The travel auction; for some it’s an important tool to use when searching for a vacation bargain. For others it’s a modern inconvenience that has no relevance. And, for another type of individual altogether, it’s a chance to take a trip on a rollercoaster of enjoyment and exhilaration, a ride that offers some unparalleled prizes. Unwittingly it was this third category I found myself in after visiting a penny bid travel auction.
Like many others I got caught up in the eBay boom a few years back. I would spend hours trawling the listings excitedly bidding on those items that jumped out of the online pages. Also like many others, before too long I grew tired of the whole process. It wasn’t until I visited a travel auction that my interest in online auctions would return.
Deciding on a vacation destination is simple. Searching for flights and hotels is less so. It was whilst looking for these latter items that I came across a travel auction site for the first time. At the time it seemed strange but as I thought about it more, a travel auction made as much sense as listing a book, a vehicle or granny’s old trinkets.
The first few travel auction sites I checked out were fairly standard and ultimately not much different to a travel booking engine site. It wasn’t until I came across the idea of a penny auction that any such site piqued an interest. It appeared that it was possible to book a cruise (amongst other things) at a ludicrously low price.
I’ll admit alarm bells were ringing. Something wasn’t right here. How could it be so cheap? I decided to do a little research. It turns out the penny travel auction can be a legitimate venture. It can also be much less reputable, so there were warnings to heed.
For the uninitiated, a penny auction requires a person to pay to bid on an item. This is a very different concept to that of sites like eBay. In order to bid on a travel auction it is necessary to pay a non-refundable amount each time you place a bid. I say non-refundable but this isn’t always the case (there are some sites that offer something back for those bids). Essentially then, anybody bidding is paying for the chance to win the end product.
This initially seemed a little strange, almost like gambling. In fact penny auctions can be extremely addictive, just as with gambling itself. Having spoken with friends on the matter I decided to give the travel auction a go adhering to two very important rules:
1. I would have a set amount I would be willing to pay (and lose if necessary) for an item.
2. If at any point the travel auction website seemed a little suspect, or if I heard anything, I would be out of there in a shot.
In the heat of (auction) battle
I placed my first bid on some luggage. Not very exciting but I thought it better to try something small before thoroughly submerging myself amongst the experienced travel auction sharks. My first bid cost me 0.60USD. It raised the price of the luggage to a staggering 0.13USD. Not too bad for something with a retail price of close to 50 bucks. However, within seconds that priced raised to 0.14USD with a bid from another user.
I wasn’t about to get into some kind of travel auction shootout so I left it for a day or so. I returned towards the end of the auction and threw in another bid. The price had risen to just over 2USD. I was outbid again. Another quick bid from me was rewarded with a counterbid from the ‘travel auction assassin’. This time I waited and bid seconds before the end. Guess what? I was outbid and ultimately lost the luggage.
Okay, so I didn’t win this particular travel auction but the excitement was there. Almost purchasing a pair of suitcases for two dollars? That’s an exciting prospect. Okay, it wasn’t so much the luggage as the idea that there is a genuine chance of winning a cruise or vacation. When played carefully, a genuine penny bid travel auction offers an opportunity to be rewarded with silly prices.