So, there was a tv advert for some odd sounding website called Madbid.com where people pick up crazy bargains, for example, a new car for two or three hundred pounds, £500 cash for £1.83, a Sony PS3 for £0.52, and so it goes on.
Being curious, bored and half-cut as it was New Year’s Day, I decided to investigate to find out what the angle was with these so-called ‘bargains.’ Surely Madbid.com is a scam, right?
Well, no, it isn’t a scam. There really are outrageous bargains to be had if you play it right. Madbid.com is what’s called a ‘penny auction.’ The premise is simple – if your name is the latest bid and the timer runs out you get the goods for whatever total the price has reached, which, if you happen to be the last bid, always results in you being able to purchase the latest gadget, cooking implement or even car for a fraction of its retail price.
So what’s the catch? You have to pay for each and every bid you add to the auction and you have to buy credits in advance, with each credit currently costing £0.33 (without any bulk purchasing discount) and at Madbid.com they are surprisingly efficient at parting you from your money!
The site is something of a cross between a fruit machine and an auction with glitzy, glittering prizes just a few seconds away from falling into your grasp. As auctions progress, if there is no winner, the timer ratchets up the glamour (and need to bid to keep yourself in the auction) by dropping to a lesser amount, for example, an auction that begins with a 1 minute countdown will eventually drop to a 10 second interval.
Some terribly misguided strategies I saw employed by some players became evident when I revisited the site sober (and £60 poorer). There is the ‘bully into submission‘ strategy where the player believes that if they keep their name as the top bid throughout an auction the other players will simply give in as they will ‘know they can’t outbid‘ them. While this may work with ‘tyre-kickers’ who are simply bidding on everything going it will not work against more experienced players who simply sit back and wait for the ‘bully’ to use up all of their own credits before stepping in at the last second to steal the auction.
One unfortunate (stupid?) player I witnessed yesterday went into a head to head with another player employing the same tactic for a Canon digital SLR camera (RRP £799). Aside from the odd tyre-kicker this went on for hours and it was fascinating to watch these two players duel it out. When the price reached around £12.50 (that’s 1,250 bids, each costing three credits) one of the players had obviously run out of credits and dropped out.
Now, consider for a moment just how much this had cost Player-1 (and Player-2). He placed every second bid, each costing a minimum of £0.75 (3 credits). If we round it down to 600 bids that works out at £450!
However, if Player-1 thought he had secured his prize he was sadly mistaken as more and more people began to bid as the hours ticked by. He kept up his ‘bully’ strategy almost the whole time, sometimes going head to head with another player employing the same strategy. The only pause was a few minutes where it appeared, at least to me, that he had to go buy more credits and then it began again. By the end of the auction, Player-1 was still in the game but had dropped to just the odd last-second bid.
If we assume that Madbid.com is scrupulously honest and doesn’t employ autobidding bots to shill the auctions then this one player must have spent in excess of £600 on this one auction before it was eventually won (by someone else) when the price eventually reached an eye-watering £56.50 (ish). I say ‘eye-watering’ because if you tally the bids then that is 5,650 bids at £0.75 per bid minimum = £4,267 for a camera that retails at £799! (actually, Jessops were offering it for sale for a lot less but I digress)
So my advice to you is if you are short of cash and looking for a bargain then Madbid.com is probably not going to help your situation. You can spend a huge amount of money very, very quickly and have absolutely nothing to show for it.