Many of you who are members of, Penny Auction Watch℠ are seasoned penny auction pros. This article is not for you. This is for the beginner. It is for people like me. A few months ago, I had no idea that penny auction websites existed. If I made the mistake of clicking on a Quibids ad on MSNBC, I quickly closed it. “IPads for $2.75, impossible,” I’d tell myself.
But like many new participants, I saw an ad for Beezid on television. This was back in December of 2010. I had not started my Christmas shopping, so the timing was perfect. I signed up, purchased bids, and without understanding the format, the bidding tool, or really, any part of the auction process at all, I went straight for the toy that was on the top of my shopping list: the xBox with Kinect.
Predictably, I met with instant, complete failure. Like many new penny auction participants, I made a number of mistakes. A number of these mistakes are avoidable, and had I not been so eager to hit the bid button, and spent some time studying up and contemplating basic strategy before getting started, I would have saved money at the outset.
I now do almost all of my shopping through Beezid, and along the way, more experienced participants (through the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thebeezid) have provided a lot of very helpful tips and suggestions. This article is my attempt to put in one place a list of basic pointers and suggestions that I believe would have been helpful to me before I sat down for the first time and wildly threw around my bids. It is focused on Beezid, because that is the site that I started on, and after experimenting with other traditional penny auction sites, it is the one that I prefer because of their bidding tools and their exceptional customer service.
I. Reality Check.
Penny auctions should be fun. It is called “entertainment shopping” after all. The websites cater to shoppers from all different backgrounds, and it is up to the participant to set his or her own limits and stick to them. It is important to treat money spent purchasing bids as money already spent. If you find that you are spending more than you would as compared to your “non-entertainment” shopping budget, you need to give yourself a reality check. Most importantly, if you are not having fun, you should not be participating.
My core premise is the complete newbie should start small, and should start out on auctions that are the easiest to win. There are two reasons for this. One, a Beezid auction is far more complicated than it appears at first, and there is a lot going on that is not immediately apparent. A new user may not see the significance of who is bidding, and when (at the top of the timer, at the middle, at the bottom), who has a sniper set, and so forth, and as a consequence place bids in a higher-value auction that have no chance whatsoever of either winning the auction or contributing to a win.
Two, it is far better to try Beezid (or any site) in the lower value auctions, where the competition is a lot easier and the cost of participating a lot less, to make sure that you like it. Beezid has a win limit policy (discussed below at more length) that discourages the more experienced users from participating in too many lower value auctions. This increases the chances for the new user to be the high bidder. In addition, the process of going through the complete process provides the foundation for the skills you will need to compete in the higher value auctions: auction selection, deciding when to enter with your first bid, learning how to use the sniper and auto bid function effectively, winning, and then claiming your item.
If you do not like it, after making a modest investment and competing in the easier auctions, then you can quickly determine that penny auctions (or Beezid) is not for you.
II. Before You Get Started.
Chances are, if you are reading this, you have already registered, picked a screen or user name, bought a bid pack, and may have already participated in an auction or two. You may have even been the top bidder in an auction. (Congratulations, by the way.) If so, skip down to Section IV.
But if you have not done so yet, before you register, spend some time on the website. Watch some auctions, particularly for DVDs and video games, because these take the least amount of time. Go through the entirety of the “how it works” section and the video tutorial, even if it seems a little basic.
Give some thought to your username. “Iwillbreakyou” conveys a different message than “hugsandbunnies.” Eventually, your username will be your “brand.” My favorite username on Beezid is “igeteven.” Her username sends a message each time she bids: bid against me and I will get back at you. Does it make people pause? I don’t know. I point it out because I think it is particularly clever, and an effective use of the limited opportunities you have as a user to communicate information to other users. More importantly, and you will quickly discover this, there are a number of other bidders who have established a brand with their usernames. “Oh, so and so is bidding in this auction, he or she is a maniac,” and so forth. Ultimately, actions speak for themselves, and if your username is “iwillnevereverquit” and you, well, are known for giving up on auctions at the first sign of a battle, the irony between your name and your actions will be a little more noticeable.
I recommend not using your actual name. Keep your user name confidential, until you make a conscious decision to share it with some people or with everyone. Once you register, that is your username. Also, if you decide to participate on the Facebook page, you will be participating under your real name, and you will want to really think before disclosing your username.
