We watched a few episodes of a so-called reality show about people who turn over storage units for a living, like it’s a career or something. It’s like the modern version of treasure hunting. Except it’s not.
One time a friend told me how she had lost a bunch of her possessions. It was mostly junk like furniture and knickknacks that wouldn’t fit at her house but it also included irreplaceable family heirlooms and stuff like family photos.
She stopped paying for the thing and – poof – her stuff was gone. “Why didn’t you tell me,” I cried. “I’d have paid your account so at least you could get the important shit.”
It was too late. The shit was gone. As in forever gone. There had been an auction. They sure didn’t waste any time.
Oh well. Easy come and super easy go.
I decided right then and there that I had to get me one of those shiny storage unit things. But I also had to remain true to myself and my core values. I was going to do this the Tom B. Taker way.
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I think I wanna die
And come back as four-digit code
My life would have purpose
Gatekeeper to the mother lode
So there I was trying to explain a few simple concepts to my friend who lived in the dirt and owned* only a bush. (By owned I mean that his family had lived there for generations longer than anyone could remember, but any day now the government would show up and confiscate the land for sale to a multinational corporation of which my friend would see zero compensation.)
I was telling him about what was new in my life. “After dinner I’m going to have to swing by the storage unit to drop off some more of my stuff.”
He looked confused. “What is this dinner of which you speak? That is a strange word to me.”
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Qui pro ho, Clarice
QuiBids, in online advertising proclaims, “Department stores are ripping you off.”
Indeed. But I bet department stores can only dream about numbers like these:
Think about it. With a bidding increment of one cent a closing price of $14.49 represents 1,449 bids. At 60 cents each that adds up to a whopping $869.40 in bidding fees for QuiBids.
QuiBids claims these cameras normally sell for about $699. Of course, I just did a quick scan of Google Shopping and found the same camera and same lens selling new for $550. I guess that so-called “value price” isn’t worth the paper its printed on.
Let the bidder beware! And remember, kids, don’t let those department stores rip you off. Meh.
In closing I quip: Qui gone, gin? Can you hear the clicking of the bids, Clarice? Can you?
Quick. You have to quicheck this quiout before it is too quilate!
Hurry, there are only a matter of seconds left. Act fast or you will lose!
Are you ready for QuiBids???
Johnny, tell ’em what they are playing for!
Product: Nikon D5000 Camera & Lens
Description: “The D5000’s 24-fps HD D-Movie mode with sound captures video clips with amazing clarity–offering new and exciting creative opportunities.”
Value Price: $699.00.
Opening Bid: 2 cents (Holy mother of God and WTF?)
What in the name of an aborted eBay is going on here?
Yep, just when you thought shopping was too easy and simple, along comes QuiBids, to capitalize on shopping excitement and cash in on basic human traits like addiction, compulsion, greed, and competition.
If you haven’t heard of QuiBids before, here’s how it works.
First, you sign up as a member and fork over your credit card data and purchase a “Starter Account” consisting of 100 “bids” for $60.00. This entitles you to visit the QuiBids site and click the “Bid” button 60 times. In other words, each bid costs you 60 cents.
If you bid on an item, like a iMac computer, for $35.54 and no one outbids you, you win the item. QuiBids brags about auctions like this iMac and the “95% saved” right on their web site. Just go pay the amount of the winning bid, in this case $35.54, and a shiny new iMac computer is yours.
Whoa! Hold on. This isn’t your grandparent’s eBay. Things work just a skosh differently on QuiBids.
First, win or lose, every time you click that “Bid” button you are spending money. You are giving up one of your pre-paid “Bids.” Think of “Bids” like poker chips in a casino. Just like a casino, QuiBids wants you to disassociate your actions from how you would feel if you were paying real money. Imagine if that “Bid” button read “Pay 60 Cents” instead. That wouldn’t do at all, would it?
Second, actions never end until 20 seconds have elapsed without bids. And every time you click the “Bid” button new seconds are put back on the clock to give other people the chance to outbid you. If you are a veteran auction sniper then QuiBids is a wet dream for you. The entire system is based on sniping.
So, let’s take a look at how a typical auction works.
The one that caught my eye today was that Nike D5000 Camera. I stumbled across it when the auction was at $22.00. QuiBids had my attention (to say the least).
