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      06.06.2008 19:08
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      This is a new approach to "auctions".

      This has got to be either the biggest scam I have seen in a long time or the sort of idea that makes me wish I'd thought of it.

      The way it works is quite complicated (so pay attention at the back).

      It is basically an auction site, but with a difference. Each item that is put up, and you name it, just about everything that can be shipped in a parcel seems to be available, the start price is 7p and each time a bid is placed, the price increases by 7p. This is where the first difference occurs, bidders do not state the price they want to pay, they just bid and the site take care of the increment.

      Each item shows the time the "auction" has to run and what the current price is. It is continually updated, as bids come in, the page you are watching automatically updates unlike eBay, for instance, where you have to refresh the page to keep up.

      First catch - each bid costs the bidder 50p. To be able to bid you first have to create an account and buy credit from which the cost of subsequent bids is then deducted.

      As the time left decreases, so people put in bids (though why so many bid so early beats me). When the time remaining gets below 1 minute, bids start adding time. The amount is a bit of a mystery but if several bids come in at the same time (happens a lot) the time left for the "auction" to run increases, sometimes by many minutes.

      Second catch. There is often feverish activity in the last few seconds which result in sometimes huge increases in the time remaining. Hard to explain, it's best to watch an item as the bidding proceeds, but as a lot of bidders use a bidding system called Bid Butler, it is possible for dozens of bids to be placed simultaneously - this really is the dodgy bit. If 2 people are using this system and place bids at the same time, they can each find they have placed dozens of bids depending, I suppose, on the instructions they give the auto-bidder - I confess I haven't studied this as I haven't really tried hard to win anything and probably never will.

      Anyway, although watching a lot eventually getting to the point where all the bidders are exhausted is very like watching paint dry, it is perfectly true that people do get stunning bargains - sometimes whatever the final price reached they actually give 100% reduction - it's free if you won.

      So how does the site make a profit? From the 50p charges it makes for each bid, that's how.

      Suppose they have an item which is worth £100 retail. It may well get sold for (say) £21.00. To get the price to that point in 50p stages, there have been no less than 300 bids (well, actually 299) which means that they have coined in £150. A laptop worth £300 may go for £100 which is over 1,400 bids - ie £700 plus in the site's coffers.

      Catch three - of course, only the winner gets the item, all the rest have just gambled away all their 50p bids. The winner may have only made one bid, though that is very unlikely, but it is more akin to gambling than bidding in an auction where if you lose, you pay nothing.

      There is a great deal more to the site than I have described here and if I have spurred your interest, at least you can stand on the touchline and watch the goings on, but you bid at your peril, not mine. So far I have made but one (unsuccessful) bid and that by telephone, which from a BT line costs the 50p bid charge. My bid appeared OK but was soon swamped.

      The software running the site is very impressive, that much I will give them, but like I said at the beginning, is it a scam or a brilliant idea? I leave you to decide. But don't blame me if you spend £££s for no return.

      I would love to hear from someone who has actually won an item and had it delivered.

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