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Old 01-18-2005, 07:41 PM   #1
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How to play ebay?

I hope this is okay to bring up for discussion on this forum because I do not know anywhere else to go with my "dumb" questions. No matter how dumb, I always get "smart" answers here, so here goes. How does bidding work on ebay? For several months now I have been watching A/S and Argosy trailers sell on ebay, but I cannot figure out the bidding strategies. For the life of me, it seems like some bidders keep recklessly bidding up an item--sometimes sequential bids, adding to their own expense unnecessarily in the end. IOr 'll see a couple of bidders just racing up the $$$$ chart days before an end to the auction. Why? I am not even talking about wild last second bidding; that's another separate story for another day. What is being achieved by these bidders that I cannot comprehend? This surely explains at least a portion of recently inflated prices for some trailers. . .unless I am missing something very basic. Am I the only one confused by the bidding? It just makes little sense to me, and with such an apparently out of control system, it is making me really leary about ebay trailer sales and the resultant value setting. (Guess the sellers are chuckling all the way to the bank!) I am on the bidders end of the game, and I just don't understand the play. Help, please.

1995 Airstream Classic Limited 30' ~ Gypsy
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Old 01-18-2005, 07:53 PM   #2
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Ebay uses a proxy bidding system. You enter your maximum bid. The system will advance your bid so you are the winner. If someone bids against you, but under your max, you win that round, but ebay lists you as the high bidder. This will continue as a rival tries to figure out your max bid. Once they become the winner, if it has not gotten too rich for them, the original high bidder may re-bid starting it all over again.

The last second bidding is a whole different animal.

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Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. -- Plato

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Old 01-18-2005, 07:57 PM   #3
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Here's a quick Ebay tutorial on proxie bidding. Basically I can bid $10,000 on an auction that starts at $100. The Ebay computer will bid for me (proxie) automatically increasing my bid only to the point of out bidding the current bid until I get out bid. So a lot of the "running up" of bids is someone feeling out the maximum proxie bid of someone else. I agree with you that the best bid is saved for the very end and doesn't drive up the cost prematurely. But I think that people are impatient and like to play at bidding. I've had items with 2000 views and no last minute explosion in bidding so you never know what people are going to do. But if you don't beat the snipers (last minute bidders) you'll never win. My wife goes against most. She only bids on $5.00 books will put her bid in on the first day and not even look at it until it's over.

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Old 01-18-2005, 08:00 PM   #4
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It is that "cowboy on a mountaintop" thing. People log on to ebay, see what they want, and place a bid on it. If someone else comes along, and places a bid on it, the first bidder's bid automatically increases until their maximum bid is reached.

These people either don't know they can "watch " an item without bidding, or just want the thrill of being high bidder on an item, with little chance of winding up winning, and having to pay (another story there).
The serious ebay bidders that really, really want an item will run an auction snipe program to bid at the last second up to their maximum bid.
That is how there can be 15 bids within the last 10 seconds of an auction.
I personally am something of a traditionalist, I believe in "being there" in person, the last person with his virtual hand up.
There is also shill bidding, where a user will run up the bidding of an item with no intention of buying, just wanting to see how far the other bidders will go. This is usually done to artificially drive the price of an item up. This person is normally a friend or business associate of the seller. This is officially not permitted on ebay, as it is also officially not permitted at live auctions. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
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Old 01-18-2005, 08:01 PM   #5
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Sellers will sometimes use friends to get in on heavy bidding to make the item look more valuable and to push the bidding higher. It's not legal or ethical but it's done.
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Old 01-18-2005, 08:06 PM   #6
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Your wife is smart! I wish I had such resolve. It's so easy to just think - well - "10 more dolars - what's that?" and before you know it you are paying much more than you would have otherwise just because you're being guided with your heart and not your head. I did try the sniping thing a couple of months ago and there is some logic to it - it saves the last 15 minute back and forth increase of the bid. The worst it costs is 5 dollars too. I bought a 1973 Pinto station wagon a year ago from Washington state off eaby. Real nice original car with 19K original miles- I could have saved myself $800 if I had only sniped instead of just bidded normally......
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Old 01-18-2005, 08:21 PM   #7
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We use a program/service called HammerSnipe. We find an item we want (usually merchandise for our business) and put in a Hammersnipe bid of the max we are willing to pay. In the last 15 seconds it submits our bid for us (handy for when we can't be hanging around by the computer, we never miss bidding on items anymore) and if we're the highest bidder we get it. Simple. No wavering about if we should have spent more on it or not.

It is to the point where if I am buying a car part and I put in a bid a few days before the auction is up, the hubby chews me out, because it just encourages others to bid higher. We're likely to get it for less using HammerSnipe. People don't have time to rethink their bids.