I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, though. I smelled danger. If something seems too good to be true it usually is. I went looking for the catch. There always is one.
The catch is the two points I just explained above. Each bid costs 60 cents and each bid extends the clock. Additionally each bid raises the new bid amount by the increment for the item, which is shown in the corner of the image. On the Nikon D5000 the bidding increment is 2 cents.
It has now been hours since I first spotted that camera. The wife and I literally showered and went downtown for lunch and came back home. The action is still running!
The current bid amount is $91.24. Still a good deal on a $699 camera, right?
Ah, my favorite part the post has arrived. It’s time for some math!
According to the QuiBids video I just watched, all items are listed at $0.00 and have a bid increment. Let’s say we want to calculate QuiBid’s profit on an item. After all, they are entitled to a little something for services rendered and managing the auction, right?
SOLD PRICE / BIDDING INCREMENT * BID COST = PROFIT$$$
Let’s plug in the numbers for the Nikon D5000 I’m watching right now. Yes, it has gone up in price as I composed this post.
$93.00 / $.02 * $.60 = $2,790.00
Profit??? Indeed! Not a bad amount to collect in fees on an item that retails for $699.00. Don’t forget that the wholesale cost for the item is probably closer to $400. (That’s a wild ass guess on my part.)
QuiBids has got to gets paid, yo. Skillz to pay the billz.
Let’s look at one more auction that just closed. The item is “Dragon Cinch Sunglasses.” The so-called “value price” is $74.95. The bidding increment was 2 cents and the item sold for $1.52. Even on this laughably puny auction QuiBids still pocketed $45.60 in bidding fees. Wow! (The wholesale cost on the item might have been around $45.)
But Wait, There’s More
Even if you lose the auction, QuiBids isn’t content to let you, the bidding fish, off the hook so easily. So you can apply the value of your bids wasted in a losing effort towards “Buy It Now.” In other words, if you entered 10 bids on an item but still lost the auction, just go buy the item and convert those wasted bids into a $6.00 credit off the retail price. A win-win. Or, as QuiBids describes it on their web site, “This way there is no bid that is ever wasted on QuiBids.” Of course that assumes every auction loser goes and pays full price.
Basic Human Pyschology
I previously mentioned human traits like “greed” and “addiction.” How does QuiBids push these buttons?
First, every bidder has a username and a cutsey little avatar to represent them in this QuiBids version of Tron.
Each time you click the “Bid” button your name gets flashed on the screen as the “Current Winner.” Oooooh, I just “won” something? Yes, the right to see your own username on your monitor for 1-20 seconds or so. Exciting, eh?
The current high bidder is always referred to as a “winner” whether the auction is over or not. I find that to be rather insidious.
When QuiBids says someone is the “Current Winner” they are hoping (and knowing) that people will key on the word “winner” even though in the context “Current” is the only word with any actual meaning. 99% of all bids will be outbid and that’s the moment when “winners” become “losers.” Gee whiz, for the life of me, I can’t imagine why they don’t flash that on the screen. D’oh.
To emphasize even more that QuiBids is merely a game there is even something called “Achievements.” You’ll find this word gets its own real estate on the site’s main menu bar. Once clicked, you’ll be taken to a page with subtle hints like a giant scoreboard (is QuiBids a sport?) and the word “Gameday” written on it. Using the achievements system you can earn little graphics called “Badges” that your competitors can see with your online profile. This allows QuiBids customers to identify which competitors are the biggest idiots. But the pyschology at work is still significant. “Let’s turn spending bids on QuiBids into game.”
This is sounding more and more like a casino, isn’t it. Perhaps QuiBids should be legally required to disclose that bidding is for “entertainment purposes only.” Just like a stripper pole, only there you actually get something.
Closing Thoughts – A Peek Behind the Curtain
In the end, QuiBids is just another form of gambling. Somehow online casinos are outlawed and even games like Holdem Poker have to be hosted on shady criminal islands so that compulsive Americans can illegally gamble. But QuiBids has found a way to make it all legal. I think. I’m not really sure if it’s legal or not. The fact that it’s online doesn’t prove shit.
Welp, I’d like to say that I’ll see you all next time but the truth is I’ll be gone from the blog for a while. I’m investing next month’s rent check into QuiBids. Wish me luck!
P.S. That Nikon D5000 auction is still going and at $103.96. I bet it goes longer than the Energizer bunny!