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eBay Users….Stop Sniping For a Second and Listen Up

November 15, 2007 by Kyle 17 comments   •   Filed Under

eBayI wrote an article awhile back that was published by The Dollar Stretcher that talked about, among other things, eBay bargain secrets.  In it, I discussed how I often will wait until the last 30 seconds of an eBay auction before I bid, which almost always guarantees that I will not be outbid and get the best deal possible. Apparently this technique, known as ‘Sniping’, is heavily frowned upon by many online auction users. This was brought to my attention by Susan, a reader of The Dollar Stretcher, who wrote me an email that went like this:

DEAR KYLE,
PERHAPS YOU ARE NOT AWARE, BUT PUTTING IN BIDS ON ITEMS ON EBAY IN THE LAST FEW SECONDS IS CALLED ‘SNIPING’ AND IT IS HEAVILY FROWNED UPON BY EBAY AND MOST OF ITS USERS. OBVIOUSLY, IF YOU DO A SEARCH, AND ONLY FIND AN ITEM RIGHT BEFORE IT EXPIRES, THAT HAPPENS, AND IS ACCEPTABLE, BUT WAITING UNTIL THE LAST FEW SECONDS TO MAKE YOUR ONLY BID IS NOT. PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS SNEAKY PRACTICE, AND IF YOU MUST, PLEASE DO NOT TELL OTHERS TO BE AS UNDERHANDED AS YOU ARE.
RESPECTFULLY,
SUSAN

My response: (Looking back, I over reacted)

Hi Susan,
Thanks for the note. I have never heard of this term ‘sniping’, nor did I know it was as issue that people frowned upon. If this is such an issue, eBay could easily take care of it by automatically extending the auction time if a last-second bid is placed. Case closed. As you do not know me, or anything about me, I do not appreciate you calling me “underhanded”. I was simply passing along what I thought at the time was a technique that I thought was helpful. You failed in your note to point out why this is a bad technique or how it harms anyone.
Cordially,
Kyle James

Susan’s response:

Mr. James,
I only refer to you as ‘underhanded’ if you continue to use the practice after being notified that it is frowned upon. The reason it is frowned upon is that it does not give people time to respond to up their bids if they are the winning bidder at the time of the sniping. For instance. someone has their bid at 10.01 and are the high bidder, and the current bid is 7.50. A sniper, can go in, and up bid, until they reach over the 10.01 limit. At that time, the person with the 10.01 bid would be sent an automatic email, if their account is so set up, to let them know they have been outbid. If the sniper has done this with less than one minute left, it is unlikely that the former high bidder will receive their email in time to make a higher bid. I realize that one might think, ‘if they really wanted it, they should have been watching the page’, but even that doesn’t work because you have to constantly refresh and sometimes computers slow down, etc and prevent the previous high bidder from making another bid in time. Frequent users of ebay try to avoid this practice in the sense of fair play. As I said, if you just find something at the last minute, then it cannot be helped, but to set out to intentionally snip something away from other bidders is underhanded. If it were an in person auction, everyone who was bidding would have an equal chance to change their bids with response to others in the room and time would not be an issue, but because it is online, time is an issue, especially under one minute and the time it takes to login, bid, and get the bid accepted after being notified of being outbid, even if the original bid was higher than the current bid. Anyone who wants any item will probably be willing to pay 50 cents higher than their high bid, or even a dollar or two on occasion, but sniping does not allow them to, and that is why it is frowned upon. Extending the auction time would probably not be feasible for ebay, and the sellers would probably object, although perhaps they can look into a five minute extension, or something like that. I don’t know how, or if that would be acceptable to those parties, but it can’t hurt to ask. If this doesn’t fully answer your questions, please ask again. I know most people do not know everything, and we learn from experience, so anything I can do to help, I am glad to do. On the other hand, keep up the good work with the articles – more people need to know about more ways to save too!
Sincerely,
Susan

I then thanked Susan for the detailed description of ‘Sniping’ and asked her if I could create a post about this to let others know about the issue. Plus, it would let others weigh in with their opinion. She gave her full consent and so here we are! What do you think about sniping? Do you think there is anything wrong with doing it? Should practices be put in place to keep it from happening? Looking forward to what you have to say.

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17 Responses to “eBay Users….Stop Sniping For a Second and Listen Up”

  1. FourPillars on November 15th, 2007 4:19 am

    Wow, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!

    I’ve never heard of sniping either but I think you are 100% correct and I can’t believe someone would call you to task for breaking some unspoken “rule”.

    Like you said, Ebay should extend the auction if there is a late bid. OR – use the traditional method of just letting the bids continue until there are no more bids for a certain time period and then the item is sold.

    I find her email almost unbelievable.

    Mike

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  2. Mrs. Micah on November 15th, 2007 4:36 am

    eBay is all about battling with other people over an object and trying to get the best deal. IMO, if you didn’t pick the buy-it-now option, you let this happen.