III. Buying Bids.
Read this carefully before you make your first bid purchase, to make sure you take full advantage of special promotions that are available to first time users.
There are three ways to obtain bids: you can buy them, win them at auction, and win them through Facebook contests. You get free bids when you register. In addition, there are a number of promotional codes available before you make your first bid purchase. Call Beezid’s customer service department before you make your first bid purchase, to make sure you take advantage of any “promotional codes” or offers that apply to your account. (The phone number is on the website.)
What does this mean? As a new player, Beezid will offer you the ability to receive matching or partially matching “bonus” and/or “promotional” bids, to match your bid purchase. Beezid allows you to buy bids in increments up to 500 bids. (Bids cost $.70 per bid, when purchased in bid packs up to 100 bids, and $.60 per bid, when purchased in bid packs of 200, 350, or 500.)
Suppose Beezid has a promotion code for new players that offers a 100% promotional bid match, and a 50% bonus bid match. If you pay $300, you receive, first of all, 500 “regular” bids. These do not expire. You also receive 500 “promotional” bids. These are the same as regular bids – you can use them in auctions just like your regular bids – but the difference is promotional bids expire after two weeks. You also receive 250 bonus bids. The way bonus bids work on Beezid, is that for every 5 regular bids that you place in an auction, a bonus bid is converted to a regular bid.
If you take full advantage of the promotion code in this example, and buy a 500 bid pack, you end up getting 1000 bids and 250 bonus bids, for $300. You only get to use the code once, so if you use it to buy a 30 bid pack, and you decide you want more bids, you cannot use the code to buy a 500 bid pack and receive the corresponding promotional and bonus bids.
In addition to buying bids, there are two kinds of auctions on Beezid in which you can win bids. First, there are “bid for free” auctions for 50 and 100 bid packs. If you are the high bidder, you win the bids, and it does not cost you to place your bids in these auctions. Before attempting to win one of these auctions, hit the hyperlink, “Recently sold: $27.75,” and get an idea of the range of closing prices. You should be able to get the bids for less than $.60 per bid. (Here’s a hint: don’t purchase bids via auction in the middle of an auction; if you need more bids, buy them outright. You don’t want your opponents to see you win a 50 bid pack, launch a 50 bid auto bid, and then go back to win another 50 bid pack.)
There are also auctions in which you have to use bids to participate. Currently, Beezid has a 1000, 500, and 200 bid pack that can be won at auction. I would recommend against starting out trying to win one of these bid packs until you have the fundamentals down. Many of the people who win these bid packs are seasoned users, and until you understand the auction dynamics, you will be at a significant disadvantage.
Finally, Beezid actively supports its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TheBeezid, and runs regular contests that are free to enter and in which you can win bids. In addition to contests, the Facebook page is a wide-open forum for users to share ideas and offer suggestions (and criticism) to Beezid. In fact, I learned quite a bit about strategy from following the more experienced users who still actively participate on the page, and I credit them for showing me the ropes.
IV. Winning the First Auction.
Beezid runs a large number of “cherry” auctions, which are only open to users who have not yet won. There are 50 and 100 bid packs, and a large number of gift cards, appliances, movies, games, and other items available.
My suggestion is to use your cherry auction purchase an item, not a bid pack. You will have something tangible to show for your efforts, and there will be plenty of opportunities in the future to go after bid packs.
Of course, I cannot guarantee that you will win (nobody can). It is entirely possible that you will use all of the bids you purchased, and not receive anything. You may not enjoy this experience at all. It may be, in fact, the opposite of fun for you. If that happens, and you kept your initial investment modest and considered the money already spent when you purchased the bids in the first place, the good news is that you learned that penny auctions (or Beezid) is not for you, and did so before spending a lot more money trying to get items at auction that are far more difficult (and expensive) to obtain.
That said, here are my suggestions for winning that first item.
First, select the item that you want. For your first win, I suggest looking at DVDs, because these tend to be the least competitive auctions. Beezid generally lists items that are coming up for auction in the next day or so. Before the auction starts, there are two sources of information you probably want to study. In the left hand portion of the auction page, there is a hyperlink for “Recently sold” and then the amount. Those hyperlinks will take you back through a month of closed auctions. Take note of who won, how many bids they used, and what kind of bid won the auction (regular bid v. auto bid). In addition, on the bottom of the main page, there is a link for “closed auctions.” Beezid lists a full month of closed auctions. Take some time looking at similar items, and pay particular attention to the day and time of day, which matters a lot.
