Bidding on eBay in 2014

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Forum topic by Tennessee posted 11-21-2014 07:45 PM 845 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2873 posts in 2538 days

11-21-2014 07:45 PM

I’ve spent the last couple weeks buying things on eBay. I returned to film photography, and it turned out to be a treasure trove of excellent used cameras and all associated equipment.

But I have learned over the years a few things about bidding on eBay plus how it looks in 2014, and I thought I would pass them along for those who would like to bid but feel they might not get a good deal, or lose all the time.

First of all, you should set up a Paypal account, at least as a buyer. It is easier, and you have the Paypal money back guarantee to fall back on. I belong to Paypal as a buyer only for two simple reasons: The money back thing, and when I do get a refund, it goes into my Paypal account, which is simpler and easier for all involved.
I have been told you can buy things off eBay without being a member of Paypal, but I am a member.
FYI, it illegal on eBay rules to contact a buyer and offer them full price by check or money order off eBay, but it happens a lot more than you might think.

So how do you go about bidding to win without breaking the bank. How did I score a wonderful like new Olympus OM-10 camera with nice lens and bag + strap in mint condition for a measly $4.99 plus $10 shipping?

Here are my tactics. I am sure others can add to these, but this is my policy, and I have scored multiple items for less than their worth with this process.

First, you have to find the item you are looking for. Do this with as generic search as possible. You might find more than one brand and more than one item for sure you might like to bid on.

Second, focus in on just a few items, no more than three or four. I limit myself to three, since my system often finds me buying all three! I’m not rich, so I have to watch my budget, just like everyone else.
And you MUST remember – if you place a bid, a bid retraction is very hard. Some people actually would close their accounts to get out of buying something they really didn’t want to bid on, it is that hard. So make sure you are really interested in buying the item before you hit that “Place Bid” icon.

First things first…look over all the pictures. Most use the magnification square on the shown picture, but if you left click on the magnified square, the picture will fill your screen and you get a better view. Arrows come up to allow you to scroll through to the next picture. Look the item over carefully and come to some initial conclusions on the condition of the item. Decide if you want to proceed.

Second, you want to read the listing that the buyer has typed in. Read all of it, and concentrate on what the seller does NOT say. Is it working? Is it complete? Does the seller offer returns? Do they offer any information on where they got it? Do they mention that missing widget you saw in the pictures? All this is important and actually more important than what they DO say. Remember, they are trying to explain it as beautifully as possible. Used stuff has problems. If they seem to not address something you saw in a picture, you can always ask a question at the bottom of the listing. Most buyers will respond if they want to sell the item. If not, or the answer if vague, don’t bid. “I don’t know anything about table saws” is NOT an acceptable answer.

So now, you’ve looked things over carefully, and read all the info presented. So far, it all seems OK.

Now comes the hard part…What is the maximum you, in your mind, would be willing to pay, including shipping. Remember that some sellers will jack up shipping to try and help offset low sales prices. Add it ALL together.

So, if you see a hand plane that has a shipping cost of $12.95, remember to add that into the most you would be able to spend.

Next thing is to look at the starting price, or the current price. Ignore Buy It Now pricing. Ignore bids where it says Reserve Not Met. Reserves are nothing more than a way for the seller to hedge their bets and make sure they get what they want for the item. Some will even test the waters with an item, putting in a ridiculously high reserve price so they can find out what the market will bear without actually selling the item. Just keep on going and don’t bother bidding Reserve Not Met items.

So, now you want to make your first major decision – How much in total would you be willing to pay for this item, including shipping? Let’s go back to our hand plane. Forget all the numbers on the right hand side. What would you pay?

Let’s say you would pay $45 dollars for this hand plane. Allowing a shipping charge of say, $12.95, that means you absolutely should not pay more than $32.05 for this plane, and the shipping will bring it to $45. Now, you can be a little flexible, maybe one or two dollars either way, but this is a fairly hard wall you should never breach. This is your first secret to success.

Remember, they almost never made one of anything. Hard to find this hand plane? Well, just keep looking if it is out of your budget. You lived without it until now, you can wait a while longer until another comes along.

Tricks on bidding:
Now that you have a final number in mind, a hard wall where you will not go any higher, you can now concentrate on getting your item at your price!

Let’s first look at the bidding. Any bids? If there is none, this is a good sign, especially if the item has been up there for a few days and is closing in on ending. If there are bids, you have to analyze those before you put in a bid at all.

If there are bids, click on the bids and look this over. In the upper right hand corner, you will see Show Automatic Bids, unless there is only one bid. Click on this, and the hidden bids will show from others trying to buy the same item. If the automatic bids go right up to the max number currently listed, it is a good possibility that someone has beat you to this and may have a bid that will kick in when you put in your bid. You can try to add your maximum bid that you decided on as an Automatic Bid, but if it says you were outbid right there, stop and move on. You would have to go higher than you planned, and you don’t know how much higher. Leave it go…
EBay will try like heck to get you to put in a higher bid, but if it is at your limit, move on.

