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Penny Auctions - My Two Cents

Updated on April 25, 2011

Penny Auctions in a Nutshell, Don't Do It!

My husband saw on a penny auction site that supposedly an IPad 2 sold for $87. He told me he'd really like one, but we can't afford a $500 IPad! I was interested in the penny auctions to see how they worked. I did some research, looked at a few review sites, and thought I'd at least register to see more about it.

From one of the review sites I clicked the link to register for a penny auction site and get 25 free bids. It asked for my credit card so I entered it thinking they probably just wanted it on file. (Just for clarification, I don't normally do something that stupid, but it was late at night and I was fighting exhaustion -- bad combination for trying to make wise decisions.) When I clicked "register" it said, "Thank you for your purchase!" I yelled, "What the..." In a moment of stupidity, my registration cost me almost $100. Yes, it bought me bids, but I really wasn't interested to do that yet!

So, seeing as how I already purchased a bunch of bids, I figured, why not see how it works. You have to either bid at the exact right time, or spend hours watching an item and hope and pray you are somehow lucky enough to place a bid and have everyone else back out or space out for a moment, all at the same time.

Here's how it works, You buy bids and each bid used raises the price of the item by one penny. But a bid costs $0.50 - $0.90. So let's say you are trying to win a $15 gift card. You are fighting 10 other bidders, and lets say after bidding 20 times, you win it. Each bid cost you $.50. That means you spent $10 to buy a $15 gift card. Then they charger you $1.99 for shipping! So you spend a ton of time to buy a $15 gift card for $12. Or you know you're not going to win, or if you lose, you can buy the gift card for the difference of what you bid. So you spend $5 to buy the $15 gift card (but you already spent $10 on bids), then you add shipping, and you pay $17 for a $15 gift card!

Then what's worse, if you try to bid on something like a large electronic item, you can't back out of the bidding and just buy it. So you decide to start bidding, and after 2 hours you've almost used up all your bids. Let's say you bid 50 times ($25), and you're running out of bids. You have the choice to buy more bids or lose your $25. If you buy more bids, you risk spending more hours and more money to possibly not win. If you don't win, you completely lose your money. If you have to go to the bathroom, you have to waste bids using their autobid, or risk losing because you stepped away.

If you like to waste money, you can do it online with penny auctions. But from an accidental experience with it, you'd be better off saving your pennies and your time and steering clear of these sites.

I'd be interested if any of you out there have had a similar on contrasting experience. Anyone ever won anything for real? Or anyone feel completely abused, like me?

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