    It’s part of trying to go for a deal, you risk other people taking it. Calling it “sniping” seems to assume that the high bidder somehow has the right to it before the time is up.

    A bidding war is all about being the last person and having the highest bid. Whether it’s two people going back and forth or one person ducking in at the last moment, that’s just how the game works. It’s only unfair if you assume you had a right to that object before you’d even paid for it.

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  3. Julia on November 15th, 2007 5:09 am

    Oh good grief. Well, I think it’s just all a part of the bidding. I’ve never heard the term either (guess I’m dumb) but waiting to give someone a chance to outbid me – well how is that fair? So, they outbid me and then there is no time left to bid? Someone is out of luck – that’s just the nature of it.

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  4. Clever Dude on November 15th, 2007 6:21 am

    I’m a rare user of eBay, but here’s my take. They ask you what your highest bid is, right? That’s where you put the MAX that you’re willing to spend on this item. If it surpasses that max, then maybe that wasn’t your max, right? Perhaps you should have bid higher?

    Granted, someone coming in and outbidding you by 1 cent is a tough deal, but honestly, why are people complaining? If they put a max bid of $10, and someone comes in at $10.01, then you must not have been willing to spend $10.01, or else you would have made that your max.

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  5. Jennifer on November 15th, 2007 8:27 am

    I’m with clever dude, if you don’t want someone to snipe you, you need to put in your true highest bid. Ebay doesn’t make you pay your highest bid unless someone bids up to it, so by putting in your highest bid, you protect yourself from buying something for more than you were willing to pay for it in the first place.

    And..I think that’s why I’ve gone away from Ebay, its not a frugal choice for me, because when I decide I want something & bid on it, I start to think of it as mine and want to keep it at all costs, and end up spending more than I planned or more than it was worth.

    You can prevent people from sniping you by putting in odd amounts for your max, such as 10.63, so if a person attempting to snipe you sees the high bid at 9.01, and bids 9.50, then 10.00, then 10.50..chances are by the time they put in all those bids the time will run out & you will still win.

    That is part of the game though, and its been that way as long as I’ve used Ebay. If Ebay frowned on it that badly, they wouldn’t let you have a “watch” list in your profile, they’d make you bid on something to be able to track it without actually running a new search each time.

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  6. paidtwice on November 15th, 2007 8:33 am

    Honestly, this sets you up to play by different rules than the rest of the world.

    It is not the same as a real live auction, it is an online auction, and online auctions have different rules.

    If you choose not to bid at the last second – who says the rest of the world follows the same convention? It is nowhere in any ebay rules anywhere. So basically you’re playing by an unwritten rule no one else has to follow.

    Seems an easy way to get stomped on by other bidders every single time.

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  7. Jennifer on November 15th, 2007 9:35 am

    I have never heard of this term either and I have been an avid eBayer for years! One would think that if eBay frowned upon this act then they would put precautions in place to prevent this, if possible.

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  8. FourPillars on November 15th, 2007 10:12 am

    I have to comment again… :)

    Kyle – you didn’t over react in your response email to Susan – not by a long shot.

    if they are the winning bidder at the time of the sniping.

    As Mrs. Micah also suggests – that statement indicates that Susan thinks the person with the highest bid with a few seconds to go is the winner which is obviously not the case.

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  9. Jessie on November 15th, 2007 11:04 am

    I agree with jennifer! Bunch of winers! If they dont want people to be doing this then do something to prevent it! Who is to stop me from doing it?

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  10. Kacie on November 15th, 2007 12:51 pm

    I agree with the previous comments. Sorry, Susan, but I think you’re overreacting.

    eBay (and winning an item) is a game. If you don’t want to watch the auction end, then you probably aren’t going to win anyway, since most bids seem to happen during the auction’s final moments.

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  11. Kyle on November 15th, 2007 2:12 pm

    Hey All, here is what Susan emailed to me this morning after reading your comments:

    ————————–
    WOW, THOSE POSTS ARE BRUTAL. I DIDN’T MAKE UP THE TERM, AND I AM NOT A SORE LOSER. BUT THANKS FOR TRYING – I GUESS MOST THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE POSTED SO FAR DON’T CARE ABOUT SENSE OF FAIR PLAY OR ANYONE BUT THEMSELVES. I LEANRED ABOUT THE TERM WHEN IT HAPPENED TO ME YEARS AGO AND I WROTE TO EBAY TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED. THEY TOLD ME ABOUT THE TERM, AND THAT ALTHOUGH IT ISN’T QUITE ‘FAIR’, IT IS STILL DURING THE AUCTION, SO IT IS ‘LEGAL’ SO TO SPEAK. AT LEAST WE TRIED!

