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 July 1, 1999

Surfers snare deals without leaving home at Bid4Vacations.com

BOULDER — Jayson Ayers never left home when he booked his honeymoon to Aruba. Instead the 26-year-old Boulder resident clicked his mouse onto Bid4Vacations.com. Through a link, he inspected pictures of the resort and decided to bid on the four-star hotel package.

Bid4Vacations.com is an online vacation auction site, based in Boulder.

“A person can sit there at two in the morning in his or her pajamas and see how their bid is standing,” says Kathleen Jarman, the company’s marketing manager.

Ayers says that the bidding started at $600, and he placed a maximum bid of $800. The computer automatically raised his bid $25 after another bidder across the globe bid higher. By the end of the week, Ayers was declared the winner.

Other travel agents told Ayers the $650 he paid is less than half of the retail cost of the seven-day hotel package, complete with a king-size bed, full kitchen, beach views, private hot tub and continental breakfast. Up to four people can occupy the room, which also has a fold-out couch. According to Bid4Vacations.com, the package retails at $2,000.

Pamela Bergeson, founder and president of Bid4Vacations.com, says she got the idea for the company in May 1998, when she bid for a computer at an online auction site.

“I got so caught up in trying to win,” Bergeson, 38, says, that after winning “I found myself jumping up and down.”

Bergeson thought vacations would be perfect for an online auction because she “wouldn’t have anything to ship.” She also thought others would get addicted to the adrenaline of winning.

She was right. Her Web site receives more than 70,000 hits each day and approximately 160 vacation packages have been sold to the highest bidder. Not bad for a company that held its first auction on April 1 this year.

Rick Patch, managing partner of Sequel Venture Partners, said his company is funding Bid4Vacations for just under $2 million.

“All sorts of new business opportunities are coming about because of the

Internet,” Patch said. Internet auctions are “exciting” because sellers “have the ability to offer

products that otherwise may not be sold,” Patch said.

Bergeson plans to hire about 38 employees and to advertise more aggressively. Currently, the three-employee company contracts most of its work.

Today, 2,500 registered members worldwide receive e-mails listing the weekly vacation deals. There is no cost to register and no obligation to bid. “For the consumer, it’s a great deal,” says Bergeson. She says bids always start at least 50 percent below retail and that cruises run 65 to 75 percent off the retail price.

Bergeson charges a percentage of the highest bid price to the resort. She says hotels and cruise ships need to fill empty rooms, often at the last minute. The company has a strategic partnership with THOR, a travel consolidator based in Louisville. THOR helps Bid4Vacations.com get properties for auctioning. In exchange, winning bidders receive THOR’s 1-800 number and have the option of THOR helping them secure other travel needs.

According to Bergeson, Bid4Vacations.com is the only Web site that auctions just vacations. There is one small Florida-based company that auctions only Caribbean packages and a few sites that sell airfare.

Originally from California, Bergeson came to Colorado in 1994 to escape the Los Angeles riots and earthquakes. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara in business economics. She says her MBA came from the “school of hard knocks” with her California-based beach and surfware catalog company, H2O Zone, which she started at age 26. She sold the business in 1991. Since leaving her own business, she has been involved in traditional direct marketing and database marketing.

While working full-time and pregnant with her second child, Bergeson read vacation travel books. After work, she created a vacation database and included marketing directors for the best locations for golf, cruises and spa vacations.

Bergeson says the business grew mostly by word of mouth and some Internet advertising. She says “business is great,” but adds the site needs more traffic to make the auctioning competitive. Right now, most packages sell for about 50 percent off.

For now, Bergeson vicariously enjoys the trips through her customers, who send e-mail telling her what a great time they had. “I hope one day to visit every one of our locations,” Bergeson says.

The Web address for Bid4Vacations.com is www.bid4vacations.com The company’s phone number is (303) 666-8500.

BOULDER — Jayson Ayers never left home when he booked his honeymoon to Aruba. Instead the 26-year-old Boulder resident clicked his mouse onto Bid4Vacations.com. Through a link, he inspected pictures of the resort and decided to bid on the four-star hotel package.

Bid4Vacations.com is an online vacation auction site, based in Boulder.

“A person can sit there at two in the morning in his or her pajamas and see how their bid is standing,” says Kathleen Jarman, the company’s marketing manager.

Ayers says that the bidding…

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