Once you have selected your item, watch the auction, don’t bid on it. In fact, I would recommend spending five to seven days watching auctions in general, but really dialing in to the specific item you are interested in. Watch the entire auction. Make sure you start watching when the count down timer is at four minutes or so. I take notes during an auction. I will write down who auto bids, and when, as well as who I think is sniping. While you are in practice mode, think to your self: “I would bid here, or I would drop a 50 auto bid here,” and then see what would happen.
You should have an idea of the range of prices the item has sold at. Pay attention to the average price, and the difference between the average price and the high prices. For your first item, try to look for something whether the difference between the average price and the high prices are closer together. (Certain video games will have a wider range.) Also, decide whether you are going to win that first item at all costs, or whether you are willing to pick and poke for a bit, looking for the best deal. There are successful bidders who follow the win-at-all-costs approach, and successful bidders who conserve their bids and will back out of an auction if it doesn’t go as planned.
How you decide you are going to win will have a big impact on your strategy. Are you going to win, no matter the cost? If so, and you bought in for $300, and received 1000 bids and 250 bonus bids (by way of example), you WILL win that first item (unless both you and the other bidder are following this exact same strategy). On the other hand, if your goal is to win by using as few bids as possible, you may not win right away. You will be relying upon timing, and your read of what the bidding activity means, and that may take some practice.
Remember, you win the auction when nobody else bids. Your strategy should be designed to produce the result that you want – that is, nobody else bids when the timer counts down to zero. In general terms, there are two different ways you win an auction. The first is called the “war of attrition.” In essence, you outlasted and exhausted the other participants. The second is called the “volunteer’s dilemma.” Here, you win because everyone else expects that somebody is going to bid, but nobody does. As you become more experienced, you can study these issues (I have attempted to read a number of publications from economists that are beyond my comprehension). You also might want to think about these principles so you can match up how you want to win the auction with how you bid on the auction.
Here is the example from my experience.
With respect to all of the advice above, I did exactly the opposite. I logged on to Beezid, bought bids (without even looking for a promotion code), did not spend any time going through the tutorials or help section, and promptly blew through $300 in bids attempting to buy an xBox. Yes, I knew it only cost $400 to buy it outright, and despite my initial setbacks, I had a lot of fun. At that point, I finally got around to calling customer service.
I bought more bids, and decided that I would win something, anything, before going after the xBox again. I found a DVD that looked like an easy target: Inception. I had the bids to take it down. On December 21, 2010, I had my first auction win, buying Inception for $1.80. I decided to take down two other easier items. I was the high bidder for a steam cleaner the next day (it is still in the box), and an iTunes card, for which I paid more than retail. With a basic understanding of the auction format, how to place auto bids, how to place snipers, and so forth, I was finally ready to buy my xBox. I was the high bidder and bought it the next day for $11.00 and around 200 bids. Two days later, I bought a Christmas present for myself, a Nikon D90 camera for $128.00 and around 800 bids. By this point, I had the basics down. I even won an auction while on hold for customer service because I looked at the screen, thought to myself, I can win this, and went ahead and did so to confirm I was getting the hang of it.
At the risk of overgeneralization, there are three basic approaches I think a new user can employ to win a cherry auction.
One: before the timer reaches one minute, put in an “overload” auto bid. By “overload,” I mean a large auto bid. The goal of this strategy is to convince other potential bidders that it is not economically feasible for them to spend their bids trying to chip away at your auto bid, and to win the item for less than a dollar.
There are two pitfalls to this approach. One, if there are a lot of other users interested in the item, collectively they will wear down your auto bid. (I have had auctions, however, where five people bid against my auto bid, and then all of them quit after the next auto bid.) Two, somebody else will launch an auto bid against you, which will either go through all of your bids, or potentially severely weaken your auto bid.
Two: aggressively bid at the top of the timer, also called “throttling.” This communicates to the other bidders that you will always out bid them, and that after they see that they never see their name as the “Highest Bidder” under the counter, that they will give up and wait for the next auction. The downside to this is that if there is a sniper bid placed, you will not know it if your competition responds by throttling back at you. This is because the sniper bids only fire when the timer ticks down close to zero.