    THANKS AGAIN.
    SUSAN
    —————

    I have to say that while I understand Susan’s frustration with getting pinched out of an auction at the last minute, I still have to side with my original advice and most of you that left comments. My take (like many of you) is that if you can’t watch the auction until the end, then you must enter your maximum bid, and if you win, great, but if someone comes in and outbids you in the last minute then that is just how the game works (like Kacie said). If it is truly your maximum bid then it should not be an issue if you got outbid because you were not willing to pay that amount anyways. Thanks to all who took the time to leave their opinion!

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  12. Lynnae @ Being Frugal on November 15th, 2007 3:53 pm

    Proud sniper here.

    I agree with Mrs. Micah that eBay is all about trying to get the best deal. And quite frankly, the best way to get a good deal is to put in a bid at the last minute. eBay is a big corporation, and if they truly frowned upon sniping, they have the power to do something about it. Sniping is completely within the rules of bidding.

    That being said, just because you snipe at the last minute, it doesn’t mean you’ll win the auction. Even though I bid at the last minute 99% of the time, I have lost my share of auctions. Why? Because the person who bid before me was willing to pay more than I was, and they put in their true maximum when they bid in the first place. If you’re going to bid early, put your maximum amount (the true maximum) right away. If you win, great. If you lose, you weren’t willing to pay that much anyway.

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  13. Chief Family Officer on November 15th, 2007 8:21 pm

    Having been outbid at the last second (maybe by you, Kyle!), I understand why Susan is upset. But I accept that this is how online auctions work. C’est la vie.

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  14. free eBay sniper on November 15th, 2007 10:59 pm

    I agree with Jennifer and Clever Dude.
    Bid your maximum. If someone is willing to bid higher than you, it does not matter when they bid, you will not win.
    If someone has set up a snipe for an auction that you have bid on, their bid still has to be higher than yours (by the minimum bid increment) to win. Sniping does not guarantee winning.
    Actually, you have the advantage if your bid and the sniper’s bid are the same or if there is not enough difference to meet the minimum bid increment. If that is the case, the first bid in wins.
    eBay could put a stop to sniping in a heartbeat if they wanted to. I saw somewhere on the ‘net stating that eBay’s position on sniping is that it is all part of the auction experience. I don’t know where that can be found on eBay’s site, but supposedly it is there.
    If “frequent users of ebay try to avoid this practice in the sense of fair play” were true, there would not be tens of thousands of pending snipes set up on eBay sniping service websites.
    Some of the bigger ones show the number of pending snipes right there on their home page, and I’ve seen them in the tens of thousands myself.
    I, as an eBay seller am always happy when someone bids on one of my items, sniping or not.
    Again, the solution is to bid your maximum, and if you do not want to draw attention to the item that you want, become a sniper yourself.
    I recommend Hidbid.com because it is free, and because I had it created myself.
    It is easy to use, there are tutorials on the site if needed, and it may very well save you time and money.

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  15. Lynn on November 17th, 2007 12:30 pm

    There’s been sniping as long as there’s been eBay and there are many programs and websites to help you do it so you don’t even have to be at the computer for that last minute bid. Hate to bid $10 and see the winning bid was $10.01? Bid a little over your maxium (emphasis on little). And don’t think ‘ if only I’d bid $10.50 – I could have won!’ The other bidder might have put in a maxium of $15.10 for all you know. Bid your max – or a little over. You win or you lose.

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  16. The Faulk on November 19th, 2007 7:24 am

    There is sniping in regular auctions as well, trust me.

    A sniper in a traditional auction will sit back and let two people duke it out, driving up the price and scaring everyone off. After one person has dropped out the auctioneer attempts to solicit more bids from the crowd.

    At this point in time if the item is still within the sniper’s price ranger s/he will jump in and either the process begins again or they win the item.

    It all comes down to emotion. In any auction we’re trying to get a “deal”. And if it looks like we’re going to get a great bargain we become emotionally attached to our bid.

    Thus we naturally get upset or unhappy if we lose out on our item at the last minute.

    But as other people have mentioned. Getting outbid at the last minute is the same as getting outbid right from the get go. If you’re not bidding with your “true” highest bid you’re being disingenuous to yourself in the pursuit of your deal.

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  17. Jeanne on November 28th, 2010 8:28 am

    This IS ridiculous. If someone doesn’t want to be outbid, they should automatically place the highest bid they’re willing to pay. Ebay and anyone else “doesn’t like this” because they want customers to keep outbidding each other so the price continues to increase! Who wants to pay more when you can bid at the last minute and win the item for less?! And like someone else mentioned, not everyone can sit and watch the minutes tick away!!
    This “sniping” action does not necessarily mean the “sniper” will win. If a “sniper” waits until the last minute to bid, they can easily be outbid if the original bidder did what I stated earlier, place a max bid. So there’s NO guarantee at all for the “sniper” to win. Ya snooze ya lose….and that can go for both parties!
    Like I always say, if I didn’t get it, it wasn’t meant to be mine. Do I hate it? Yah, but do I live on? Heck yah! :-) It’s the name of the game!

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