Deal Dash Tips & Tricks

Can you really get $50 Gift Cards to Sephora, Walmart and Amazon for $2?

That’s the claim that penny auction site Deal Dash makes. One morning, while doing internet stuff before coffee (never a good idea), I clicked through a friend’s link on facebook and followed the Yellow Brick Road to Deal Dash. Minutes later, I’d dropped $36 on my “first bid pack.” Since Deal Dash offers a money back guarantee, I figured there was no risk involved. I didn’t count on the site being so addictive.

What I discovered:

  • Deal Dash does actually refund your first bid pack if you don’t win anything, so in sheerly monetary terms, it is indeed risk-free if you only buy one bid pack. Only your first bid pack is fully refundable. After that, buyer beware.
  • For most of us, time is money. You can fritter away quite a bit of it before your first bid pack runs out. I spent way more time on Deal Dash than I anticipated. For some reason, it’s addictive to watch that auction clock run down, to look for new auctions, to check the winners’ list to see how much items have gone for. Before you know it, it’s time for dinner, and you’re wondering where the time went.
  • It’s easy to win low-priced items, very difficult to win high-end items like fancy cameras, Breville coffee makers, and anything by Apple.
  • As long as you don’t get greedy, you can get back in product a good bit more than you put in with your first bid pack purchase.
  • If you get greedy or obsessive, you’re going to lose money. This is what happened to me with my second bid pack. For some reason, I got it in my head that I had a chance at taking home the $1500 camera, so I entered all of my bids, 250 to be precise, in Bid Buddy for the camera. The bids ran out, and some other guy who got into the auction in the final hour won the camera for $249. I considered myself relatively lucky, as I’d spent 250 bids, but I’d watched other bidders spend well over a thousand. This was a good lesson learned for me: don’t try to win items that retail for over $500. The auction is too unpredictable, and your chances of winning are so low that you’re likely to use up all your bids without winning anything.
  • Everything ships free, so there’s no weird hidden shipping and handling charges.
What I did win:
  • An official major league baseball in a display case for (2 cents)
  •  a bright pink Suisse Army knife (5 cents)
  •  a good iPad case (67 cents)
  • a Cuisinart egg-cooker ($1.26)
  • a Cuisnart programmable meat thermometer (1 cent)
  • a Samsung 4GB memory stick (1 cent)
  • Celestron Up Close 8×21 Roof Binoculars (1 cent)
  • Electronic Sudoku Numbers Game (1 cent)
Now, you’ll notice that none of these items is terribly exciting. But a few of them are useful, a few of them are good stocking stuffers, and the iPad case is something I was going to have to buy anyway.

Deal Dash Tips & Tricks for newbies:

