity, we see more and more penny auction sites sprouting up every day. These sites offer tremendous savings if used correctly, but with so many sites in existence it can be difficult to find the right one. There are some common attributes of quality sites that you will want to look for, as well as some warning signs of unsavory sites that you’ll want to avoid.
What is a Penny Auction?
Before you start trying to distinguish the difference between a quality penny auction site and a scam, it is important to understand exactly what a penny auction is.
A penny auction is precisely what it sounds like. It’s an online auction where each bid raises the price of the item by a penny. Although these bids do not actually cost a penny (most bids cost between $0.50 and $0.80), each time a bid is placed the auction price of the item increases by one cent. Along with increasing the auction price, each time a bid is placed more time is added to the auction clock. Unlike other types of auctions like on eBay, penny auctions do not have a definitive end and as long as bids continue to be placed the time will not run out on the auction. This means these auctions can go on for a long time as each bid will add time to the clock. Now that you know the basics of what a penny auction is, we can take look at some of things you’ll want to look for when deciding which penny auction site is right for you.
What to Look For
As with most things, not all penny auction sites are created equal. However, there are some general characteristics that you will want to look for to make sure the site you are visiting is a legitimate one.
A good starting place for determining the legitimacy of a site is to do a little research on the reputation of that site. Do a quick Google search of the site and dig up some customer reviews. Note that it is important to research many reviews as a larger sample size will give you a more accurate portrayal of the site’s true reputation.
The next thing to look for should be contact information. Is it easy to find the company’s contact information and is it readily available on the website? Is there a phone number listed so that you can call the company and speak with another human being? These things indicate a legitimate business and can become important if any problems arise later.
Another indication of a valid penny auction site is clarity and transparency in regards to shipping practices. It should be easy to find information regarding the duration of shipping and when you can expect to receive items won through auctions. A really good site will provide a way of tracking your shipment until it arrives at your location. It is also important to confirm that products have warranties and that the company will accept returns; the site’s return policy should be clearly stated.
Finally, one of the most important things to investigate is the level of security the site has. You want to look for sites that clearly state transactions on their site are secure and then explain how they are secure. This is very important as it will protect you from third parties accessing your sensitive information.
What to Avoid
Unfortunately, there are disreputable penny auction sites out there that are nothing more than scams. There are many dangers associated with these types of sites and there are warning signs you will want to look for to identify them.
The first thing you can do when trying to verify the authenticity of a site is to try to get a general feel for the site. Look at the layout of the site; if it is disjointed and there are all sorts of flashing banners then it is probably not a quality site. Also, if the site has all sorts of “spammy” ads on it for pills, gambling sites, etc. this is another signal that it is not an authentic business.
Another thing to look out for is misleading terms and conditions for the site. If things aren’t clear, there is probably a reason for this and the site is trying to trick you. The site may also omit any information on shipping or return policies and this is another indicator of a scam.
Now that you know what to look for in a site to determine if it is a quality site or not, I would like to share with you a few reputable sites that I have found to be excellent choices for participating in penny auctions.
Happy Bid Day
This is the best penny auction site I have come across. HBD has an excellent reputation online and has a number of different options for their auctions. One of their best features is their “Happy Auctions” option. These auctions are free to participate in as those participating use free bids earned through the site’s reward program and the auction prices are capped at 70% of the retail price to ensure savings.
Another high quality and trusted penny auction site. QuiBids offers accountability through live phone support and tracking of shipped items. QuiBids also guarantees all products are brand new and factory sealed and it retains accreditation from the Better Business Bureau.
Although Beezid may have some awful commercials, it is another reputable and respected site. One of the great features of Beezid is that they offer “Guaranteed Win” auctions. If you don’t win any auctions with the bids you purchase in your first bid pack, you are given a number of “win bids”. These bids can then be used in guaranteed win auctions with no risk, as the bids are returned to you unless you are the auction winner.
Potential for Savings
Now that you know what signals to look for when choosing a penny auction site, we can discuss the potential for savings.
If done right, participating in penny auctions can provide some pretty impressive savings and here is a list of some of the best deals I’ve ever seen people get through penny auctions.
Xbox 360 4GB Console – Retail Value: $269.99 Sold for $9.46 on Happy Bid Day
Kindle Fire HD 16GB – Retail Value: $385.00 Sold for $15.19 on Beezid
Microsoft Surface Tablet 32GB – Retail Value: $569.00 Sold for $27.55 on Happy Bid Day
LG 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Plasma HDTV Retail Value: $1,149.99 Sold for $28.94 on QuiBids
However, these are examples of the best savings I’ve ever seen, and it takes patience and an effective strategy to score savings anywhere near the caliber of those listed above.
As with a regular auction, the key to achieving savings is strategy. It is important to treat each bid with great value and only bid when you think you have a strong chance of winning. This will help you stay out of bidding wars and prevent you from wasting bids.
Another way to save is by utilizing free bids given to you by the site. Not all sites will do this (in fact this is another sign of a good site) but if they do, you can actually use these free bids to win more bids. I suggest doing this as I believe bids have more value than the items you can typically use free bids for.
Another strategy that depends on the site involves sites that allow for losing bidders to buy the item after the auction has ended for retail price, and then your bids are returned to you. This is probably your best opportunity for savings as you can find an item that you want to purchase anyway. This way, you put yourself in a winning situation where best case scenario you get a great deal and worst case scenario you end up paying full price for something you wanted anyway and the bids can go towards another item.
The opportunities for savings with penny auctions are great, but the proper techniques must be applied. Even with the best techniques and strategies, bidding on unsavory or seedy sites will produce no savings and can actually be quite dangerous. This is why it is important to follow this checklist and make sure the site you are looking at is legitimate before you consider buying or placing any bids.
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Donald Phillips is an experienced online shopper and unyielding bargain hunter. When he’s not educating people on the best ways to find deals online, he enjoys camping and taking in nature’s beauty.