A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be asked if I wanted to help out with a TV shoot for a local lifestyle program called Great South East. My niece Katrina and her husband Tony run Redlands Kayak Tours and the show was doing a segment on them. Here's the segment. That's me in closeup, about half way through, in the blue cap and green PFD.
The cameraman, as well as using the normal ENG camera that news cameramen use, had a small video camera, not much bigger than a match box, that he fixed to the front of the host's kayak. I was amazed, especially when I found out the price. Here was a camera being used by a professional TV cameraman that cost less than $400. It was the first time I'd seen a GoPro and I wanted one.
Back then, I was filling shelves in Coles, so I wasn't making much money. The pay situation hasn't really improved since then, so I haven't been able to justify buying one. The latest model, the Hero 3+ Black Edition is about $529 and the Silver Edition about $429.
About a week ago, I read a news article about penny auctions. If you haven't heard about them, the idea is you register on their website, buy a certain number of bids, then use those bids in auctions on the site. Unlike eBay, every time someone bids once the auction is in it's last 20 seconds, the clock resets to (usually) 20 seconds. If you place a bid and no-one else bids inside those 20 seconds, then you win the auction. Each bid you place adds only 1 cent to the price. If you're the only person to bid on a particular item, then you get it for 1 cent, since the price starts at 0c.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, yes it is. There's a catch. Keep in mind that you've paid on average, 60c for each bid (depending on the website) and you may have bought about 100 bids. The chances of you being the only person to bid on an item are pretty small, although it does happen. If it's a sought after item, like an iPad or a camera, then the bidding will be furious and you could quite easily use up all your bids in your first auction. If you get out-bid, you've blown your money.
That's how the penny auction sites make their money. A $529 GoPro camera might sell for $29 for example, but that's 2900 bids at 60c a bid, which works out to $1740 worth of bids, plus the $29 winning price that the website gets. A pretty good profit, I'm sure you'll agree.
Well, I figured I'd give it a go, signed up with QuiBids and bought a block of 120 bids. They recommend you start off small and bid on something cheap to get a bit of practice and get an idea how the system works. I took their advice and the day after registering I won a set of electric salt and pepper mills for the princely sum of 1c. Yes, I was the only bidder. Add to that the delivery charge and it came to $9.90, for an item that retails for $19.
Emboldened by my win, I decided to bid for a GoPro Silver Edition, without success, wasting about 20 bids. Oh well, you can't win them all and I'd picked up a view bonus free bids from winning the mills, so I still had plenty of bids left.
The next day I tried again and hit the jackpot. Including postage, I got a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver Edition for $18.02c and it was in my hot little hands two days later.
I've since taken part in a few other auctions, for items such as iPads, backpacks, etc. My only other success so far is a Rank Arena Food Dehydrator, so now our bananas won't go to waste. I still have plenty of bids left and I'm getting pretty good at picking which auctions to avoid. Now if I can only get myself an iPad and that Dyson vacuum cleaner that Donna wants.
If you've come across this blog as a result of researching penny auctions to see if they're a scam, well, some of them are, some aren't. You can definitely lose a lot of money if you're not smart, even on a reputable site. There are plenty of stories of people maxing out their credit cards in one day, because they couldn't help themselves. If you're the kind of person that goes to the races and puts your money on a horse because you like its name, or the colour of its jockey's silks, then penny auctions are not for you. You'll be better off going to JB HiFi and paying full price for your GoPro. Incidentally, that's where QuiBids gets theirs from.