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A Dozen Dollars Win a Week in Paradise

On a reverse-auction site called Limbo, where the lowest bid wins, a local woman won a week for two on a private Caribbean island.

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NASHVILLE, N.C. — Chances are pretty good that you’ve heard of eBay. Well, now there's Limbo, a Web bidding system that works kind of like eBay in reverse.

In Limbo, the lowest bid wins—and one big winner lives in a double-wide mobile home down a lonely dirt road in Nash County. She is paying next to nothing—$11.94—for the trip of a lifetime.

Sheryl Umstead and her husband will be vacationing for a week in October on millionaire Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean. She won everything, including airfare.

“They told me it was normally valued at $26,000 a couple per week,” Umstead said. She bid by phone for the trip—20 times a day for 30 days.

With Limbo, players use their phones or computers to bid on items. The winner is the lowest bid that no one else has made, meaning people have to pick an amount that turns out to be unique. Somebody won a Hummer for $57. Umstead earlier won an iPod.

“That bid was 54 cents that I won an iPod at,” she noted.

Limbo uses a toll-free number, so her 600 bids didn’t cost her anything for the calls, either.

Limbo reports that since it launched a year ago, winners have paid less than $1,000 for prizes worth more than $400,000.

The companies that offer the prizes say the auction is a great marketing tool. They say half the players who bid on an item and lose are likely to go ahead and buy the item anyway.


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