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

November 15, 2007 by Kyle

(Updated 1/08/20) I wrote an article a while back that was published by The Dollar Stretcher that talked about, among other things, eBay bargain secrets.  In the article I discussed how I often will wait until the last 30 seconds of an eBay auction before I bid. This almost always guarantees 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:


My response: (Looking back, I might have 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.
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!

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.

By Kyle James

Photo credit to Mike Mozart.


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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.


Mrs. Micah

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.


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.

Clever Dude

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.

Lynnae @ Being Frugal

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.

Chief Family Officer

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.

free eBay sniper

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.


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.

The Faulk
The Faulk

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.


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!


This term ‘sniping’ which I have never heard of and have bought/sold on ebay for years, only results from buyers wanting to get the lowest price possible. If a buyer doesn’t want to get outbid, they can put in a higher max bid during those last moments before the auction ends, otherwise the other buyer was willing to pay more. The buyers are going into the ‘sniping’ window of time aware of the auction close time. The real issue is with sellers feeling they didn’t get every $ for their item. I would think sellers would be happy for ebay to add an extension to the auction close if there are last minute bids, it is the buyers who would likely dispute it.

Love to "snipe" 22
Love to "snipe" 22

I think you answer was spot on in the email and you shouldn’t feel bad for how you phrased it. Susan must not understand that “sniping” is perfectly within the rules for eBay auctions and the whole auction structure is set up so that it makes sense to use that tactic in bidding. It’s simply a different strategy to bid at you highest early in the listing and hope no one else comes along with a better offer. I use sniping to guarantee that I will win a bid if it’s a popular Ireland I’m not the only one who does. Case in point- I’ve been out sniped by other snipers. Should I feel bad because I didn’t get a chance to reconsider my highest bid and lost to a higher “sniping” bidder. No. That’s the way the game works. It makes it fun and dynamic too. Sorry you don’t think it’s “fair,” but that’s the way it is. Maybe Susan should start sniping and stop griping about losing.


Sniping is awesome. I do not bid on anything without sniping it.


Love this thread. Making sore Susan look stupid for nearly ten years! Hahaha


Give other bidders time to come back and outbid you? Why would/should anyone do that if they want the item? It’s the other bidder(s) fault for not bidding what they were really willing to pay if they want “time to come back and bid again” when someone bids a higher amount. If I REALLY want something, I bid extra. If someone else still bids more, then kudos to them for shelling out the money.

It’s not who bids last, it’s who bids the most.

Plus, as a seller, there’s an easy way around this – use Buy It Now instead of running a true auction. That’s what most people seem to do these days anyway. I like a good deal too, but I have no problem with Buy It Now just as long as the price is fair.

This isn’t rocket science.


To add more to my previous comment – there are plenty of times where I bid at the last second, but it’s not enough to outbid the previous bidder. They simply were willing to pay more. Sniping doesn’t somehow guarantee that I’ll win. Item goes to the highest bidder. Seems fair enough to me.

And of COURSE I’d rather pay less than get into a bidding war and overpay. Derp.

Again, LOL at those who feel “cheated” because they didn’t have time to reconsider and bid even more when they get outbid with 2 seconds left. Bid what you’re willing to pay, and let the chips fall where they will.

20+ Years on Ebay
20+ Years on Ebay

Just saw this thread for the first time…years later than the original post, but the answer is the same as in 2007: Susan, don’t be ridiculous. The bid that’s placed by the auction’s end is the winner, period! There are no Ebay be-nice clubs…no collective opinion of fair play and let everyone have a chance but stop bidding more than X minutes before the auction ends. The last second of every auction–online or in person, is the last chance to put money down on the item up for bids! Your thinking is creative at best, and imo, ridiculous. Maybe we should tell the jockeys on the homestretch to ease up so that everyone can catch up!

Calling Kyle James “underhanded” is certainly misguided; you need to brush up on the rules of the Ebay game! And while we’re at it, sniping is not frowned upon by Ebay or anyone other than you…and you cannot speak for “most of [Ebay’s] users”. The rest of the world understands how an auction works!


Your initial response was a great one: eBay COULD build in an automated extension to the bidding time — at least by an hour to allow for the vagaries of email timing, etc. — so that bidding is fairly done. IRL at real-life auctions, there is the time-honored allowance for all bidders to raise their bids: “Going, going, gone!” eBay could even build in a choice by sellers to permit in one-hour increments automated extensions to the time.