Three: time your entry into the auction, and when it is getting close to ending, put in a large auto bid. Here, your research with respect to closing prices, and your feel of auctions from having watched them closely, will guide you in deciding when to drop a big auto bid on the auction. What you hope to happen is that there are only a couple of bidders left in the auction, that they have worn each other out, and you are able to buy the item as a result. This is how I won my xBox and my D90 within a couple weeks of joining the site, and a MacBook Pro a short time later: in depth research, thorough study of the bidding tool and the auction dynamics, hard fought experience, confidence at the low dollar value levels, and a game plan that was well within my budget and expectations.
It will take practice. If you win your first auction with one bid, that’s great, but don’t move up to the higher dollar items yet. Keep at it in the lower dollar value items, the ones that your research show you have a lower price, and a lower variation between the average price and the highest prices. Make sure you have the basics down. When you lose, learn from it. Think about why you did not place the bid necessary to keep the auction going. What was going through your mind? What did the other bidder do to make you think that? And to complete the circle, what could you do differently to turn the tables?
Mechanically, keep meticulous notes. I use a database program called Evernote. It suits my needs well. I keep detailed and often rambling comments about other bidders, other auctions, and so forth on hand when I am planning on entering an auction. I also make notes when I am simply lurking in auctions in which I have no intention of participating. Sometimes I will follow users with whom I am not familiar, so I can learn more about their tactics. Do what suits you, but if you want to be successful, ongoing study is key.
V. A Word About “Jumping.”
Now, this is generally a touchy subject in the penny auction world. On many sites, the strategy of waiting and then overbidding is called “jumping,” and it is understatement to say it is not a term of endearment. Beezid is different from many penny auction sites, in that “jumping” is not only a way of life, it is actively encouraged on Beezid’s blog. http://www.beezid.com/ blog/bid-late-and-get-cake (On the bottom left hand corner of the main page, there are links under the heading “About Beezid.” One of the links takes you to “Official Beezid Blog.” Click on that, and on the right, you will see a section titled “Categories,” under which “Strategy” appears. There, you’ll find the “Bid Late and Get Cake” entry.)
So if you have shopped on other penny auction sites, but are new to Beezid, prepare to get jumped. It will happen. All the time. Don’t get angry about it. Strategize around it. That is what the successful bidders do. In fact, Beezid’s bidding tool offers a unique defense to jumpers. Many web sites’ auto bidders will place your bid at some point at the bottom of the timer. In my view, this encourages jumping and places the auto bidder at a disadvantage because many of the bids are wasted due to being placed in the middle of the countdown. Beezid’s auto bidder places your bid at the top of the timer, meaning you are always on top. So there is really only one way to be effectively jumped if you have an auto bid set: somebody has to set a bigger auto bid.
Beezid offers a large number of high-end items, and also runs auctions around the clock. Cameras and high definition television sets often sell for over $100, and often have dozens and dozens of bidders. People move in and out, and sometimes back into auctions. In this regard, it is different than many of the two or three or four person battles for similar items on other web sites. In other words, if you get jumped bidding on Beezid, don’t get mad, set a big auto bid and push your jumper off. (If you get too many jumpers, it means you probably entered the auction too early, so you probably should have other concerns at that point.)
VI. Additional Tips for New Players.
1. “Locks” or win limits. In order to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to compete, and that no small group of bidders dominate the site, Beezid has win limits. When you open an auction page, you will see a padlock in the upper left corner. If it is a bid for free auction for a bid pack, the lock will be black. There are no limits on black locks. If it is green, these are for the lower dollar value items (approximately under $300 with some exceptions), you can win six green lock items in a 28 day period. Next up the ladder is purple (approximately $300-$700 with some exceptions). You can win four purple lock items in a 28-day period. Above purple, are the blue lock items (generally TVs and certain laptops and cameras, as well as the 1000 bid pack). You get two blue locks in a 28-day period.
As a beginning player, this is what you need to know about locks, and green locks in particular. Not all green locks are created equal. In other words, competition for some green lock items is intense, in my opinion sometimes more fierce than some purple lock items. For example, some of the hardest auctions are green lock net books, $200 gift cards, and a Playstation 3/Killzone Bundle (currently in rotation). I would recommend staying out of these green lock auctions until you have your basic strategy down and can reliably win the lower value green lock auctions.
