The problem …
It has happened to the best of us.
You’ve been watching the auction all week and you’re finally about to claim your prize: a rare bronze statue from the Qing Dynasty.
Or something so tempting.
Log in a few minutes before the auction closes and confirm that you are still the highest bidder – no one has challenged you in days. You are already picturing “your” statue prominently on your living room mantel, with your friends green with envy when you tell them about the great deals you landed on eBay. Refresh the page a few times to make sure it’s still number 1. He even raises his bid a bit just to make sure no one tries to outbid at the last minute.
50 seconds to go … 30 … 10 … the auction is over and the statue is yours !! Refresh the page one last time so you can see your eBay ID advertised as the winning bidder. And that’s when your heart falls at your feet. It is not your eBay ID at all, but a joker calling himself “SpeedyFingers123”.
How could this happen?
You were the winning bidder with only 10 seconds to go! Quick or not, it just doesn’t seem humanly possible.
Well, you are right. Nobody is that fast. SpeedyFingers123 (I made it up, so if it’s your real eBay ID, don’t sue me!) Won auction in last 4 seconds. It’s not humanly possible because “speedy” didn’t actually make the offer. The bid was made on your behalf, from a remote server, using something called Bidding Software.
You have been shot!
The act of bidding during the final seconds of an online auction is called “sniping” and is perfectly legal on eBay. Bidding wars and sniping are eBay sellers’ dream and buyer’s nightmare. Why, you’re asking yourself, aren’t these folks just using eBay’s trusty proxy bidding process? Why not discreetly enter the maximum they are willing to pay at the beginning of the auction and then let the cards fall where they can? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, it is not human nature. If all you have to do is outbid the next guy by fifty cents or even five dollars to win, right?
Second, it does not make economic or strategic sense to bid anytime before the last five minutes of an auction.
Think about it. eBay encourages bidders to use the proxy system and bid early. What this means is that an inexperienced bidder who wants an item will want to be the highest bidder right away and will keep increasing their bid to maintain that winning position. They will only stop when the offer exceeds their budget. Then the next guy arrives and the process continues. If this starts at the beginning of a seven- or ten-day auction and ends with a bidding war in the last 10 minutes, the final price of the item can spiral out of control. Many items sell for much more than fair market value because people get caught up in the “bidding rush”; all they want is to WIN, they are not even thinking about whether the price is realistic.
A better strategy would be for everyone to “watch” the auction to the end. Again, there are two good reasons. One, the price does not rise as just illustrated. Two, the auction has zero bids, so it attracts fewer bidders, less competition. It is a fact that once an auction has at least 1 bid, it becomes a magnet for additional bidders. Buyers who scan an auction page tend to jump to the ones with bids, thinking that there must be something that will attract other bidders. The more offers, the more interesting the article looks.
Wouldn’t it be great if a seller started a two-carat diamond ring at $ 0.99 and no one bid until the last five minutes, and everyone bid in five hundred increments? Someone could win the ring for a few dollars !! Of course, that never happens, but it would be the ideal situation for a buyer and would put eBay out of commission quickly. eBay encourages early bidding and smiles at snipers around the world. eBay makes its profit from listing fees and “ending value” fees. The more the item sells, the higher the “final value.” This makes eBay very happy. This is why you will never find tutorials anywhere on eBay telling you to wait until the end of an auction to bid.
The solution …
Okay, now that we understand the benefits of sniping, let’s get back to our friend “SpeedyFingers123”. Speedy probably started life like me. He learned everything he knew about eBay from eBay and never realized that there was a bidding software. I never thought a computer could make your sniping automatically, bid on your behalf in the last 2-8 seconds of an auction, and do it while you’re asleep. With sniping software, you tell the software program which auctions you are interested in and how much you are willing to pay. eBay never knows you’ve seen the auction until your friendly sniping service walks in and makes your bid with just a few seconds to spare. Neither is your competition. They never see you coming. The only way you can lose is if someone else uses the same program and sets their maximum bid higher than yours.
(Yes, my friend, you can still lose. There is no guarantee of winning an auction no matter what system you use, if someone else is willing to pay more. If you set your maximum bid at a million dollars for a piece of Elvis fluff from the navel and a walnut is willing to pay a million ten, you are still going to lose!)
Cured the “fever of the pujas”
Let’s face it, there is a silver lining to losing an auction. It’s the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t lose your mind and spent more than you could afford! Believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve done that and I regret it. With sniper programs, you can “set it and forget it” and walk away knowing that if you didn’t win, you couldn’t have paid for it anyway.
What do I hear you say? “But I could have had it if I had increased my offer by another fifty cents!” Hey, did you hear anything I just said? Do you want to go crazy? After all, they are just things. You can’t take it with you and there will always be more. The beauty of eBay is that there will probably be another one just like it, or at least something just as fabulous.
You have the control
There is another great advantage to using bidding software. Actually, two things.
First, sniper programs allow you to do something called “contingency bidding.” Suppose you are interested in several very similar items and you want to win at least one of them, but not all of them. As long as they don’t all finish at the same time, you can create a contingency plan that instructs the bidding software to cancel your bids on the other items as soon as one of them wins.
Second, you can change your mind on an item you are bidding on at any time (except for approximately the last 15 minutes).
On eBay, it’s a big “no-no” to back out of an offer. You can only do this in the most dire circumstances. If you do this too many times, you will be politely asked to leave. Permanently. But, because eBay does not register your bid until the Sniping program enters it for you, (at the end of the auction) you can cancel your “snipe” without penalty. You are canceling what you have programmed into the sniper software, not an actual offer on eBay.
It’s not nice? No more “looking at” an auction you’re unsure about and then forgetting to bid on it. You will no longer have to take care of your computer so that it can be there during the final moments of the auction. You no longer have to realize that you have misread the description and are bidding on an item that you do not want. Or find something you like better after you’ve already committed to another item and have to pass it on. (Or worse, overspending on both!) And finally, you have the satisfaction of knowing that earning doesn’t depend on the speed of your fingers or your internet connection.
Trust me, the first time you snatch an item from SpeedyFingers123, or anyone else, you’ll be hooked.