Lightbank-Backed oBaz Launches Crowdsourced Haggling Service

I’ve always heard that stores and retailers are willing to barter with customers on pricing, including many chains, but I never have the courage to actually haggle with salespeople. To be honest, I love the discounts but am really bad at haggling for a price. Now, with the launch of oBaz, I can simple get the new service to do all my haggling for me. Chicago-based oBaz is announcing that Lightbank, the venture firm founded by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, has backed the startup. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

oBaz, short for online bazaar, lets anyone create their own group of like-minded buyers looking to get a good price on the same product or service. You simply post the item you’d like on oBaz, wait for people to join the group (a minimum of 25 people have to be in a group to haggle for a product), and then let oBaz work its magic. oBaz hagglers will reach out to merchants or manufacturers and leverage the group and their own negotiating expertise to get the best possible deal.

The larger the group, the more leverage the oBaz haggling team has. Users can build up the group by sharing it with Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. Each group has seven days to build to a critical mass Once a deal is haggled the group is closed to the public and the group members are emailed access to the offer. However, group members are under no obligation to buy if they’re not happy with the deal. Deals are redeemed directly on merchants’ websites or in-store using promotional codes or printed coupons.

Of course, you may be wondering if this actually works. But in the company’s soft launch, members were able to get pretty decent deals on products. Recent group deals on oBaz include: $300 off a Nikon camera kit that normally retails for $900; $130 Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses for just $80, $120 off a BOB Stroller; 50 percent off an online GMAT course; a free $45 coin purse when buying a Longchamp Tote; and a lacrosse stick that retails for $105 sold through oBaz for $30.

Founders Brian Ficho and Greg Caplan are former employees of Lightbank. Ficho tells us that the beauty of oBaz is that it is location-agnostic, so people don’t need to be based in a certain area to get a deal.

Personally, I would use oBaz. As I mentioned above, I don’t have great haggling skills, but I do enjoy a discount (who doesn’t). Outsourcing this action seems to be the best option. If oBaz can get a critical mass of people to start interacting with the site, it could really take off. personally, I have my eye on a pair of Bose noise canceling headphones. Anyone else?