back to article Swoopo - eBay's (more) evil twin

I have never expected much out of a Silicon Valley startup with a name that sounds like a baby word, but Swoopo is a rare exception. It's an online auction site with a dastardly twist. When you bid on products at Swoopo, you don't specify a price. You pay 75 cents for the bid, and that bid increases the price of the item by 15 …

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  1. Gareth Irwin

    My head

    Literally exploded with the instructions provided, looking at the site and I am no clearer. I watched one auction that said it would finish no later than 5.15 and its now 5.21 and still going.

  2. Duane Young
    Thumb Up

    Clever bastards!

    It's like pure, distilled greed and evil.

    It's so clever that I can't fault them for being greedy AND evil.

    I also, alas, cannot feel pity for the dimwits that fall for it.

    Best of luck to them before it's somehow declared illegal and they are all sent to PMITA Prison.

  3. David Webb

    Old news

    I believe swoopo isn't the actual company, its a company that has the same thing over here but with a fantastic twist. its in the UK, Germany and Spain, all people from 3 countries are bidding on the same items, except the UK are in £, Germany/Spain €.

    Now, with the exchange rate and the cost of bids, people from Germany/Spain actually pay less for their bids, and over-all less for any items they win, they even get more cash.

    It is all one giant con, people have paid more than the price of the item they are bidding on simply because of stupid economics. Paid £500 in bids already on a fixed price item? Item valued at £1,000? You can't stop at 500, you won't get it back, so you continue to bid, 750, you're still being outbid, people are jumping in because the price is going up so its going to die out, right? £1,000, can't stop now, you can't afford to lose £1,000 and have nothing to show, must keep bidding!

    Eventually you win, but pay more in bids than the items value. Unless you are in Germany/Spain where it still says "you made a saving of..."

    Then you add in bid-butler, it bids for you, except no one knows how many bid's you have put aside, so 30-40 people bid, the clock ticks down to 5 seconds then... bid butler, more people bid, gets down to 6 seconds... bid butler. Then some bright spark decides to spend £20 on their own bid butler and the clock goes upto 15 minutes and the guy who just spent £20 still isn't the winning bidder, someone else has paid hundreds to "win".

    All in all, a site worth avoiding. I believe it is called tele-bid or something.

  4. Hugh_Pym

    damn

    While discussing the problems of ebay we came up with the idea that each bid near the end time would add a random (within limits) number of minutes to the auction. This would effectively stop 'sniping' as no-one could predict the exact end of the auction and make it more like a real auction where the buyer willing to pay the most gets the item. Also an early bid has a chance of getting the item as late bidding has much less advantage.

    Looks like these guys got there first - then added some weird stuff. oh well.

  5. Graham Marsden

    A fool and their money...

    ... soon are parted!

    (BTW I've got The London Eye up for sale if anyone's interested...)

  6. edge_e

    old news

    The BBC covered the rise of penny auctions 2 weeks ago. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7793054.stm

    They weren't quite as cynical though, I had to fill in all the evil bits myself

  7. Cosmin Roman
    Pirate

    Winner's 75 cents?

    I understood, though, that Swoopo cashes in on the winner's series of bids too - and so if the winner placed 40 bids for the ultimately $30 Nintendo (which, considering how the system works, will probably accrue pretty quickly, n'est ce pas?), actual amount out of the pocket would be $30 + 40*$0.75=$60 - double! (plus shipping ...) Of course, one could only bid at the "end", but the one who pursued the item for a while won't let it go at the expense of 75 cents (bid) + 15 cents (upping price), no?

    If somebody is actually considering this bidding system, you have to re-think the whole bidding process. But then, I also thought of a similar scam from the hands of Swoopo-s - not going as far as your idea, in the sense that you let them win, but have a bot bidding right at the last second to entice the would-be winner shell out another 3 quarters, and so on. Great minds think alike and all that.

