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

Updated November 16, 2022 by Kyle

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

See Also: 4 eBay Tricks That’ll Score You a BIG Deal

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?


Ask The Reader: Should practices be put in place to keep sniping from happening? Looking forward to what you have to say.

By Kyle James

Photo credit to Mike Mozart.


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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.


There is NO sniping in a regular auction setting. Everything is out in the open, and when a bidder chooses to enter the fray matters not at all. The critical issue is that a bidder in a regular auction responds to the bids as they develop, and EACH bidder has an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY to obtain the item. Due to sniping, this is NOT TRUE of EBay auctions, and unfairly skews the results toward the sniper. EVERYONE who bids in auctions is looking to get an item for the lowest price possible. Expecting a bidder to automatically bid the maximum amount one is willing to pay at the outset implies that everyone is flush and knows exactly how high they will go. I’ve placed absentee bids at auctions, but have also been prepared for either live bidding or with a paddle to go higher should I wish to do so during the actual auction. Sniping prevents this, and precludes a level playing field. I DO NOT THINK IT’S ETHICAL!


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

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

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.




Susan’s argument shows that she has no idea how ebay bid increments work when she says “Anyone who wants any item will probably be willing to pay 50 cents higher than their high bid”

If A bids 10$ and B bids 100$, then B wins at 11$. Nobody but the winner knows how high the winning bid really was. Susan seems to be under the mistaken assumption that she was outbid by exactly the bid increment.

Also, people like Susan never mention how much time before the end of the auction she will refrain from increasing her bid, to make sure the other bidder has enough time to outbid her again? After all, it wouldn’t be fair otherwise, right?

I always use sniping software on ebay, because I don’t want to be tempted to increase my bid and pay more than I was planning if someone outbids me before the end. Because sniping also prevents the sniper from bidding a second time if they bid less than the highest bidder.


Everybody bidding wants a deal, and everybody selling wants the highest price possible – it’s the same everywhere. And like everything else, people get so polarized around the sniping issue – like it has to be all one way or the other.

I watch and bid on dozens of items at a time on occasion, and often they are ending within a couple minutes of each other – so I can’t babysit every auction. I like to put in low bids to start in case I get lucky and nobody else is interested, or hasn’t noticed an item. But sometimes I bid to the moon to make sure I get something (and sometimes still don’t get it), and other times I snipe if I feel like there’s a high potential for other snipers. But I can’t bid high for everything, or I could potentially get stuck with a huge bill.

The problem I have with sniping is that it masks the true value collectors put on an item until the last second, and that is partially how I value things. Basic economics: if everybody wants it, it’s more valuable. By virtue of ‘normal’ bidding, we get a sense of how much we want something. And yes, there is a lot of emotion wrapped up in auctions too.

There are times I lose by ¢12, on a $50 item, which definitely means my competition was only pennies ahead of me with their max value. And there are other times when regular bidding takes the value way higher than I’m willing to go – so I drop out and forget about it. However, when sniping takes an Item up 10x or 20x the last normal bid value, it doesn’t allow a person to re-calibrate the value of the item.

I would like to see eBay adopt a hybrid strategy whereby if you put in a bid on an item, and you’re within, say 20% of the highest bid, you, and anyone else in that range, can participate in a 5-minute bid-up that excludes anyone who hasn’t bid already, or isn’t in the 20% neighborhood of winning. To be clear, the normal auction would have ended, so none of this, “I just noticed it, so I want in!” business. This would be a ‘Serious Buyers Only’ stage.

Sniping would still work if you’re way above everyone else, but in a dogfight of like-minded bidders, you have one last chance to put up or shut up. That’s my two cents.

James Godsell

Sniping is just part of the game, I only do it if I really want an item and especially if it has already been hotly contested leading up to the end of the auction. If you really want an item you will set an alarm, be logged in and present for the closing minutes. I would never set a bid then just walk away only to get an email telling me I lost the auction. I’m also often out bid with 0.5 second remaining because the other sniper has bid more. I wouldn’t say I save money it’s just my way of getting the item I want like anyone else would. If your not patient and dont have nerves of steel then step aside! ^_^


end of the day the seller sold the item, sniped or not, a sale is a sale, and if whinging complaining sellers do not like the idea of people looking for bargains toward the end of an auctioned item then simply stop your gas bagging and sell them as a fixed price item….. jesus you freaky people complain about anything……. grow the fuck up