  • When you join, just buy one bid pack (this way, you’re guaranteed your money back if you don’t win.)
  • Begin by choosing two or three items you’d like to bid on.
  • Place one bid on each item early in the auction, before the price hits $5.00. Why? Because DealDash has a good “no jumpers” rule, which means someone isn’t allowed to jump into an auction after the price has hit $5. At that point, the auction is closed to new bidders, which narrows the playing field a bit.
  • Don’t expect to get an iPad for $3.50. These are the wins that DealDash advertises to entice you, but really hot items rarely go for pennies. So when bidding on a high-priced item, let the auction run for a while after placing your next bids. If the auction happens to end early and someone walks away with a 27-cent Keurig, no worries, you’ve only spent one bid.
  • For high-priced items: after the auction has hit $5, start watching. Once the bidding war is down to two people, jump in. I’ve watched a lot of auctions, and this is how most are won. Two people are left in the game, both are using Bid Buddy, and one person’s bids run out. The one whose bids don’t run out wins. So if you see two people battling over something, and the item has reached a higher price point (look at the box on the left hand screen that tells you how much that item has gone for over the last few days), it’s a good time to enter your Bid Buddy bids.
  • For low-priced ore less desirable items: Sorry, but these are the ones you’re more likely to win. Now, aside from the iPad case, not one of those items is something I would have actively searched for if I hadn’t seen them on Deal Dash. But I’m actually excited about the egg cooker, because I love poached eggs, and I’m never able to get them right, and I’ll use that thing every day. Happy accident. The Suisse Army knife is going to be great stocking stuffer, and the baseball will go under the tree for my kid.
  • How I won on Deal Dash: in each case, I bid right when the auction started. The baseball and army knife auctions must not have been appealing enough for people to enter with Bid Buddies right at the start, so I was able to win both with just a couple of bids. When I bid on the iPad case, I’d decided that I wanted to just get out of Deal Dash before I wasted any money. I had 60 remaining bids, and I set them all to go with the start of the auction. I imagine that when people started bidding on the iPad case and saw that someone was so determined to get it, they probably decided to wait and get into the auction later. Considering that I used almost 50 bids on the case, it wouldn’t have been too much more expensive to buy it from a store, but at this point I did what I’d set out to do: recovered my initial investment and cashed out.
  • How I won items for one cent: every item I won for a penny was marked “Beginners only.” If an item has a little blue sidebar that says “beginners only,” it’s very easy to win. That’s because the only people who are allowed to bid on it are newbies who haven’t won more than 3 items. It’s also because these are very un-glamorous items. A meat thermometer? It just so happened that my husband broke his mom’s meat thermometer by keeping it in the oven with the turkey on Thanksgiving, so we owed her one. The one I got for a penny is actually better than the one we broke, and since we would have had to buy one anyway, I consider this a score.
  • If you’re looking to recoup the money you spent on your bid pack, try bidding on low-denomination gift cards. Skip the $200 Target card, which usually goes for over $50 (if you spend a ton of bids trying to win a $200 gift card, you’re not really doing yourself any favors). Go for small-denomination gift cards to stores you actually use: the $10 Amazon card, the $15 WalMart Card. Why? If you win the card, then that’s like getting cash back on the money you paid for your bids. And if you don’t win it, you can buy it at face value, and all of the bids you spent on it will be credited back to you. That’s why I consider low-denomination gift cards to be risk-free auction items.
  • When bidding on gift cards, don’t bid on the gift card + bids auctions. These tend to go for more, and also, you won’t come out even if you end up purchasing the gift card. Let’s say it’s a $15 gift card plus 25 bids. If you don’t win the auction, but you want the gift card, you’ll pay the face value of the card plus the highest value of the 25 bids.
Bottom line: Deal Dash is a fun way to play at gambling for a day with a very low buy-in, without having to leave your house. I love that you can get your money back, no questions asked. If you’re not a gambler and don’t ever plan on becoming one, it’s a fun way to spend a rainy day, win a few odd things you didn’t know you wanted (one of the most popular items on the site is a set of 4 thermal blankets, which always goes for just a few cents), and see what people mean when they talk about the dopamine rush.
Warnings: If you have an addictive personality, I’d suggest you steer clear, because it’s a slippery slope, and before you know it, you could be dropping two hundred bucks on bid packs because you think if you have just a few more bids, you’ll win that MacBook Air. If you really want the MacBook air, buy a refurbished one from the Apple store. DealDash is for egg cookers, baseballs, thermal blankets, Suisse army knives, toy helicopters, Amazon gift cards, and the occasional sunlamp.

Still want to play? If so, click here to get 60 Deal Dash Bids for $36. Once you’re in, if you decide you like the site, you can usually get big discounts on bid packs. If you spend your 60 bids and realize it’s a big time suck and you want to run far and fast, just email Deal Dash and tell them you want to claim your money-back guarantee. At this point, they’ll refund the money you spent on your first bid pack, and you can keep anything you’ve won. They’ll also probably give you a few dozen bids to lure you back in.

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Sans Serif is the blog of author Michelle Richmond.

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