    Happy New Year, Reg people, and keep up the good (and the dirty) work!

    (pirate icon for obvious reasons)

  8. Snake Plissken

    Hasn't this been around for a while?

    I'm sure I've seen this before, possibly a German site. From memory, they were giving away stuff like 100 euro and people were bidding like crazy with their 50 cents.

    You've got to admidre their audacity. And the contempt they hold their customers in.

  9. Adam C
    Thumb Down

    What an absolute load of bollocks

    I think these sites are more scam-ish than legitimate!

    Oh, and sites like this have existed for years. Why the sudden report now?

  10. C
    Paris Hilton

    Sounds Dubious

    Sounds like that weird MLM scam Dubli.

  11. Martin Eriksson

    Germany, not Silicon Valley

    They may be listed in Silicon Valley today but they were founded in Germany and they still have a big presence there - I was asked if I would like to work for them at their "headquarters" in Munich but politely declined.

  12. Syd

    Still going on...

    ... because it adds a few seconds every time someone bids. (It is REALLY evil!!)

  13. kain preacher

    wow

    Ok this sound like a crappy idea. Sound like something ebay would be created to compete against do to being crappy. Not the other way around

  14. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    Ex Stultes, Lucrum!

    Someone at a client-site asked me about this last year; I observed that it was nothing more than a new 21st-century way to separate fools from their money - and cursed over why I hadn't thought of it first!

  15. Mark Barton
    Paris Hilton

    -1 Old

    They were known as Telebid, doing a google now brings up a sponsored link

    TeleBid is now Swoopo

    www.Swoopo.co.uk Different name, same great bargains Save up to 90% on RRP today!

    and loads of results for swoopo

    I started seeing ads on facebook for Telebid well over a year ago.

    Paris - she never gets old.

  16. Jerren

    Banned in several States?

    Interesting how you cannot register if you are a resident of several states in the US, I wonder if the lawsuits have already started...

  17. Stephen Taylforth

    So much for register being at the cutting edge of reporting.

    There's dozens for these sites and they've been around for ages. They are outright cons.

  18. Tony Hoyle

    Bargain!

    61 inch TV - $2734.50 (instead of $1,899.99) 'fixed price' (which isn't in fact fixed at all as it keeps rising).

    And there are still tards bidding on it...

    Even if an item goes for less than retail, the site wins - they get money every time anyone bids on an item, and make much more in profit than the item is worth.

    edit: now $2741, and rising.

    It's a complete scam. Surprised it hasn't been banned yet.

  19. Jeremy
    Thumb Down

    Price Drop TV for the internet.

    Nuff said.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    The (con?) artist formerly known as telebid.

    Saw this lot a while ago. Who's to say that they are a scam or not, but how do you know that they are not automatically bumping up the bids?

    Even if they don't, lets face it, it costs 40 pence to bid (or there abouts) and the increment is a few pence they still make their money. Did a rough calculation ages ago that if they were flogging a plasma tv worth well over a grand and it only went for 500 quid they could (in theory) make in excess of a grand on bids alone (assuming the increment was only a few p or tens of p).

  21. Jacob Lipman

    ?yhW .nosaer emos rof sdrawkcab si eltiT

    "While discussing the problems of ebay we came up with the idea that each bid near the end time would add a random (within limits) number of minutes to the auction. This would effectively stop 'sniping' as no-one could predict the exact end of the auction and make it more like a real auction where the buyer willing to pay the most gets the item. Also an early bid has a chance of getting the item as late bidding has much less advantage."

    A better system is already in use at gunbroker.com (U.S. auction site for firearms and related items); the fifteen minute rule. Bid toward the end, and fifteen minutes are added to the auction; no sniping, very fair for the buyers and sellers.

  22. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Damn!

    Well,

    1) Site does look pretty interesting at any rate.

    2) Fail. People have bid up 300 "FreeBids", which would cost $225 cash money, up to $805.50 so far.

