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The Penny Auction List recently interviewed Tim, an experienced penny auction bidder from the state of Indiana.

Here’s what he had to say:

Penny Auction List: How did you first find out about penny auctions?
Tim:
I first heard about penny auctions through banner ads. I think BidCactus was the first one I encountered. I’d see ads for laptops, TVs, and Wii’s going for less than $5, and assumed it was a scam. I figured I’d better learn about the scam myself so I could properly warn my less savvy family members. Imagine my surprise when I figured out how it really worked! Some of the possible pitfalls occurred to me (fake sites, shill bidding – although I didn’t know the name of that activity at the time) and I realized the emerging world of penny auctions was ripe for dishonest site owners. Thankfully, I dug around online and have encountered a couple places where various penny auction sites are reviewed – like the Penny Auction List, and the Penny Auction Watch.

Penny Auction List: How long have you been bidding on penny auction websites?
Tim: Since some time late in fall of 2009, I think. I watched a few auction sites for weeks on end before I ever placed a bid…

Penny Auction List: What penny auction sites do you like the best? Why?
Tim: Well, Wavee is my personal favorite. Their customer service is outstanding, and the degree to which they actively solicit and respond to user feedback is great. You see this in a few of the other very small sites, but what impresses me about Wavee is that they are the only site I am aware of that manages to feel like a small site in how they handle customer service, but look like and operate with the polish of a large site. Also, they’re just the right size for me. Big enough to have a regular user/winner base, but also still regularly have new players enter the mix, and win.

Other sites I like, either for concept or execution or both, are: BidOction, BidPigs, PickleBid, BidCactus, and QuiBids – although QuiBids is in an entirely different weight class when it comes to sheer number of bidders and amount of activity, so I hesitate to even include them…

Penny Auction List: Do you believe there are successful strategies for winning penny auctions, or does victory come by chance?
Tim:
Do I think that there’s a single trick a user can employ that will make them end up in the green every time? Not a chance. Some of the powerbidders will throw in 1000’s of dollars on a single auction at some sites, just to establish a reputation. Usually that works, so I guess I’d say that’s the most obvious single strategy. Simply never allow yourself to lose an auction. Eventually, you’ll win almost everything really cheaply. Obviously, most of us don’t have that kind of disposable income. Lord knows I don’t – not even close.

It’s also obviously not strictly chance, or the same bidders wouldn’t win as often as they do. You need to find a strategy that works for you, and your budget. Build your strategy around the site you’re looking at. For instance, if a site offers a full bid-to-buy, that will (or should) significantly change the strategic options for you. Every site is just a little bit different, so it will take time to learn their system before you can correctly choose your strategy. Then, mix in a lot of hope for luck, and go get ‘em.

Penny Auction List: Would you recommend penny auctions to others?
Tim:
I recommend most penny auction sites to some others. There are a lot of people for whom it is a terrible idea. However, for people who are 1) reasonably level-headed, 2) comfortable with making purchases online, and 3) have a healthy sense of competition, I do recommend penny auction sites. They’re fun and can be very rewarding. I try to make sure I spend at least some amount of time explaining the entire concept to them first though.

To anyone just starting out in the penny auction world, the first thing I’d say is to get the dollar signs out of your eyes. You’ve just learned about penny auctions. You just saw someone win a new television for $0.14. You realize that bids cost money, but even at a dollar a bid, that’s an amazing deal. If it can happen to them, it can happen to you, right?! The answer is: maybe. There is a lot more going on at a penny auction site than you see when you get there. Many of the players know each other from a long history of fights. What you just saw was a single round. You need to spend the time reading all the resources you can find, watching auctions on the site[s] you select, and looking back at the history of won auctions on a site, so you can learn who won, and for how much. Don’t just get excited, seeing all the $1.00 wins. Take a good hard look at the $5, $10, and $20 wins. Those are often the ones that will tell you the most about who is who on a given site.

Penny Auction List: Is there anything else you would like to share with fellow bidders?
Tim:
Do your homework. Play within your means. Stay calm – I’ve never heard anyone say “…I got really mad, and I ended up with a great deal.” Keep an eye out for promotions, contests, and giveaways – these can help stretch your bids by getting you some extra ones. New players have the best chance of “establishing themselves” on new systems, so keep an eye out for fledgling sites that have been reviewed by a reliable source. There’s always a risk that these new sites will go out of business, but an honest site will do everything it can to settle its debts before closing its doors, so there’s not much to worry about there.

The Penny Auction List would like to thank Tim for graciously donating his time for this interview. We were going to send Tim a donation for his time, but he kindly declined our offer. What a guy!