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Does BigDeal.com really offer shoppers great penny-auction deals?

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Nick Darveau-Garneau

Nicolas Darveau-Garneau PictureEarlier this week we called Nick Darveau-Garneau, the CEO of San Francisco-based BigDeal.com.

This site is one of the increasingly popular penny-auction sites that invite consumers to hunt down good deals on electronics and household items. 

We're posting a portion of the interview with Nick, who explains how the BigDeal  auctions and bidding operate.

The pitch that caught the eye of Office Hours was the claim that real people are finding real deals on some items, such as getting a new Kindle for less than $10. 

Here's the basic way it works: A person becomes a member by spending a minimum amount to earn bidding dollars. For now, that minimum is $22.50.

The idea is to be the last person bidding, as the auction clock runs down. Each bid you make costs you 75 cents; each successful bid you make on an item pushes the item price up one cent. If the item clock is finally coming down to 30 seconds or less, each new bid, whoever makes it, pushes the clock back to 30 seconds. 

If you don't win, the amount of money you've bid can be applied to “discounted retail” price for that same item, offered by BigDeal. In other words, if you don't win it at auction, you can buy it at a discounted retail price. And BD has the item drop-shipped.

Darveau-Garneau said the auction-sale items offered come from wholesalers and discounters. 

And yes, the auction items “won” will cost the bidder whatever the item price is at the end of the auction, plus shipping.

What we like about it:

  • Things are legit, in that the listings are all backed by BigDeal. Products are not bogus or knockoffs.
  • There's a “Bid Buddy” option that lets bidders auto-bid, within time limits.
  • It's generally a good way to buy an item you really want. If you don't get the item, you can apply the bid amount as a discount against the “competitive” purchase price.

What we don't like about it:

  • It's hard to track or find a given item. Say you want a Canon G12 camera. Good luck finding BigDeal auctions for the G12 without major effort.
  • Item prices for sale for those who don't win that item are nothing special. You can nearly always beat the BigDeal price by shopping on eBay, Amazon or Buy.com, just to use three instances.

See the rest of the post below. 

  


Darveau-Garneau said BigDeal works on finding folks who are guilty of shell-bidding — hiring others or setting up automated bogus bids on items, to raise the price. He also said BigDeal tries to keep out trolls who try to dominate the auctions. The site sets a limit on the number of wins a bidder gets per month.

To get a view of the wild world of penny auction sites, try this link to geta decent review of the assorted choices: http://tomuse.com/penny-auctions-entertainment-shopping-sites-review-compare/

One important note: Swoopo, one of the big operators in the penny-auction business, recently shut down.

For a little background on Darveau-Garneau, here's a short thumbnail at Crunchbase.


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