2. The Early Morning Auctions. Between 5 and 8 a.m., Beezid runs a number of “bids back” auctions. You win, you not only get the item, you get all your bids back. Whether you are new to penny auctions, or just new to Beezid, you need to carefully study these auctions and the Facebook page, before participating. These auctions are a lot different, and the tips above have no application whatsoever to the early bird auctions. There are a handful of bidders, so-called “mega bidders” by the Facebook crowd, who have really, really large bid accounts. Their strategy is to set a massive auto bid before the early bird auction starts, and they count on no other bidder having the thousands of bids necessary to top it. Now, if you just won the lottery, and want to purchase $50,000 in bids, you may be able to go toe-to-toe with the mega bidders. But if you buy a bid pack, and place those bids and only those bids against a mega bidder in an early bird auction, frankly your chances of winning are less than slim to none. That is not to say players other than the mega bidders can win at the early bird auctions. Here, the lock policy is vital to opening the auctions to other bidders. Currently, there appear to be four mega bidders. In a 28-day period, they cannot win all of the items, so many other players can and do participate. Many of these players are very experienced themselves. There are also a variety of items available during the early bird auctions. So while the “mega bidders” or “power bidders” are going after the bigger ticket items, the other items are usually open to people having smaller bid accounts. (The good news too is that the players with the biggest bid accounts participate in fewer regular auctions.) My overall advice on these auctions: be cautious, study up on them closely, follow the Facebook discussion, and seek advice from other players (through Facebook).
3. Beezid’s Customer Service Department. In my opinion, Beezid’s customer service department is outstanding. They can be reached by telephone, or by a “contact us” tab on their web site. I have learned A LOT about strategy and bidding from discussing auctions (even auctions I just observed) with the customer service department. On the rare occasion where there has been a problem or a glitch, Beezid has gone the extra mile and exceeded my expectations. Also, I would recommend that you contact Beezid customer service before you start bidding, to make sure that your computer settings are set correctly, and that they explain to you when and how you need to single bid in order to make sure that internet lag does not cost you an auction.
4. Your auction kit. Whenever you participate in an auction, I would recommend having a back up in case you have a problem with your computer or internet connection. For example, if you can tether your cellular telephone 3G connection to a laptop computer, that would be a good back up in case you have problems with your main computer during the auction. In addition, if you have technical problems or other issues during an auction, it is very helpful to video record what you see on your computer. This helps Beezid’s technical team diagnose and fix whatever problem exists. Also, keep a print out of your wins. Beezid only keeps the final screen on its site for a month.
Third party software and other forms of cheating. I cannot say this any better than a recent Facebook post from a long time Beezid user:
“DO NOT use any site, script or other forms of deception to win auctions on Beezid.com. Their tech support team is first class. The security built into the script is top of the line. You will be discovered and your account frozen without notice. Read the help docs and ask for help on this board and you’ll have more than enough info to win auctions the right way. Stay away from Beezid Pro! Remember, Beezid.com has been around since 2009, so they’ve had more than enough time to perfect their cheat detection scripts. In addition they have a excellent data analysis team in place to seek out those people who work together to win auctions (Which is against their TOS.) If anyone thinks they can come in and cheat to win on Beezid.com, you will be severely disappointed.”
VII. Go Out and Have Fun!
I hope these ideas help you enjoy your experience on Beezid (or any other penny auction site). In just a short period of time, I went from wildly throwing my bids around, to consistently winning auctions and buying great, brand new items for a fraction of their retail price. But the key, in my opinion, is to start small, and work your way up. I often see new users jump in over their head, and pursue items that are simply above their skill and experience level. Sometimes, these people end up frustrated because they spent more than they wanted, they did not in the end have fun, and they are left with the belief that penny auctions are “scams.” In all likelihood, you will not win an HDTV with your first ever bid pack purchase. But you can find out, in short order, whether shopping on penny auction sites is for you if you start small and rigidly stay within your budget.
This article was a guest blog submitted by our forum member, muchomaas. Thank him for his valuable penny auction bidding tips! Don’t forget to enter our Massive Spring Giveaway for free bids, gift cards, iPods and more!