  23. Nuno

    not really a con...

    This is a site for the owners to make money, we all realize that, but the winner get the items for the bids he did, for example, 10 bids = 7.5€ (or whatever currency we are talking about). It's very much like national lottery, everyone puts some for one person to take, and the one that puts it all together is the one that makes most of it... clever scheme.

  24. Tom Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    @tony Hoyle

    You aren't really gettng the hang of the concept of a fixed price auction are you? If the winning bid price is $5000 on a fixed price auction of $59, the winning bidder pays $59 only. Plus the cost of buying enough bids to secure the item.

    I wrote a program to track bids on the uk site, it leads to some interesting results. The aim of the game is to procure the item whilst outlaying as few bids as possible. The costs on the UK site are approx £0.25 per bid, and each bid raises the auction price by £0.07 . The best trick is to allow someone elses bid butler to controll the auction, allow the timer to run to near zero, and place single bids until that bid butler is out of bids. This keeps the timer low, reducing the scope for someone to jump in.

    Of course, that is just a strategy. Anyone bidding on your item after you could pinch it away from you, or prolong the auction. It is totally a mugs game

    Ted: As many reg readers have pointed out, this is a german company that has existed for quite some time, used to operate as telebid, so kudos on the journalistic accuracy. Best to stick to ranting about software development, at least when you did that it was slightly amusing, if inaccurate.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Bang.

    "A better system is already in use at gunbroker.com (U.S. auction site for firearms and related items); the fifteen minute rule. Bid toward the end, and fifteen minutes are added to the auction; no sniping...."

    No sniping on a firearms auction? That spoils all the fun!

    (Mine's the one lying on the box of books)

  26. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Never mind....

    Never mind #2... actually, I guess they don't pay the amount on that auction, just rack up a large amount of 75 cent bidding fees 8-).

  27. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Boffin

    A lack of foresight on the sniping front

    "While discussing the problems of ebay we came up with the idea that each bid near the end time would add a random (within limits) number of minutes to the auction. This would effectively stop 'sniping' as no-one could predict the exact end of the auction and make it more like a real auction where the buyer willing to pay the most gets the item"

    Actually, if people put their real maximum figure into the auction, sniping does not stop the person willing to pay most getting the item. What happens on ebay is best revealed in the advice that ebay provides to its customers:

    1) bid the maximum you can afford

    2) monitor the course of the auction

    3) if you are outbid, up your bid

    Honestly!

    In fact, changing the rules to add some minutes wouldn't stop sniping programs, because you would have to tell the punters that the time had been extended, which means telling the programs. They would simply snipe again if someone upped their bid.

  28. Pat Volk
    Pirate

    Sinister...

    Very evil setup. They probably don't need shills, they just need to make sure the world is bidding on the items. A larger bidding group also naturally increases the number of snipers, and does a pretty good job of preventing collusion.

    I want to say they can sell stuff at 20% of price, and break even (each bid nets .75, and increases the bid by .15).

  29. E

    Fuck, Ted.

    You're losing your touch.

  30. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Click Here

    Win an iPod!

    (as if)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm with Dodgy Geezer here

    If you get sniped, it's because either you didn't put your top bid in, or someone else was prepared to pay more.

    Tough titties.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    hmmmm....

    Looking at the uk site, theres a mac book currently going for around £42

    it handily tells you one went recently for £248.03 compared to a list price of £949

    so they bought a laptop for £949 sold it for £248.03 for a loss of £700.97 somes like a poor business model until you factor in that there were £9921.20 spent on bids for a profit of £9220.23

    its got one of those dodgy satellite channels all over it...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Why rant about a media change

    If you look at it strictly, they have done nothing else, than move the ¨chance to win £10,000¨ from the TV to the Internet.

    if you think about it, itś nothing else, than these ¨games, where you can win a TV or some cash by either phoning a an 0900 number or texting some spurious number, that will charge you a quid per call/msg.

