Atlanta Bargain Hunter
Locals score huge wins on new site created by Emory grads
7:00 am April 20, 2010, by Rana Cash
At age 10, Jacky Lai made his first wallet. It wasn’t enough to just hang out in his parents’ manufacturing company. He wanted to make a big impression and today, he’s no different. Lai, a 23-year-old Emory graduate, aspires to be a “serial entrepreneur,” and now he is on to his third company.
This could be the big break Lai has always dreamed of. He and fellow Emory alum and business partner Terence Poon, 25, are founders of Wavee.com, an online penny auction site where gamesmanship and bargain hunting meet. In this environment, consumers talk more about winning a product than buying it. When you sign-off having scored an iPad for $55, as Milo Warner of Duluth did, it’s easy to see how one would feel more like a chest-bumping champion than a savvy shopper.
“That has been my best find,” said Warner. “It was pure luck.”
Here’s how it works: shoppers bid on items using credits they’ve purchased for 60 cents each. Every time someone bids, the cost of the item goes up by a penny. The scenario plays out for hours at times, until the last bidder is left standing before the clock goes to zero. The winner scores a product discounted as much as 70 to 90 percent below retail. With each bid, the tally of how many credits — and how much money — you’ve spent is displayed. If you lose, you can use the remaining credits to purchase the same item at retail price or put it toward another product. The inventory includes electronics, gift cards, kitchen ware and more.
“If you want to go shopping and you go to Amazon or Best Buy, it’s traditional and easy,” said Poon, “but it’s not exciting.”
The biggest player in the market is Swoopo.com. Wavee started in November and already has nearly 10,000 registered users. Its popular with seasoned auction shoppers like Jeremy Brown, a senior at Kennesaw State, and converts like Catherine Gavrilidis of Sandy Springs.
“I’d heard about penny auction sites before, but they seemed too good to be true,” said Gavrilidis, a 28-year-0ld Georgia State graduate student. “I stayed away from it from a while.”
On her first try, she paid $8 for a video camera valued at $200. In all, she said she’s spent about $500.
“You have a chance to get something super, super cheap, or you’re getting a good deal,” Lai said.
Brown bought an $1,100 iMac for $500 last week.
“It’s definitely a risk since you may end up spending a slightly higher price if you lose,” Brown said. “And it’s time-consuming. But I love the thrill of winning something at a really good deal, and I do most of my shopping online anyway.”