Swoopo Review, Bid Strategy and Tips
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Swoopo.com is the next generation in online auctions. Unlike eBay where your average Joe posts items for sale, Swoopo acts as the middleman between manufacturers and suppliers. As such, the products they auction are new, have warranties, and can even be returned for a refund of the purchase price.
Although the product selection is limited when compared to a site like eBay, there are quite a few options in the consumer electronics category — laptops, monitors, GPS units, MP3 players, iPhones, etc.
What really sets Swoopo apart is their version of the auction model. Users bid on items and each bid will increase the cost of the item in pre-determined, fixed increments e.g. $0.01, $0.06, or $0.12. What's important to note is that each bid costs the bidder $0.60 whether they win the auction or not. So the winner pays $0.60 times the number of bids he placed PLUS the final auction price. If you're not careful, you could pay more for an item than it's worth.
Having participated in a many auctions, I've made some observations that I kept note of. With that in mind, let me offer you some tips to help you form a bidding strategy to improve your chances of winning. Of course, nothing I've written here is intended to guarantee success so please consider carefully your participation in Swoopo auctions.
Is Swoopo a Scam?
A lot of people think that Swoopo has to be scam. After all, the prices are really, really low so how could it be legit? Those people aren't doing the math. They're focusing on the final sale price, but they're forgetting (or don't know) that the final price isn't where Swoopo makes their money. Their primary source of revenue is from the bids each of which bring in $0.60.
However, while the overall business isn't a scam, there are a few practices that are cause for concern. For example:
- There are unsubstantiated reports that Swoopo is auctioning items that aren't available. The seller is refunded their bids, but other bidders don't get their bids back.
- A winner of an auction can return the item. The winner's bids aren't refunded (makes sense), the bids of the other participants aren't refunded either. A more consumer-friendly approach would be to offer the item to the second highest bidder. This would incur additional costs to Swoopo, but like I said it would be more consumer-friendly.
- The winner of an auction has to go through a confirmation process before the item is shipped. I think that they aren't obligated to confirm i.e. they can change their mind. Again, Swoopo should offer the item to the second highest bidder if the winner doesn't confirm after a certain period of time.
Swoopo Bidding Strategy
The best items on Swoopo are typically set up as penny auctions. With each bid raising the price just $0.01, it'll take 10,000 bids before the price hits $100. Of course, those 10,000 bids actually translated into $6,000 spent by the bidders. Ouch. Your best bidding strategy is one that minimizes the number of bids you make i.e. bid just often enough to make sure the auction isn't one by someone else. How do you do this?
Simple, bid when the timer is at 1 second. You'll need a mid-range computer, as lag-free an Internet connection as possible, and decent reflexes. Note that bidding when the timer is at 1 second leaves little room for error and you WILL lose some auctions because your bid doesn't get processed. But, my tests with bidding at 2 seconds strongly suggest that you'll spend a lot more by doing so.
If you haven't one an auction yet, the first thing you want to do is find one of the Beginner Auctions. People that have previously won an auction can't participate in these so the competition is lower from the start. The folks at Swoopo keep Beginner Auctions to vouchers and such — the best I've seen is a voucher for 75 bids. Might as well seek one of these out.
After your first win, I recommend going after some more voucher auctions. Your best bet is a 300 bid voucher. That's the biggest I've seen. One trick that you probably won't realize at first (I didn't) is that you can only participate in these voucher auctions once every 4 weeks. That's a Swoopo restriction. So if your master plan was to win a bunch of voucher auctions and then go hogwild on a big ticket item, you're going to be disappointed.
One other trick with voucher auctions — look for two auctions happening at the same time. One will probably be more popular than the other. Be sure to pick the less popular one since you'll have fewer people bidding against you.
If you're like me, you're eager to jump into some of the electronics auctions. If you're looking for a specific item, go for it. However, if you're looking to pick something up at a discount so that you can resell it, there are a few things you can do to improve your odds of winning. Here are some tips:
Should You Use the BidButler?
