We tried it: Shopping on BidSwan

From the July 12, 2012 edition

BidSwan, a new pick-your-price website that sells locally made items or items from local stores, is named after the black swan theory, the idea that seemingly rare occurrences aren’t as unlikely as one might think (e.g. seeing a black swan).

So what kind of theory-inspired circumstance does BidSwan offer? A really good deal.

“On average, consumers will save anywhere between 20 to 50 percent,” said BidSwan creator Joshua Kibbey.

The idea for BidSwan came to Kibbey after he read a magazine article about concert venues trying to find a way to sell surplus event tickets.

“Everyone has things that they’d be willing to sell if somebody made them a good offer,” Kibbey said, “and local merchants have more of a need for a platform like BidSwan.”

On the website, shoppers can pick an item, see the retail price and then make an offer for less. Within 24 hours, they will receive an email with one of three responses — green means the offer has been accepted and payment is being processed, yellow means maybe and BidSwan staffers are double checking your potential price with the seller, and red means the offer has been refused.

Around 15 to 20 different local sellers currently have items up on BidSwan, a number Kibbey hopes to grow in the coming months. Items up for bid run the gamut of goodies — from tours of meadery Brother’s Drake to a $50 Phia Salon gift card, Dolly Parton night-lights to Naked & Famous brand jeans from Milk Bar.

“For consumers,” Kibbey said, “we’d love for BidSwan to be a fun, entertaining thing to do, to get good at bargaining, to discover new things and shop local.”