Automatic Bids as your friend…
If there are few or no bids, you want to enter an Automatic Bid. Let’s say the current bid for your hand plane is $12.95. And the bidding is going up in increments of $1.00. You see that if it continues to rise, the winning bid would be $XX.95. And this is the beauty of Automatic Bids.

You want to put in a bid of $32.99. Why? Because people feel that you may be at a hard Automatic Bid of $32.00, and they will put in a bid that takes them to $32.95 and your Automatic Bid will hit at $32.99. This is especially frustrating to those who wait until the last second to put in that last bid, only to have their bid beaten by your Automatic Bid of four cents higher.

What exactly is an Automatic Bid, and how do they work?
You see a current price of $12.95. You agree with yourself that you would pay $32.05 because you have to add the shipping. Be a little flexible, and enter in a Maximum bid of $32.99.
The eBay software will put in a bid for you that is either the first bid at the required price, or the minimum amount allowed above the current bid. It will not show your Automatic Maximum Bid. This will now kick in with the minimum amount allowed to defeat every subsequent bid, up to your maximum of $32.99. If it goes above that, you can take solace that you didn’t over pay. If it never hits your maximum, you are guaranteed to get the item at the final bid which will be less than your maximum, plus shipping.
Watch the bidding, and don’t dare raise your maximum bid, not matter how many times eBay tries to get you to raise it. If you lose it, you lose it, you still have your money. Nothing worse than getting in a bidding war and ending up paying $50-60 for something that is not worth it.

So if only two people bid, and the other person only bids two three times, your automatic bid will keep kicking in, and it frustrates others away.
It is very effective, and guarantees that you will win more than your fair share of auctions, and lose the ones that would have taken more money out of your pocket than you wanted in the first place.

Other tactics:
I have found that a lot of people who bid on eBay work for a living and eBay is a side job. This means they are not at their computers when they are at work.
I look for auction endings in the following order of importance:
1. Auctions that end on a weekday afternoon, especially before 5PM EST.
2. Auctions that end on a weekend afternoon, while people are with their families, or watching some game on TV. Again, 5PM EST.
3. Auctions that end late on a weekday night after 9:30PM EST. People have to go to bed to get up the next morning
4. Auctions –WORST- That end in the early evenings of weekdays, especially in the Tues/Wed/Thurs/Sun slots.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the wins I’ve gotten for way less than I thought I would. This all seems like common sense, but when did you ever see common sense at any auction?

Happy Bidding!

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

4 replies so far

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2031 days

#1 posted 11-21-2014 10:32 PM

Good advice, all of it.

I too have been on E-bay for longer than I care to admit. I’ve sold several hundred items and bought probably more than that. I sold a couple cars and even a motorcycle. The ‘84 Gold Wing motorcycle I sold on a Friday night and Saturday morning at 7am the guy picked it up. That same afternoon I put in the winning bid on a newer ‘92 GoldWing that was about 200 miles from our house, and by Sunday morning I had the ‘92 in my garage.

Back before there was any kind of “automatic bidding” I have been known to be in front of my computer at 3am, STOPWATCH in hand, counting down the seconds till an auction was gonna end. Then throwing in my bid at the last 2 seconds to get something.

Another tip is to try searching for something by purposely MIS-spelling some words. Some people simply dont know how to spell! I bought a 4’ X 8’ trailer for 50bucks once because the guy spelled it “trailor” and I was the ONLY bidder. When I picked it up he tried to back out of the deal because he said he “made an error by listing it with no reserve.” I squawked because I had driven 75 miles to get it and he finally gave it to me for the $50. He DIDNT like it, but he sure learned from his mistake!

And you’re right Tennessee. I have a Nikon FE 35mm camera with several lenses and other attachments that I invested over a grand into when it was new. About a year ago I pulled it out of the closet and thought about selling it on E-Bay. I found out that they were going for like $10 or $20 and I said I’d rather DONATE it to GoodWill than go through all the hassle of E-baying it for little or nothing!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2538 days

#2 posted 11-22-2014 12:37 AM

True, but I have found that there is still a great amount of film people. Just have to find the right venue to sell your Nikon. eBay is not it. If you are interested in selling, I Still Shoot Film is out there, and a site called APUG, Analog Photo Users Group, the largest in the world. They have a large classified section.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2031 days

#3 posted 11-22-2014 01:38 PM

Thanks, perhaps I’ll dig it out of the closet and try again. Who knows, YOU might even be interested :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View lateralus819's profile


2241 posts in 1913 days

#4 posted 11-22-2014 02:45 PM

If I’m interested in a item that is auction style, i wait till the last 3 seconds and put my max bid in. Can’t tell you how many item’s i have won this way.

Like you said, it only works if you end up being the high bidder, but it allows you the last bid on the item. So even if someone COULD bid higher, they can’t cause the item is out of time.

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