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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I resisted for a long time, but there's a cultural problem on eBay. If you want to win something, the trick is to not bid initially and then have a snipe tool place a bid for you at the last minute.

Here's my assessment of what happens. People place a bid, put in a maximum bid that may or may not be their true maximum, and wait. Time passes, and they get more and more attached to an item. So then someone else places a bid and beats you out. Then the first person says, "Well, maybe I could go a little higher." And then the second person says, "Well, maybe I could go a little higher." And before long, you've got people going back and forth until time runs out. Usually one ends up disappointed and the other ends up feeling like they paid too much.

Bid snipe tools short circuit this adjustment process. It places your bid in the final few seconds so that the other person doesn't have time to reconsider. They've just been patiently waiting until the auction is almost over, thinking as each minute passes that they've finally got what they're looking for, and then whammo, at the last second, they lose.

So I resisted the culture. I didn't want to be one of those evil snipers. And then I lost another auction in the last 30 seconds of the auction. Le sigh. But then an ad in my Google Mail (probably keying off my "You've been outbid!" mail) pointed me at BidNip. The first five snipes are free. And sure enough, that was enough to get me hooked, and I've won every auction I've placed a bid on while using the tool. True, that's a whopping three things, but in each case, I got the item for an unusually low price. And so now I'm an evil sniper, just like the rest of them. On the plus side, this meant I won a fabulous dress for the Hearst Castle trip for under $30:
red dress
At 35 cents apiece (after I use up my 5 free), I think I'll keep using it. It just doesn't seem quite right, but I really don't need more frustration in my life, and that's what I've always experienced with eBay in the past, so if this is the way the game is played, then I guess I have to play like everyone else whether I like it or not.


  • Your experience with clothes over the internet seems to have been better than mine. I have bought 3 items and they all either didn't fit quite right or were a somewhat different color or material that they looked like on the ad. I have bought things without sniping, but I have also seen the bidding thing you are talking about. If it's really good deal, or something special, I guess sniping can happen. I think you need to camp out until the very end to make sure it doesn't happen if you don't want to use automated software.

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 1:04 AM  

  • I've heard much the same complaint from all types of eBay shoppers. The snipe tools are a clever work-around, but it's a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place.

    Has anyone ever heard from eBay devs why they don't implement a system where bidding sets the timer back to a resonable count? Something like "bids within the last 5 minutes set the timer back to 5 minutes" isn't that hard to do.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:10 AM  

  • Wow, what a gorgeous dress!

    By Blogger Kim, at 11:18 AM  

  • I agree with fanboy, shifting the timer would be a good solution. It wouldn't eliminate snipping software, but it would give people without it a fairer chance to win items.

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 12:55 PM  

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