Apr 132008

One of the longest running controversies on eBay has been that over auction sniping. For those who aren’t exactly sure what hunting a mythical creature has to do with bidding in online auctions here’s a definition I pulled from somewhere (sorry, can’t remember where)-

Sniping is the common practice of bidding on an auction by waiting until the last possible moment, then placing one bid in such a manner that other bidders do not have time to respond. The exact time at which a bid becomes a snipe has never, and probably can never, be precisely defined. I’ve heard anywhere from 3 seconds to 24 hours. Most of the sniper purists define a snipe as any bid under the 10-second mark, while most of the anti-snipers tend to be evenly split between defining it at 5 minutes or 10 minutes, although 1 hour is also popular.

Personal disclosure- I’m an on-again, off-again sniper myself. Over the 12 plus years I’ve been buying and selling miscellaneous garbage on eBay I’ve probably sniped about 25% of my total bids. I’ve been a committed manual sniper, steadfastly refreshing the auction screen in the last 60 seconds or so of n auction; and I’ve also used a number of automated sniping programs both downloaded and web-based. I can honestly say I’ve won auctions with a greater consistency (and at overall lower prices) with sniping then otherwise.

Here’s my latest proof. Over the last few months I’ve been primarily bidding in two arenas: Sambo’s Wooden Nickels and Metal Typer Tokens. Neither of these types of items has many other bidders interested in them. The Sambo’s wooden nickels have about a half-dozen regular bidders and they aren’t always bidding on each nickel posted. Competition is actually heating up in this area as the screenshot, above, shows. There were only four bidders on this lot of wooden nickels, yet 15 bids were cast. It’s the last few bids that I really want to focus on here.

When I returned home last night I realized this listing was going to close well before I awoke this morning. So, I checked out the current bids and decided on what I thought was both a fair and competitive price. At 11:32 I entered a bid of $13.05 – more than double the high bid at the time. When I did so the former high bidder got an email saying he’d been outbid and, as you can clearly see, came and re-bid. Not once, but five times. All this accomplished was pushing my bid higher and higher. Frustrated, tired, and fully aware that my opponent was currently keeping an eye on this listing I resorted to an online sniping service and set it to place an $18.05 bid in the closing seconds of the auction.

End result – I won the lot for $17.00. However, if I had not placed my 11:32 bid and instead gone directly to the sniping software I would have won the lot for $6.75. In other words, my failure to snipe cost me $11.25, or nearly twice as much. The only person happy about this result is the seller. He made almost three times more for his lot then he would have had I simply sniped in the first place.

  8 Responses to “Why People Snipe eBay Auctions (And Why Sellers Hate It)”

  1. Honestly, I had never heard of this term before, but it is nice to know of the term now because I hate it when this happens.

    I, too, have fell victim to possibly overbidding on something I could have gotten for less. I think that many just want to ensure they get whatever they want.

    Karlana’s last blog post..Fellow Bloggers :: Been rank-spanked by Google?

  2. I do not sell on eBay anymore, but I occasionally use it to buy higher-priced dresses for my daughter. I cannot think of a single auction in which I have been involved lately where sniping did not come into play. I have a love / hate relationship with sniping. I see, as you pointed out, that more often than not there is little to no reason to even bid until the end, but…I loathe the stress that comes with not just bidding and walking away.

    Angie’s last blog post..Harlem’s Biohazard Lab?

  3. Glad I could be of service, Kartana! Of course, the best way to ensure you win the item you’re looking for is to bid as much as possible 😎

  4. I have that love/hate relationship myself, Angie. I also prefer to simply bid and “walk”, and still do that for items I’m not overly concerned about winning. But for those items that I “need” in my collection and have a history of competing against “run-up” bidders I’m back to sniping for now.

  5. I think that many people find sniping to be exciting. eBay should implement what other online auctions do and keep the action active if anyone bids within the last 10 seconds of the auctions.

  6. sellers hate snipe tools,while buyers love them

  7. I have three wooden Sambo’s wooden tokens- two have Redding, Calif. on the the other just says anywhere. Are you interested in them-

  8. People snipe ebay auction because these app help them to keep all the update for their product. That makes a chance to win the auction over their. You can also download ebay auction app for both Android and Apple.

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