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:
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.
My response: (Looking back, I might have over reacted)
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.
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.