eBay: Notes from the front
A time and money saving tool.
By Bruce McKinney
This month I want to discuss two ways to improve your eBay experience. eBay and Google lie on one side of the tectonic shift; traditional bookselling, listing sites and book fairs on the other. The world of books doesn't only break down into these two halves of course. It also breaks down into an infinite number of combinations of these elements depending on personal perspective and experience. Google and eBay are built on concentric models, almost everyone else on sequential ones. For some folks eBay is an enemy. For others it's too complex. For many it's an unknown, and for others inaccessible. For an increasingly large group it's indispensable. This article is for those who regularly evaluate eBay listings and sometimes bid.
A month ago I signed-up for PowerSnipe [www.powersnipe.com], an automated bidding system. With it I can, for any lot, immediately enter a maximum price which they execute on my behalf as the auction expires. This differs from eBay's software which accepts my bid but exposes it as others post bids against me during the sale. Here is a comparison.
Posting my bid on eBay: A Gutenberg Bible, the original edition, is posted for sale with a starting bid of $100. The name is misspelled Gutenburg so I'm hopeful. In this first example I soon post a $5,000 bid via eBay. I'm the only bidder so my bid shows as $100. Over the next few days others notice the item and post their bids of $250 and $400. When the $250 bid is posted it exposes my bid at $255. When the $400 bidder posts theirs it further exposes my bid which becomes $405. Should one of these bidders or a new one next bid $1,500 my bid will become $1,525. Competitors will now click on my eBay profile and see that I sometimes buy very good items for strong prices. They'll consider whether they want to go higher and may do so. Over the final days of the auction many people will have opportunities to test my limit. I may win the item but I'm probably going to pay more than I would in the next example.
In this example I use PowerSnipe. When I find the item I save it to the items I'm following on eBay and then open my PowerSnipe account and copy and paste the item number in. The description then comes up and I'm prompted to enter a maximum price. I enter $5,000. On eBay nothing shows. I may be the first to notice the item but my bid is not visible. In fact, eBay is not even aware of it. In the mean time the $250 bidder bids and only the $100 starting price shows. When the $400 bidder arrives he shows up on top with a $255 bid. At this point I'm aware but not visible. As the sale winds down a third bidder enters and bids $1,500. He's now on top but shows only $405. With a few seconds to go my $5,000 bid appears. No one has any time to react to me. The auction ends and I buy the Bible for $1,525.
The cost of this service is $59.99 for a year. When I recently signed up it was offered for $45. They currently offer a one month free trial. If you buy a few lots every week you'll have the money back in no time.
There are several other services online offering similar capabilities and one of our members emailed us that they prefer esnipe. I'm an advocate of the process. We have no relationship to any bidding services and receive no commissions from any of them.
eBay: Notes from the front
There are a few caveats. The first is that your percentage of wins is going to increase. The second is that the prices you pay will drop a bit. Posting bids as soon as you find items, even if the bids are low, is probably going to get you more wins than you expect so you may need to adjust your bidding strategy, that or build a wing on your house. I also suggest you revisit your PowerSnipe account every few days to adjust your bids both up and down according to what is happening. If you are experiencing too much success you can always cut your bids or drop items altogether. Here is a chart of eBay's bid increments in effect as of 6/29/2007.
| eBay ||Bid ||Increments|
Here is a link to PowerSnipe: www.powersnipe.com/ebaysniper.html
The second eBay issue concerns spam-listers. These are the folks who take their four line listings and add the entire contents of the New York City phone book. It creates excessive matches and wastes time for countless eBay buyers whose searches keep bringing up these matches. To those who do it I guess it's your right but for those who use AE's Matchmaker to automatically search for eBay matches you now have the option to eliminate such seller's listings from your results. To do this we have added a panel [the kiss of death] where you can add their eBay name to exclusions on your matches. They will still internally match but then be dropped into the ocean. You can of course at any time restore them. The goal here is to save time, not punish anyone. If you are a Premium member an explanation is posted on your AE Matchmaker start page. For those interested to sign-up for Premium membership here is an illustration of the Kiss of Death. All eBay handles are made up, all decisions entirely private.