Yes, indeed – I made a dumb money decision and broke a lot of my own financial rules in the process.
First, let me tell you the story.
How I Got Scammed: The Saga of Ignorance and Impulse
Right now I’m using my MacBook Pro with an external monitor hooked up. I’ve been doing some video recording and editing as part of a new workshop I’ll be announcing in the near future. Anyway, I’ve found the set up is putting a lot strain on my computer, and I’ve noticed it moving slowly. As a result, I started to look into the possibility of buying an iMac computer.
Since I’ve been following a lot of stuff on Craigslist, I decided to see what they had for computers.
I saw an ad advertising an iMac new in the box for around $700.
The price seemed low for a new in box computer, so I asked how the buyer received the computer. My thought was that someone had given them the computer and they were selling it to make some quick cash. However, I would never buy a new in box item that far below retail unless I knew the story behind it.
After a day, I got an email response that said the computer was already sold, but that they got the computer from a site called zbiddy.com – a penny auction.
I visited the site, but didn’t give it much attention.
A week later, I saw someone advertising a new iMac selling for $1,000. The computer retails for about $1,700. I sent off an email and thought to myself that there must be a way to get an iMacs for less than retail if people are selling them on Craigslist. So, I decided to pull out that old email and give zbiddy.com a try.
The zbiddy business plan made sense to me. (I logically understood how they could sell items for cheap and make money.) I figured that I would be smarter than the average person and could find a way to get some electronics for cheap.
So, I paid $99 to buy just over 300 bids.
As I started to look into the site more, I realized that it was going to be harder to win an item than I thought. I decided to Google strategies for winning on zbiddy.com, and I saw several articles mentioning the words ‘zbiddy’ and ‘scam’ in the title.
The very first article I clicked on said that it was not a scam and there were ways to win, but the biggest complaint the author had about the site was the shady marketing tactics.
The illustration he used stopped me cold. He talked about how they will list an item on Craigslist, and when people contact them, they tell them it is already sold, but they share their secret about how they bought the original from zbiddy.com.
Disclosure: I’m not making a public claim that zbiddy.com engaged in any unethical marketing in my cases as I have no proof that my email originated from the company.
Tada! I just bought into something that I assume was under false pretenses. I got scammed.
7 Lessons Learned From My Dumb Decision
- Trust your instincts and ignore your greed blinders. I remember specifically passing over the email about the site the first time I got it. The reason? When I visited the site, I saw that they had an affiliate program where people get extra bids for referring friends. I wondered why the people who sent me a link didn’t go ahead and include a link where they would get a bonus. It seems strange to me.
- Trusting testimonies from strangers is a grey area. Looking back, I found it strange that I spend $99 based on something a complete stranger said to me. However, we live in an age where we rely on the testimony of strangers. Before buying any major item, I read reviews on Amazon.com. We like to know how real people feel about products with all marketing aside. The problem is that it’s hard to know if the person leaving the feedback is legit.
- Telling your spouse you did something dumb with money is hard. I waited a few hours after I realized I’d done this under false information. She was understandably a little perturbed that her genius husband (in his eyes) made such a poor call. You did what? and Why? are hard questions to answer when you know you already did something dumb.
- Talk to your spouse before spending a lot of money. Several years ago, my wife and I agreed that we wouldn’t spend over $100 without consulting each other. Feeling like a big stallion of a man, I was confident making a $99 decision (which, to be clear, is less than $100) on my own. Looking back, it was just plain dumb. I should have asked my wife what she thought. Honestly, you know why I didn’t? I knew she would say no. She has a good knack for knowing when something doesn’t add up. I thought that I’d be proven right when I brought home the bacon in the form of a new iMac or iPhone. So far the only fruit from this little venture has been a handful of bitter fruit – no Apples (yet?).
- A supportive spouse is crucial in finances and all aspects of life. I was surprised at how seriously my wife reacted to the situation (which was well within her right to do so). We talked about it in the car for 30 minutes or so. However, since that conversation, my wife has not brought it up again. I’m thankful that this is not something that we’ve continually had to talk about. I know I made a dumb choice, and she knows I know it.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Enough said.
- Margin matters. To be frank, I can afford to make a $99 mistake. It’s not the end of the world. The reason is because we have financial margin. There’s money left at the end of the month. There is money in a savings account. If we were struggling to make ends meet, this dumb mistake would have added a ton of stress to my relationship with my wife, and I would have felt much worse than I already do. I’m thankful that we have room to make dumb choices.
Have you ever been scammed? How did it turn out?
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