The short answer, no. I don't believe that the BidButler scares anyone. And if two people set up BidButlers in the same range, they'll immediately bid against each other until the bids are exhausted. This is counter to the bidding strategy described about i.e. bid as infrequently as possible.
Swoopo Bidders Aren't Always Rational
Some bidders will keep bidding even if they're losing money. I saw one bidder get caught up in the auction — he paid over $60 for a $30 voucher. I don't understand this behavior, but you need to be aware of it so that you don't count on someone being rational enough to drop out of an auction.
Other Swoopo Tips
Here are some more notes I made while playing with Swoopo. Over time I hope to make these more coherent as I've done with the above sections. For now, I've just listed them here in no particular order:
- The clock sticks when there are a bunch of bids being processed. This is important when waiting for the 1 second mark. If you anticipate the 1 before actually seeing it, you'll end up bidding along with a bunch of others i.e. wasting your bid.
- Keep an eye on the "Savings" value on the item detail page. For low value items like vouchers this value will let you know if you're still break-even or better.
- Penny auctions mess with bidder's minds. Remember that every bid costs $0.60. So when the price of a penny item reaches $10 that's actually 1,000 bids which is $600 for Swoopo. Real-world example: a laptop that sells for $779 was still being bid on at $130 as I was writing this. As a penny auction, this is equivalent to $13,000 (or almost 10x the price of the laptop) for Swoopo. Awesome business model, no?
- The "Recently Sold" price can be deceiving. Not that I'm saying the item didn't sell for that price, I'm sure that's true. Rather, "recently" doesn't mean it was the most recent sale. Just that in near past it sold for that amount. This is particularly sneaky for vouchers where the "Recently Sold" price is really low, but there could've been dozens of auctions for the same item since.
- The "Recently Sold" is likely the lowest price the item went for recently. As such it is probably a good representation of the bottom price that the current item for auction is going to go for. Might as well stay out of the auction until that threshold is met, no? I'm still testing this one.
- Don't start bidding unless you have at least an hour to stay in the auction. Yeah the clock says 10 seconds, but with enough bidders it can easily take over an hour before a winner emerges.
- At first, the "Bidders in the last 15 minutes" number might seem really useful, but it really isn't. Sure, seeing the number decrease over time might make you feel like the level of competition is decreasing, but in reality you're bidding against just a small percentage of others that are determined to win. In addition, new bidders often join in the fray even an hour into an auction.
- Watch for bidders that have set up a Bid Butler with a pretty high upper limit. You can identify these folks because after every bid or every few bids their Bid Butler bid comes in. As long as the auction hasn't hit the upper range they've set, there's no point in bidding. Wait for a batch of bids to go through without that particular Bid Butler jumping in and then bid using the 1 second tip. When the user goes from using a Bid Butler to a Single Bids, that's another good sign.
- Once you've started an auction, be aware that you won't have more than 2 minutes to step away from it. And you'll only get that 2 minutes when at least two users set up Bid Butlers that end up bidding against each other. Just like with slot machines, you don't want to step away from your computer just when you're about to win an auction.
- Use a laptop to participate in auctions. You'll be able to carry it with you to the kitchen when you get hungry or thirsty. You're laughing now, but you won't be once you start bidding in auctions.
- Since you're using a laptop (see previous item), you'll have limited screen space. To watch multiple auctions, use Firefox plus the SplitScreen add-on. I can easily watch 4 auctions with this setup. Be warned that you can run through your available bids very quickly if you're simultaneously part of 4 auctions. And, of course, if two auctions hit 1 second at the same time you'll have to pick one over the other to bid on.
- If you scroll through auctions that have ended, you'll notice some really, really low prices mixed in with some not so low prices. If you segment the list into the types of products you're interested in e.g. laptops, you can eyeball a price to use as a cut-off for auctions you participate in. For example, if 20% of the laptop auctions have prices below $25, then stop participating in an auction once it hits $25 because it probably means there's too much interest in that particular auction.