A Few Ebay Bidding Tips
(...or how to win at the bidding game)

Ebay is immense fun, but it is also capitalism in the raw. Here are some things to watch out for

Feedback is a report card Sellers and Bidders leave for one another. Experience has shown that if a Seller has earned a significant number of negative feedback (from disgruntled Buyers) then the risk of having a similar experience is greater that you will too.

A significant number of negative feedback would be a high percentage of negative feedback that are clearly from poor service or dishonesty. However, not all Negative feedback is the same.

Some buyers leave negative feedback for trivial reasons, i.e. item did not arrive fast enough, item was not what they thought it was, etc.

"One transaction that comes to mind was a radiator cap for an old car I sold on Ebay. There were two large clear photographs of it, top and bottom, and the dimensions of the cap and the size radiator neck it would fit, since I did not know what make of car it belonged to. The Bidder won the auction, paid for it, and the cap was sent. What followed was an email that the cap was not the correct one for his car. I offered to refund his money if he returned the cap, but pointed out that I had been clear that the cap's origin was unknown and had provided sufficient information for him to determine if it would fit his car. His response was that it was too much trouble to return it and he would throw it away instead."

Ebay does provide for Seller and Bidder to respond to Negative Feedback, so it is possible to discern unreasonable Negative Feedback. But most Negative Feedback was left for good reasons - to warn other Bidders of an unreliable or dishonest Seller.

Some types of complaints are: seller would not go through with the sale, item was damaged, pictures were misleading, item sent was not item in the picture, poor packing resulted in damaged goods, seller took buyer's money and never sent the item, seller charges exorbitant shipping charges. It doesn't happen often, but it happens and there is only so much Ebay can do. After the fact it is possible to contact Ebay and try to get the Seller de-listed, but you are still the damaged party. You can learn from other bidders experiences buy clicking on the Seller's feedback history and taking a close look.

If the Seller does not specify the amount to be charged for shipping in the body of the auction, or state "actual shipping cost", email the Seller and ask what it will be before you bid. This is especially true for heavier items, for example a radio, automotive part, or a clock.

If Seller will not tell you, you bid at your own risk, because some sellers will make up for a sale for less than they wanted by ripping the buyer off with a high handling or shipping charge. This has been a growing problem on Ebay. Another twist is a Seller who states you will be charges actual packaging, shipping & handling charges, then takes the item to a professional packaging service and passes on the immense charge to you. Professional packaging services can cost two to four times the average shipping cost just so the Seller won't have to find a box and do it. Jacking up the shipping charge can even be used for punitive reasons:

"I won an auction on a little old Philco radio. No one else bid and I was thrilled to have gotten a great deal. I emailed the Seller and waited for a response. No response. I emailed several more times over the next few weeks, and no response. The last email threatened negative feedback. A week later the Seller emailed me that the shipping would be $38.00 due to him using a packaging service. The radio only weighed about four pounds, wasn't very rare at all, could have been boxed with a minimum of effort and shipped for under $10. I responded questioning the high cost. He responded with a threat of negative feedback against me. Check, and checkmate - he had me. I had to pay twice the cost of the radio for shipping, and sunk almost $60 into a $20 radio."

When you find an auction you are interested in, mark it as a favorite with your browser, or use "MyEbay". This will help you keep track of auctions you are interested in. Auction Bidding Software also can be used to keep track of auctions. One software package I like is Auction Sentry.


4(a) Beware "Incremental Madness"
This form of self defeating behaviour is when you place a bid, someone else places a bid slightly above yours. You ask yourself, "Is it worth a few dollars more to me?", and you place another bid. Then you are outbid again, so you bid again. This keeps happening, and when it is all over you have paid far more than you intended. One bid is all you should need. Don't get suckered into bidding more than you want to pay.

4(b) Check the bidding history
It is a good idea to keep an eye on the bids being placed. Some sellers will have a "shill" buyer bid up their items with numerous bids. If you see the same bidder bidding repeatedly, not even against other bidders but one bid after another, there is a good chance they are trying to approach YOUR maximum bid, but not pass it. If this Bidder has zero feedback, it may be a shill bidder (perhaps even the seller with two aliases running up his own auction). Another trick is to create the impression that it is a "hot auction" with lots of interest that isn't really there by having a friend/s make numerous bids. What you see is a large number of bids existing for the auction, and you may panic to outbid thinking everyone wants it.

4(c) Beware bidding wars
Sometimes it is a "hot auction" and lots of Bidders are placing bids. While sellers love that, getting into a bidding war with other bidders can be expensive. Be patient - chances are a similar item will show up if you wait. One bid at your maximum offer is all it should take.

4(d) Don't bid early - bid late.
On Ebay these types of bids are called "snipes". Some bidders excel at this - waiting to within the last few seconds before the auction ends. Cutting it that close is not needed: simply wait and bid the last 20 to 30 seconds before the auction ends. This will avoid your bid sitting there for days while other bidders make little bids against you, driving the price up. In the final analysis when the bid occurs doesn't rule the day - it is who bid the most. But there is no reason to see your bid run up to its maximum by other bidders "taking pot shots" at it.
There are numerous Bidding Software products available which not only keep track of auctions you are interested in, but will bid for you at the last minute while you are away (at work making the money to pay for the auction,). With decent auction Software you can bid 24 hours a day.

5. Communicate!
Don't be afraid to communicate with the seller. Ask questions before the auction, and let them know that you sent payment afterwards. Respond to their e-mails and if you have questions about receipt of payment, payment amount, etc. by all means ask. The good Sellers like that, and Bidders like to be communicated with too.

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