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eBay Trading Company - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
eBay Trading Company
Please bear in mind before reading this that there are no stupid questions, only STUPID PEOPLE. So, sorry in advance for being dense.

Can anybody provide me with a very quick beginner's guide to eBay bidding tactics? I simply have no idea how the bidding tends to work -- whether lots of bids tend to happen at the last minute, whether it's better to bid on the cheaper thing with more time to run or the thing that's already at a higher price but has less time to go, or ... or what. Or whether the bidding patterns vary enormously depending on the thing for sale, or stuff like that.

Er, basically, in summary, "hello, am clueless, but want to buy thing off eBay without spending masses more money than I need to". :-)

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bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: July 21st, 2003 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I tend to work out how high I am realistically willing to go for an item, then bid reasonably early and never rebid, relying on the proxy bid thingy - if I lose the item, I lose the item. However, this probably does mean I pay too much sometimes. Bidding last minute is fine if a) it's in the right time zone and b) you have the patience. But you need to be careful of getting carried away with bidding wars and paying more than you'd like to. Looking for things with less than a day to go at least means you have time to go back to the cheaper/longer items if you lose out on the quick ones.
From: ex_lark_asc Date: July 21st, 2003 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
The short answer is that there's always a random factor. Watch all of the things you can find that are suitable - you can probably get one of them.

Auctions IM somewhat limited E tend to go one of a few ways:

1. The bidding war - whoever's prepared to pay the highest price wins. These are usually items which start getting bid up not that long into the auction.

2. The last-minuter - price stays low or no bids at all till the last minute, then someone either automatically snipes or bids by hand a few minutes before the end. Be aware that "too good to be true" auctions - really nice items with no bids - are very likely to be sniped from under your nose in anything up to the last three seconds of an auction. Never believe you've won an item till you see the "You won" message. If you want to be as sure as possible, HammerSnipe is your free friend (and insert the price you really think it's worth to you, not a conservative estimate).

3. The low-demand auction - only two or three bids, and if someone bungs in a price a quid or so higher the others just go 'Naah, can't be arsed' and give up.

Generally the later you leave bidding the better - your opponents have less time to respond.

Also remember that EBay proxy bids *for* you - it will only push the price up as far as it needs to to beat someone else's maximum bid.

Good luck..
crazyscot From: crazyscot Date: July 21st, 2003 02:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Make good use of eBay's proxy bidding, but be aware that it's possible to find out somebody's bid limit (manually - by rebidding an increment at a time) and bid just above that.

Lots of people snipe, particularly if the item is in high demand.
(Sniping = last minute bidding. Doing so minimises the time in which you can be outbid or have your price pushed up. There are services out there which will attempt to snipe automatically on your behalf, but I don't trust them, and I don't think autosniping is particularly ethical, even if lots of people do it. Autosniping can go spectacularly wrong, too; one item I was recently interested in went from £12 to £25 in the last four minutes; looked like three sniper bots had a good old fight...)

I often put in a minimal bid (i.e. current + minimum increment) early on in a auction if I particularly want something, so it appears at the top of "My eBay", and go back to manually snipe (or get cold feet) later assuming the auction end time coincides with my being at a terminal.
imc From: imc Date: July 21st, 2003 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ditto. (Placing an early bid also defends against accusations of unfair sniping - not that I'm obliged to consider sniping as unfair or to defend my bidding tactics.)

If I'd willingly pay £30 for an item then I might put, say £12.34 on it immediately [see under "don't bid round figures"] and then raise it to the full £30 as close to the end of the auction as I dare (maybe via £21.43 about 10 minutes before the end just in case of last-minute technical hitches).

The first bid might win after all, which is good if I forget to come back at the end of the auction (I've lost at least one item that I really wanted by forgetting like that). In any case, the bid keeps the item on my "my eBay" page and will cause me to be notified if someone outbids it. It can then sometimes be satisfying to see the other bids and think "Hah, you think you are going to win this with your puny £13" and then post your real bid to claim the item.