I think eBay would be more 'authentic' if bidding continued for another three minutes everytime a bid was put in, that way you really would get the highest price for an item, not just the highest price before the time ran out. Personally, I think the sniping is not really fair, but so many people do it and use those services, it's how you have to play the game now.

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Old 01-18-2005, 08:31 PM   #8
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I agree about the sniping not being fair but it's how you have to play the game these days if you really want a highly desired item. Another good thing about sniping is that you can retract your bid pretty much up until the bid is made (usually the last seconds before the auction ends)- once you bid on ebay itself you're locked into it whether you regret your decision to have bid on an item or not......
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Old 01-18-2005, 08:34 PM   #9
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I snipe personally without a program. I am hooked. It's exciting although sometimes I am disappointed by being outbid by another sniper.
Not knowing enough to be afraid... (I know more than I did, but I did it anyway!)


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Old 01-18-2005, 09:05 PM   #10
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Heck, I've bought and sold a few thousand things on Ebay, and I still don't understand the bidding process. 'Bout the only thing I've figured out for sure is there is a lot of money to be made, and lost, there.

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Old 01-18-2005, 09:52 PM   #11
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Some people are even their own shill. A home ISP and a work ISP...same person being his own shill....if he wins, he owes himself and counts it as "advertising expense"..then contacts the highest non-winner if the price got high enough and says the first guy backed out.
Lots of game playing on eBay.
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Old 01-18-2005, 10:20 PM   #12
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Yes, that's pretty messed up. eBay has a second-chance feature where you can offer the item to the second bidder if the first bidder backs out. We recently did this with a rare toy we were selling, because we had two, so we offered the item to the second place winner as well, explaining that we had two in stock. The guy assumed we had done the shill bidding thing, and was quite rude about it! A surprise to us - we thought he'd be happy to still get the item, and for less than we sell it for on our website. I don't think we'll try that again. When we have multiple items we'll just go ahead and auction them seperately.

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Old 01-19-2005, 07:23 AM   #13
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I confess, I'm an accomplished 'sniper'. I seldom am interested in a specific one-of-a-kind-must-have-item. I'm usually looking for the item in the best condition and at a bargain price. The best way to accomplish that is to wait until the last 15 seconds, and proxy in with the highest amount I'm willing to pay. If someone else proxies in with a higher price, I'll keep looking. Otherwise I usually get the item, and for an amount lower than what I was willing to pay. Bidding early allows lots of folks to run the amount up prior to the end of auction. Great for the seller, bad for the buyer!

When I'm selling, of course, I want folks to bid immediately and continuously until they've bid it up waaaay over what's reasonable!

I once sold a broken Thetford RV commode (and yes, I represented it appropriately as broken and complete with photos) for $37 on eBay! Gawd, I love capitalism!

Actually, although I have hundreds of eBay transactions, and in fact just bought a high-end digital camera last weekend on eBay, I've only participated in a couple of auctions where shill bidding occurred. I recognized it as the seller wasn't too crafty about it, and reported it. Fortunately eBay is pretty good about stopping auctions and suspending the accounts of folks who commit fraudulent acts... once they're caught. I've only been burned on one auction out of the four-hundred or so I've participated in; fortunately all my transactions are done through PayPal and with a Visa card, so we were reimbursed for the transaction. I won't participate in an auction over $50 if the buyer won't accept PayPal and Visa.

The buyer protection offered by cards is the single best reason to use them. Two years ago, we bought extended warranties from one of the biggest and most reputable after-market warranty places around for the Excursion, the Behemoth, and one car. We had been with these folks for about six or seven years and had always had good experiences. After their underwriter went belly-up, the warranty business also went under. Since we'd done the time-payment plan and had made the payments through Visa, we were reimbursed for the entire amount of all three warranties!

While you can't always eliminate all the risk in long-distance sales, you can certainly minimize it.

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Old 01-19-2005, 09:29 AM   #14
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never made an ebay purchase before so i know nothing about snippers and shilling.
i did however see a 2001 bambi (excellent condition) in auction three of weeks ago with a "buy now" price and reserve, the bidding was going up rather quickly, $9000 up in one day with 3 or 4 days to go. considering the current prices of the 2004/05 bambi's, the high demand for used bambi's and the fact that the bambi in auction was located in Florida (doable distance from Va) my husband and i decided to go for it! we called up the guy and offered $900 bellow "buy now" price and we are now proud owners. the car dealers we purchased it from had 100% positive feedback and they couldn't have been nicer people. never thought i would be saying that about a car dealer.


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