Ebay stimulates sniping

I have been with Ebay for a long time, long enough that I could still select my own name as login name, without any numbers as additions. I have bought a bit, sold less, not that many transactions.

At some point I looked at sniping—last second bidding, so that nobody has time to react. That is not forbidden, but also not necessary. If I know what my maximum bid is and I bid that at any time during the action and everybody would do that as well, then each of us would bid the maximum and the highest bidder would get the item.

But of course you don’t always know what you want to bid, because you don’t know if something is worth it. So people bid again when overbid, clearly having had no fixed maximum bid price for the item specified the previous time.

However sniping by hand, or setting up a sniping tool was too much effort. There is always another time to get a chance to buy the thing you want. So over time I just bid and sometimes bid somewhat higher.

Getting a 3rd monitor.

I was looking to add a third monitor to my work setup which until then had consisted of 2 Samsung 2493HW monitors with 1920x1200 pixel in landscape mode. The third monitor would be added in portrait mode for easier reading of PDF files, ebooks and lenghty web pages.

These monitors are offered on a regular basis second hand, they are not build anymore and most people now have 1920x1080 anyways. So getting one was not an urgency and I was not willing to pay very high prices.

Ebay disclosing my high bid

I found a nice monitor for a reasonable price made my bid and waited.

I was outbid, without any time to bid again–somebody sniped. But what was realy annoying to see in the bid overview is that the winner new exactly what my high bid was. How? Well if you look at the bottom of the list, you see a single entry of bid that were retracted. That entry is from the eventual winner of the item at €85 with the message that the wrong amount was bid, two days before the end of the bid time.

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That bid was retracted within 31 seconds. But of course that bidder had been highest bidder by then and Ebay had told the bidder what my maximum bid was.

And then 5 seconds before the end of the auction that bidder bid that amount again and was lucky I had not increased my bid in the mean time, by sniping or otherwise.

Retracting bids

I can understand that Ebay allows people to retract bids. AFAIK they give no indication in the confirmation screen for a bid, that your bid was e.g. more than 50% of the price so far. So for the people who cannot read the confirmation notice, there seems to be the possibility to retract if they mistyped and bid much higher than they wanted.

But what I find strange is that these bidders are allowed to bid on the same item, essentially for the same price again. In such a case I would at least expect that they would have to go and find an acquantance that was willing to bid, because knowing the maximum price and having retracted their bid, they should not be allowed to bid again on the same item. And certainly not under the same conditions.

Complaining

I of course wrote to Ebay about this misbehaviour, but it was handed of as something that was not ‘out of bounds’. I could start a general inquiry, but this item was gone and sold to the swindling bidder.

I just decided to use sniping in the future so that my bid (final or not) would not be known, not to any other bidder and particularly not to Ebay.

Esniper

I will be using esniper. It is regularily updated as it has to stay in sync with the Ebay web page structure.

The only thing to take into account is to make an initial (minimal) bid if necessary, because as long as nobody has bid so far, the offer can be retracted.

But since esniper has such a nice and clean interface and not some graphical UI that requires you to take 10times as long to finish your task as with the keyboard, you can easily automate that and bid the minimum if there are no bidders and have the program snipe at my maximum bid price at any time of day.

Posted on 2011-11-15.