Friday, September 25, 2009

More on The Auction Squirrel

I don't know what happened but The Auction Squirrel doesn't have any live auctions right now. They ended all auctions last night and then earlier today posted a message on the site that said they were switching to a new server. After a period of down time they are now back, but still with no live auctions. I spoke with two people yesterday who said they won items on The Squirrel, and for extremely low prices, which makes me think they have no shill bidders. However, I don't know what the lack of auctions means.

The Squirrel, which opened for business on Wednesday, has sold 92 items so far with a total cost to the site of approximately $3,400 (assuming they buy at retail and bidpacks cost nothing) and collected about $39 in auction fees. Since all Auction Squirrel auctions are of the 1 cent variety this means about 3900 bids were cast. Each Auction Squirrel bid costs $0.80 (slightly less if larger bidpacks are purchased), meaning The Squirrel collected at most about $3120 (rounding). Total bids + auction fees = $3159. However, I believe The Squirrel made much less than this because it gave away three free bids to every new user and because about 1/3 of all auctions were for bidpacks, meaning many placed bids were actually won not purchased. Based on these calculations I expect the site made very little money from bidpack sales, maybe $1000.

If my assumptions are correct, The Squirrel took a hit of over $2,000 from their first two days in operation. Given that they paid $800 for the SwoopoClone software, maybe $80 for a month of hosting + domain registration and $20 for the Squirrel graphic, that would bring total costs to date to $4,300 on revenues of $1,039 ($39 from auctions and $1000 from bids).

As I have previously stated, there are two major problems with penny auctions. 1) They can easily cheat you by using shill bidders and 2) They could go out of business and never send you any of your winnings or refund your money. The Auction Squirrel falls into the second category. If The Squirrel folded up shop today and never came back there is nothing anybody could do about it. No one is going to sue the owner of the Squirrel for a $300 XBox 360 (the most expensive item sold), which means the owner of The Squirrel could simply walk away today. Of course they would suffer a loss of $800 spent on software and maybe $100 on other miscellaneous things.

The real question is whether the owner of the Squirrel thinks they can turn their losses these first two days into a sustainable profit going forward. After all, the sunk cost fallacy applies to auction players as well as site owners.

1 comment:

  1. I think they turned to shills. My wide did one auction with her pack of 30 and I did another with a total of 31 bids. Both were for $25 or less items. We both got outbid by one bidder (who obviously also overbid to win) and the auctions all around those two went for next to bidders. the one just before mine, for example, went for ONE bid. Sour grapes I'm sure...just suspicious enough to keep me from buying another pack though I can tell you that much.