Deal Dash’s Hidden Costs

January 9th, 2017

For an auction website that claims to be “fair and honest,” Deal Dash, which auctions off appliances, electronics, jewelry, gift cards, and other items, distorts several key features of its bidding process in this long-running ad, which TINA.org first investigated in 2013. The fact that the ad quotes prices for items that exclude the inescapable cost of the bids themselves — which in the case of the mixer adds about $450 to the “less than $25” that Roseanna, one of the stars of the commercial, is said to have spent to win the auction — is just the beginning of what consumers need to know about the true costs of the items.

TINA.org took a deep dive into the site’s 7,500-word terms and conditions. Here’s what else the ad leaves out:

  • This is not your traditional auction house. Bids must be purchased on Deal Dash in advance of auctions and the bids can only be bought in bulk quantities, such as 100 and 200, which are referred to as “Bid Packs.” And while a promotion on the site is currently offering up bids for 14 cents each, only bids purchased at the full price of 60 cents each are eligible for a cash refund (more on this to come).
  • Bidding itself is a slog. To land the mixer Roseanna bid no less than 761 times, according to the ad’s fine print. That’s because every bid only increases the price by one cent. (Roseanna would have actually been better off using the site’s “Buy It Now” option and paying the designated retail price of $349 rather than spending the nearly $500 to win the auction, provided that she bought the bids at 60 cents each.)
  • Had Roseanna clicked Buy It Now, not only would she have ended up saving more than $100, she would have also gotten her bids back. The Buy It Now option is the only way to recoup bids to use in another auction. Otherwise, bids are lost at the conclusion of an auction whether you win or not.
  • While you can reuse bids for future auctions if you salvage them with the Buy It Now option, only unused bids from the very first Bid Pack you purchased at full price (60 cents) are eligible for a cash refund. All other bids are not refundable.
  • The site giveth and the site taketh away bids as it pleases. Grounds for suspension, which results in the total forfeiture of bids, vary and include the resale of items won without the site’s permission. On the other hand, the terms state that the site “from time to time” doles out “free bids” to new users at its discretion.
  • In the end, Deal Dash doesn’t even guarantee that the item won will be awarded to the highest bidder. If the product isn’t available, the terms state that “a gift card may be the most suitable substitute solution,” or the site may reward you with bids, though not necessarily the same amount that you spent to win the auction.

Consumers have filed more than 150 complaints against Deal Dash with the BBB, many related to the issue that its advertised prices in commercials fail to take into account the cost of buying bids. Several consumers also complained that they were charged for Bid Packs without their permission and experienced delivery problems. One consumer accused the site of tricking customers into “spending more than items are worth.”

To this last point, a previous version of the terms conceded that bidders “are on average unlikely to save money using the Site.” That section now states that Deal Dash may send “special promotions, access to special auctions and/or free bids” to those who have lost auctions. So the only thing you may get for the money you spend is a consolation prize.

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