Well, I set myself a cigar budget for this month of $125, and I gotta say, in this instance at least, CBid got me (by far) the best bang for my buck. Here's my final tally:
-10 Camacho Triple Maduro (robusto)
-10 Nica Libre (Toro)
-5 Nub Dub 460
-5 Java Red (Robusto)
-5 Tabak Especial Cafe con Leche (Belicoso)
-1 Colibri V-Cutter
-1 Palio Cutter
Since this was my first time using CBid, even though I've been buying cigars elsewhere online for a while, and because noobs often find threads like these in their searches for info (I know I did!), I thought I'd throw out my initial observations/advice for anyone who might be looking. (Please feel free to add your own!)
Caveat: I'm not an expert on any of this--I just thought I'd offer my thoughts since they're fresh on my mind. Your mileage with any of this, of course, may vary.
Here's what I discovered:
1. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, it seems like the Freefall auctions are the best place to find deals overall, but the catch is that you need to watch them repeatedly to see how low they'll really go. The Camachos, for example, were regularly bottoming out around $35, but after watching several times, I noted that they'd occasionally drop below $32, so once I realized that $31.xx was the "real" low price, I jumped on it the next time I saw it. My advice, though, is to be ready, because the price usually doesn't stay on that low point for long before resetting!
2. The other way to find deals (for me, at least) was to click on "Ending Soon," but the trick there is that after the auctions come up, you need to sort again by "Ending Soon" using the drop-down menu. Then, you can see every auction in the actual order it closes. Most of the stuff that comes up is overpriced, but if you look carefully, you'll find odds and ends that seem to be coming in well below retail. That's how I got the Palio cutter (five bucks!) and the Nub Dubs.
3. CBid is NOT the place to go with a particular purchase in mind. In my (admittedly limited) experience, if you're looking for a particular stick/vitola, you're more likely to find a good price on one of the more conventional discount sites (Cigar Page, Cigar Monster) or on a regular site using a Puff code or other discount (the Honey app on Google Chrome is useful on Famous Smoke, for example). If, though, you just have some general ideas of what you might be looking for, CBid is great. For example, when it came time to spend my cigar cash for the month, I knew I wanted to add some new maduro sticks, restock my coffee-infused stash a bit, and maybe get a better cutter or two. Because of that, I was able to let the deals guide me, so to speak.
4. Bid low, and don't be afraid to lose. In my experience, for the conventional auctions, it was useful to set a maximum bid, too, but only a buck or two above my actual bid. In one case, that saved me from losing a fiver over fifty cents, but mostly, it's good to lose repeatedly rather than win for the sake of winning. I can't see any reason to ever pay even close to retail on Cbid, especially with the added shipping costs.
5. And about those shipping costs--it really was useful in my case to win several lots in the same week/shipping period. Yeah, the $6.50 shipping on that first lot was steep, but everything after shipped for $1.00 or less, so it spread the shipping out and saved a lot of money compared to ordering stuff from CBid over the course of the month.
6. I also think that setting a budget on CBid is critical, unless you're independently wealthy. Part of the appeal of an auction site is snagging good deals, but part of the fun is also the "gambling" aspect, and it would've been really easy for me to think, "Well, these are good deals, so maybe I should grab one more fiver." For me, at least, it was really important to "know when to say when." (Or mostly--that Palio cutter was a last-minute impulse buy, so I guess I did
exceed my budget by five bucks.)
I know that for many of you Alpha Puffers, this is all old news, but I figured it could help some of the current and future noobs. Again, feel free to chime in with your own pointers/advice, and anybody with any questions, feel free to PM me or post them here!