    Are you guys really that naive?

    it´s targeted very clearly at the ¨not so¨ Internet-literate.

    or to put it bluntly: the not bright citizens.

    And now you can flame me.... ;-)

    Paris: she would love these actions

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  35. James Pickett

    Sniping

    I've never employed a program for this, but quite enjoy guessing what has been bid and adding a few pence. It's amazing how many people bit in round tens of Pounds, so £x0.03 often works. If you bid the most you want to pay, then you shouldn't mind if someone else bids more.

    Swoopo is clearly a (clever) scam, so Caveat Emptor. Not run by Madoff Securities, is it?

  36. Grundoon

    Reminds me of the joke about the dead donkey

    For some reason, the business plan reminds me of the old joke about the dead donkey:

    A man bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.

    Come morning, the farmer drove up and said, "Sorry, but I've got some bad news. The donkey died."

    "Well then, just give me my money back."

    "Can't do that. I spent it already," replied the farmer.

    "OK then, just unload the donkey."

    "What're you gonna do with him?" asked the farmer.

    "I'm gonna raffle him off."

    "Ya can't raffle off a dead donkey!" exclaimed the farmer.

    "Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anyone he's dead."

    A month later the farmer met up with the guy and asked about what happened with the dead donkey. "I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at $2 apiece and made a profit of $898."

    "Didn't no one complain?" asked the farmer.

    "Just the guy who won. So I gave him his $2 back."

  37. Solomon Grundy

    Works for Me. Why not You?

    Last week I bought a brand new Canon Digital Rebel (body only) and a PS3 (80GB) and total fees and cost for both items were less than $450US. They've both arrived exactly as promised.

    Not sure why everyone is knocking the site/process so much - worked for me.

  38. Mister_C

    @ James Pickett - sssshhhhh!

    Knowing the eBay bid increments is indeed the best way to win close fought auctions. I got undersniped by 2p on the last one I won. What say we keep quiet and keep the advantage ;-)

    As for swoopo. Why be fraudulent and get the site banned? Like killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

    I heard about the site at a party just before the hols so I watched it a few times. I only saw one auction finish - the punter paid £40 in bids and still had a saving on his flat screen, thus one happy teddy. They only needed 5 or 6 losers making a similar number of bids to be in profit, fewer if they bought a few job lots of stuff. There were lots of repeat auctions, so the pallet load buying discount seems likely. I saw a butlerwar there too - 100 bids in 0.1 seconds. Only one item for sale, so one of the bidders lost £20 - both bidders if a smart sniper came in later. And the penny auctions? 40p/bid to raise by 1p? They don't need shills to turn a profit, just humans following a couple of simple rules: Everyone loves getting something below retail; There's a sucker born every minute.

    Remember

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  44. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Lottery scam.

    Lottery scam, basically.

    You buy a ticket, you either win or not and there's just one prize, even if there are millions of tickets sold.

    Very poor (possible) return for invested money, even for a lottery.

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  48. James Pickett

    @Mister_C

    "undersniped by 2p"

    How satisfying! Still, as you suggest, I won't go on about it...

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  51. Herby

    The actual scam is...

    That the losers pay for the privilege of losing. Thankfully eBay doesn't work this way. In "live" (in person, with a real auctioneer) auctions, the time is extended by every bid at the "last moment", which prevents sniping. This is what eBay needs to do, maybe as an added cost option (maybe I'm giving them an idea, can I get a cut?).

    Of course, for me I'd avoid this like the plague!

  52. no one
    Heart

    Scam

    Sounds like a really old scam that works wonders in many online games. Offer to auction off some amount of cash, lets round to 100. Only catch, both the winner and second place have to pay. Swoopo sounds like they've gone one better and convinced everyone to pay. Still works, though, how ever you do it. It helps to have a plant to bid up to half the amount. If you only get one sucker, you can fleece them for what ever they bid. Get two, and after the plant gets them up near 100 units, they tend to bid defensively. "Oh crap, I'm going to have to pay 102 to get 100....oh well, might as well bid 105 and only lose 5 instead of all 102."

