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A mailed surprise for $10
A mailed surprise for $10
Sami Bayrakci

Huntington, N.Y.

Back in the summer of 2007, Sami Bayrakci was surfing the Internet looking for a birthday present for a friend. After an hour of browsing, he decided it would be much nicer if somebody would just make the decision for him. The idea for SomethingStore.com was born: a customer would pay a flat price for an unknown item.

"I shared my idea with my friends," says Bayrakci, now 34. "Most of them thought it wouldn't work out -- nobody would pay for something they don't know."

But Bayrakci wanted to give it a try. After all, it wouldn't cost him a whole lot to get started. He invested $3,000 for supplies, designed his own simple website, and started off selling small, lightweight items, in order to keep shipping costs down. Fashion accessories available at liquidation prices were Bayrakci's best bet.

But he also threw in some expensive goods, like a digital camera and an iPod shuffle. The average price of all the goods had to be under $5, but Bayrakci needed to keep his customers curious and coming back for the thrill of the hunt.

Bayrakci sold about 1,000 "somethings" in each of his first few months. In its first full year, 2008, SomethingStore was profitable -- but demand fell during the recession, and 2009 wasn't so lucky. By 2010, SomethingStore was back in the black.

The key is that people are suckers for a surprise. "Curiosity gets the best of them," Bayrakci says. He keeps some pricey items in the mix: iPod touches, a Wii system, and even a Dell laptop that retails for $600.

"There is an anticipation of getting a really good bargain for $10," he says. There's that, plus -- who doesn't like getting a surprise in the mail?

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LAST UPDATE: Feb 18 2011 | 11:53 AM ET
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