Bidding in small increments is fairly pointless as it's pretty easy for someone else to outbid you.
<boring_anecdote>The most recent item I bought on eBay I won with tactics of the above form against another bidder who was bidding in small increments. When, a day or two before the end of the auction, my £12.34 [not the actual amount] was outbid, it was a fair guess from the fact that the other person had placed two bids that they had gone something like "£10... no good... try £15 then" so my £30 would easily be enough to win the item. As it was, about 15 minutes before the end I got nervous and posted my intermediate bid - and you could see the price of the item gradually rising in increments of £1 or so, until I had been outbid. So when I posted my final bid about 2 minutes before the end it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. The other person got two or three more bids in before the end, but I still won it at a pretty fair price. Of course, if I'd left my bid until later it would probably have cost me less, although I'd have been more worried about missing it because of bad timing.</boring_anecdote>

Anyway. Although there's the odd item that no one but you seems to be interested in, you should expect the price to rise quite rapidly during the last several minutes of the auction. There's no infallible method of winning, of course.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: July 21st, 2003 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
People's objection to sniping seems to basically boil down to "people are bidding tactically, and because I am unprepared to do so, I am losing auctions to them". I'm less convinced about having a program do it for you, although I'm not sure I regard that as actually *unethical* per se. Just perhaps a little impolite.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: July 21st, 2003 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sure.

Rule 1 - The simplest thing is "don't bid until the very end of the auction". Auctions with bids will attract more bids from other parties and push the price up. Of course, this requires you to be online at the time the auction ends.

Rule 2 - decide the maximum you're willing to pay and stick to that. Because ebay uses proxy bidding, you always bid the maximum you're willing to pay, even though you may not end up having to pay that much, since you will pay the lesser of your maxiumum and the smallest amount higher than the next highest bid. You should thus only ever need to place one bid on an auction.

Rule 3 - Never bid round amounts. If something is worth a tenner, it's probably worth 12.22, and if someone bidding against you bids up to a tenner, or 12 pounds, or 12.20, you'll still be the one that wins. Other peoples habit of bidding round amounts will work in your favour.

Rule 4 - If any new auctions (they have a little sunburst icon) appear with a "Buy it now" price that you think is reasonable, buy it and end the auction. Otherwise you'll end up in a bidding war with some muppet who doesn't understand the "wait till the end of the auction" rule.

I think that's about it.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: July 21st, 2003 03:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh:

Rule 5 - auctions with Paypal accepted as a method of payment tend to go higher. If you can find an auction where the buyer is only willing to take a cheque, you might be in luck, as fewer people are willing to go to the faff of writing a cheque.

Rule 6 - *Always* check the postage. Consider the total price of an item *including* the postage cost when deciding on a maximum bid. Some sellers offer better value postage than others.

Rule 7 - Items on eBay tend to go for less towards the end of the month, because people have run out of money and are waiting for their next paycheck before starting to spend it. (Not personally managed to verify this one yet, but it seems like sound reasoning.)
marnameow From: marnameow Date: July 21st, 2003 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I tend to just use the ebay proxy bid thing and forget about it until after the auction. I've found that the 'you've been outbid' emails can be late sometimes - so it's worth checking back near the end to see how you're doing.

The only really big thing I've bought on ebay was my enlarger - apart from that it's been silly paperbacks and barbies and computer bits and whatnot. If it's something fairly common have a look to see what earlier auctions went for - the pregnant barbie was going for up to $100 but I picked one up for £20.
wintrmute From: wintrmute Date: July 22nd, 2003 06:38 am (UTC) (Link)
The eBay proxy-bid is actually a fine way to work, IMO.

Bid the maximum amount you're willing to pay, make it a non-round figure (eg. 20.65 instead of 20.00), and then sit back and wait. Just be honest here - DO put in your maximum - you won't neccessarily have to pay that much, as ebay just ups the bid by the minimum amount to beat competeing bids as they occur.

It doesn't matter if someone has an auto-sniping-whatsit, as they still have to bid more than you to win the auction -- so if they bid more than your maximum, then you didn't want it at that price anyway, did you?


In my opinion, it is better to get in early, rather than wait till the last minute. This is because if you get in early, eg. while at 5 quid, and place your maximum bid, eg. 45 quid, then even if someone else bids 45 quid, you win by default as you were there first. In the meantime, hopefully other people will be scared off that item since it's more highly priced than the others, and will go off and attempt them instead.

remember that when you proxy-bid, you won't pay your maximum, you'll just pay the minimum to beat other people, or reach the reserve price, whichever of the two is higher.
j4 From: j4 Date: July 22nd, 2003 02:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you

Thank you all for helpful advice and stuff! I am now registered with eBay and am watching the things I want and am trying to resist the urge to bid NOW NOW NOW.

And I have realised that eBay is like a bric-a-brac market that goes on FOR EVER, and that it is therefore probably a bad idea for me to spend too long looking at things on it because I will buy too much stuff, but ... oooh look! a shiny thing! :-)
k425 From: k425 Date: July 22nd, 2003 05:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you

Rapunzel keeps informing me he's bought yet another poker-related item. They seem to be very SHINY for him!

I daren't look too closely as I know I'd spend too much and I don't need much, even for Bug.
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