    Heart, cause I just love seeing a sucker and their money parted.

  53. Alex
    Paris Hilton

    Free Money!

    just call this number now 0898 505050*

    *calls charged at $400,000.00 per .5 of a second, ensure you get bill payers permission.

  54. Hugh_Pym

    sniping (@Dodgy Geezer)

    "In fact, changing the rules to add some minutes wouldn't stop sniping programs, because you would have to tell the punters that the time had been extended, which means telling the programs. They would simply snipe again if someone upped their bid."

    You don't have to tell them the time has been extended, just that it has gone beyond the normal end time and will end within the next few minutes if no more bids are received. The whole point is that people won't put in their best bid early as it is an auction not a sale. You play the system to get what you want at the best price. Punters will still wait to the end but there is no advantage in being the last bidder only in being the highest bidder, fairer for the non professional bidder and for the seller.

  55. Danny Silver badge

    gambling

    I am very surprised that the gambling commission hasnt had a pop at swoopo as it is just a gambling site. Nothing more nothing less.

  56. Alex Walsh

    The genius of swoopo

    If you watch the "auctions" happening, you'll see most of them rely on either stupid people or gambling addicts. The easiest one to spot this on are the packs of additional bids- I've seen these go for 2 to 3 times their actual value, which means on top of the 50p/75c, they're making a ton on the actual items.

  57. Mark Wills
    Unhappy

    Con

    1) They advertise a laptop for sale

    2) People bid for it like maniacs

    3) The laptop actually gets paid for many times over. Only one person wins it

    4) They go out and buy you a laptop and send it to you.

    5) PROFIT

    6) GOTO 1

    Damn. I so wish I had thought of that. :-(

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not evil...

    It does exactly what it says on the tin, and I'm sure people DO often win the auctions for less than the RRP.

    The fact is with 90% of the items on the site, if you work out how much they're taking in in bid fees, the organisers have made their money and then some before you even hit 1/2 the RRP.

    Read the text, run the numbers, move on.

  59. Tim Hughes
    Happy

    MadBid users = F***wits

    Just looked on madbid.com (mentioned on the BBC last year).

    My favourite recent win: 88 bids (£1 per bid) spent to win £50 of ... lottery scratchcards!! wtf?!?

    There doesn't need to be any scam to coin it in - people really are that stupid!

  60. Nursing A Semi
    Thumb Up

    What a bargain

    I just took a look at the uk site. Currently a PS3 is approaching £150 which means the site will be getting £800 for an item costing around £200.

    Dam wish I had thought of it, so many suckers out there.

  61. Andrew
    Thumb Down

    What a load of crap

    Apparently someone on there has just won a 42inch HDTV for $4.23...

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  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Making money?

    I sat next to a guy on a transatlantic flight recently who worked for this outfit, buying products to "auction". He was in economy :-). So either they're not rolling in money, or they despise their staff.

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  78. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    P.T.Barnum said it best

    There's one born every minute, but with BidButler, it's once every 10 seconds.

  79. Chuck

    use you head!

    people get upset because they think they can get a TV for 10 bucks, but that never happens on swoopo! if you just use common sense along with some 3rd party research on the site, you won't lose all your money. just don't waste your bids early and use sites like http://www.swoopomanual.com for research and you'll do fine

  80. e-DUDS
    Happy

    Other auction sites

    While eBay flounders, other auction websites like this will flourish. It is such a huge shame that while the original (near perfect) eBay model was so simple, it was not immune to ridiculous tampering just for the sake of it! Allowing companies like Swoppoo to flourish. We are trying to go back to basics with our auction service. Some would say we are very basic :) But hopefully, it will go some way to remind out members how eBay used to be.

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