Cautious use of penny auction sites can yield bargains

August 7, 2009 9:37:15 AM PDT
"Last week, we sold a 42-inch flat-screen tv for $.70," explains Lael Sturm of penny-auction site GoBid.com.

Now, that sounds like an unbelievable bargain. And in a way, it is.

But on penny auction sites, like GoBid.com, expensive electronics and household items sell for pennies on the dollar every day.

You're thinking there must be a catch. And here it is. In order to shop on penny auction sites, you have to buy bids.

On GoBid.com, each bid will cost you one dollar. So what you end up paying equals the auction price, plus the number times you bid. And of course, there's no guarantee that after bidding, you'll be the winner. So, you could spend a lot of dollar bids, and end up with nothing.

"One college student in Michigan bid a single time on a Bose stereo system and won it just like that, " Sturm explains. "Other times, it'll take you several, even dozens, of bids to get what you want."

And there's another thing. Each bid extends the time of the auction.

"We use a mechanism called popcorn timing, which adds 15 seconds onto the clock with each bid. So, it keeps the auction open longer than you might think," Sturm says.

If you have good self-control , can set limits, and can avoid getting caught up in the competition of bidding, you can save an average of 50% off retail prices on GoBid.

But before you use a penny auction site, make sure you know exactly what you're doing.

Other penny auction sites besides GoBid include:
Zoozle
Bid Cactus
Swoopo

And if you have concerns about which penny auction sites have the best reputations and customer service, check out Penny Auction Watch.

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