In case you missed it, my post on Swoopo.com has generated a lot of interest and comments. One of the comment leavers was Swoopo.com’s Senior Manager of Business Development, Chris Bauman.
Swoopo.com is an auction site unlike the traditional auctions you know and has taken a few lumps from readers of Gadgetell. Chris works for the US arm of Swoopo.com (formerly Telebid.com) and has taken the time to answer my questions and fill us in on what the company is thinking.
The idea behind Swoopo.com is somewhat simple: users buy bids (they cost $1 each) then use those bids in an auction. Swoopo’s hope is that enough bids are used to cover the cost of the product (usually high end electronics, DVDs, watches and in some auctions: cash). Sounds simple right?
Maybe too simple, as many folks finding the site via some apparently effective Gmail advertising were quickly scared off. Here are just some of the comments they left on our site:
- Luckily I never trusted it
- It should be (and will be) shut down by regulatory authorities
- If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
- look(s) like a scam
- slimy bastards, but brilliant nonetheless
- STAY FAR AWAY!!
We at Gadgetell believe we are most effective when we can give both the readers and the companies a place to resolve issues and get all the facts on the table. Chris, to his and Swoopo’s credit, has been actively answering comments here and other places on the web. He was happy to discuss the issues I brought up. Let’s get right to it, shall we?
Surely, all can’t be mad at Swoopo?
JG: Why are some people are getting really pissed off at Swoopo?
Chris Bauman: It is unfortunate that an auction has just one winner. It is the nature of the beast. People that don’t win are going to be mad, even regretful sometimes, but those very same feelings happen on other auctions like eBay too.
JG: Can you give us some perspective on Swoopo?
Chris Bauman: Sure, back in 2005 telebid.de a German site started and quickly became popular. The site morphed little by little. In early ’07, they opened London co.uk; earlier this year Spain .es, live in USA .com just a couple of weeks ago and now we are going live in Austria.
JG: I have not found Europeans getting as upset over the site as they have for the US version. Are we Americans just more likely to speak up or is there a culture difference that is manifesting in the feelings we seem to have about Swoopo?
Chris Bauman: It may be a different mentality in Europe vs. US users. Back when Telebid started, blogging, comments and the internet wasn’t as big as it was today. We’ve got a lot more access (and willingness) to express our feelings today than we did even three years ago. The fact is people don’t like to be losers. Our CEO, Gunnar, was surprised on how many mixed reviews we’ve gotten.
JG: How are you trying to educate users on the differences in your model vs. a traditional auction?
Chris Bauman: Our about page is very simple explanation about how it works and has sufficed, but can be clearer. We are looking to expand it. We are also looking to do videos as well. The thing that really sets us apart is allowing users to purchase bids and then bid with those. It is definitely not a try before you buy.
Battling globally vs locally
JG: One comment on our site was about a laptop. This laptop was offered for bidding in various countries and you’d deliver a similar version wherever the winner was. Are the bidders battling just those in their country or all the Swoopo sites globally?
Chris Bauman: The auctions can be set up to be just within countries or global. There are some products we can only sell in certain countries so those are limited, as much as we can anyway. I mean, anyone can log onto any of our localized sites from a different country. For example: we have watches that we can sell in the US only. Germany auctioned off a Fiat 500 car in Germany only.
JG: How are bidders made aware of who they are bidding against?
Chris Bauman: We do not make them aware. We don’t say which bidders you are bidding against simply because we are not assured of the outcome. Our business model says the more bidders we can open an auction to, the more likely we’ll cover costs, which doesn’t happen 70% of the time.
Money for nothing? Chicks for free?
JG: Ok, Chris, for me a big red flag are your auctions for $1,000 in cash. You call it a 100% off auction where you bid, but don’t have to pay the final bid price (Swoopo hopes to have more than 1,000 people bid and thus, cover their costs). To me. it just feels icky. . Feels gimmicky.
Chris Bauman: We see this like a promotion. The same principles apply and we have a cost just like say an auction for an iPod. Only we wire transfer the money instead of ship it. We hadn’t got this kind of comment before. Would it make a difference if it were a $1000 gift card to say, Best Buy?
JG: Yes, it would, but I can’t explain why. Giving away cash just seems snarky.
Chris Bauman: That might be something we change. We don’t want to give the perception of our site is up to no good. We want people to win and I want to help people win as much as I can.
JG: Are you concerned about being viewed as gambling?
Chris Bauman: Gunnar, our CEO has been keeping an eye on the auctions for years and has not seen people bid outrageous and not won. Typically been when you come to the site, you came there for a product. We’ve not seen a lot of people go nuts. We try to encourage safe bidding in newsletters, and realize we are introducing a new auction style. There is a skill to Swoopo.
How to win
JG: What does it take to win on Swoopo?
Chris Bauman: Winning takes two things: money and patience. Every person has a strategy. I interviewed three new winners in US, all three said, “be patient.” My advice would be start small. Go to the site and start with a DVD. People will learn a skill and bid accordingly.
JG: Any last thoughts?
Chris Bauman: We are legit, we want people to win and they want to help them. We want to be as transparent as possible.
JG: Thanks for your time and efforts responding to our readers.
Chris Bauman: No problem.
Chris was very open on the phone and seemed genuine in his desire to help users. Some issues about global bidding seem a bit odd and giving away cash just seems, well, odd. Maybe that is just me. In all, I detected no “snake oil salesmanship” and enjoyed speaking with Chris. Swoopo definitely isn’t something I’d go into blindfolded, but, in hoping to catch one of those items on the cheap, it seems reasonable one could do so. At the end of the day, will I be bidding on Swoopo? No. I don’t believe I am lucky or bright enough to stay ahead of the curve and not get taken in by the heat of the moment. How about you?