Ebay Morality

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Flotsam, Sep 20, 2005.

  1. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I suppose that this fits under the topic of ethics.

    I am a very infrequent Ebay buyer. Bought a few items. Some good transactions one bad, no real nightmares, just hassles.

    I know that there are some real auction mavens here both on the buying and selling side so I wanted to ask what the general attitude is on sniping.

    It seems like a a dirty trick that tends primarily to hose the seller. I guess if all the buyers just bid what they are willing to spend, then a sniper will either lose or pay too much, but it kills the fair and thoughtful bidding aspects of the auction.

    On the other hand, there is no guarantee that you will ever get the opportunity to view and respond to other's bids since there is nothing to stop someone else from bidding at the last moment. I understand that there are even commercial sniping services available to sophisticated ebay buyers. I start to wonder if you are a sucker not to use the technique just to keep the playing field somewhat level. I can't see any alternative other than to play fair and watch prices spiral or watch items that you need get snapped from under your nose at the last second. If there were some way to prevent everyone from doing it, then it would be fair.

    As I say, I don't use Ebay more that once or twice a year and that is usually only to pick up something that is difficult or impossible to find in the stores. But I'm wondering, what is the consensus on Ebay ethics?
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Sniping is an artifact of the way that eBay runs auctions. In traditional auctions, the bidding stops when there are no more bids, and not at a set time. Right or wrong, it's part of the whole eBay phenomenon, so as a seller or buyer, one deals with it.
     
  3. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    Neal, I have had a few items zapped by snipers in the last few seconds. I do not do the sniping thing myself because I consider it sleezy. Counter bidding is one thing, but bidding with 6 seconds to go just does not seem to be right. The last few times (if the price was fair) I bought items at the "Buy it now" price or at KEH.

    When I do bid, I tend to bid only what I think the item is worth. Some people consider it a personal fight to win the auction...usually the "Type A" behavor.. it's not for me.

    Just my opinion...

    regards,
    John
     
  4. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I know what you mean. I never have time to sit there and watch the auctions, and I don't really want to spend money on a sniping program because it seems underhanded. I try to bid what I am willing to pay and if someone goes over that, then so be it. I suppose that people that snipe get better deals, but I know what I am willing to pay and just let it go if I get outbid.

    Ebay is about as unethical as it gets, so I buy from KEH, or from people who are established community members on the few sites I watch regularly (if they have what I am looking for when I have the cash to spend) when I can, but I do seem to have to resort to ebay from time to time.

    - Randy
     
  5. moose10101

    moose10101 Member

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    A thoughtful bidder can, in almost every case, determine what an item is worth to him and place a proxy bid for that amount at any time. If that proxy bid is higher than any snipe, the proxy bidder wins. If it isn't, the proxy bidder shouldn't care because the sniper was willing to pay more. I also can't see where something can be a "dirty trick" when everyone can choose the amount and the time of their bid.

    Some people complain that they can only determine an item's value if they've seen what value other people attach to it. Unless the item is unique (and I haven't seen one yet), I can't agree with that philosophy. Waiting to see other bids turns a process that should be thoughtful into a contest that can cause people to bid more than they should.

    eBay allows sniping; they've never done anything to try to prevent it (except in Germany, where they tried and failed to suppress automated sniping, but only due to the need to give login/password info to the sniping service; privacy is a much bigger issue there). There are also a number of other reasons to snipe besides the possibility of winning at a lower price. I don't think eBay would become a better buying environment (or a more profitable company) if they took steps to eliminate it.
     
  6. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    Well, when I buy stuff there (less and less) I put a bid and go away
    I'm normally outbid by 0.50 or $1 at the last minute... it sucks i know
     
  7. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    I would say that in "standard" auctions, rather than traditional auctions. One "traditional" type of auction is a "candle auction" or "by the inch of candle" auction. A candle was lit, bidding starts and is over when the candle goes out. Sorta like eBay, except that no one knows for sure when the auction is over.

    In the end it comes down to how much your time is worth, and how much money you have. If you have more time than money, sniping is a potentially good way to get something cheaper. However, you have to commit the time. Sometimes it might be better to bid an extra amount and walk away to find the results later.

    To me it is much like the tradeoff between eBay and some of the used equipment vendors. There are vendors out there that will charge $800 for a lens you can get on eBay for $300 (for example, an old Verito). Now, if you don't have the time and you have the money, buying the lens from someone rather than waiting for the right one to come up on eBay may be worth it.

    I was a student too long...I can't bring myself to do that.

    Matt
     
  8. eagleowl

    eagleowl Member

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    it depends...

    ...on how much I want the item.
    Usually,my initial maximum bid is what I'd PREFER to pay-wishful thinking,basically.
    However,I have been "sniped" on several occasions-including 2 weeks ago when I bid on a set of 250mm lenses for my C330.
    I had the winning bid...until about 15 seconds before the auction closed. :mad:
     
  9. moose10101

    moose10101 Member

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    There is no way for you to know, except in one rare circumstance, how much you were outbid by, because of the way the proxy bidding feature works.
     
  10. rrankin

    rrankin Member

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    I lose nearly everything I bid on to snipers. So, what? I bid as much as I wanted to bid and they bid more, for whatever reason. And the fact that the final price was 25 cents over your max does NOT mean that the winners max bid was only that much. It could have potentially been much higher.

    In my opinion, the snipers MIGHT have the right idea for Ebay purchases. If one bids early and to one's maximum, someone who is new to Ebay or a haphazard bidder might bid more than your bid, just to win. Also, people can see WHAT you've bid on, and could theoretically follow you around after letting you locate the desirable and underpriced items. Sniping eliminates both of those potential problems. But as Mr Goldfarb pointed out above, it is an artifact of the Ebay method, and you have to just deal with it. Cheers, Richard
     
  11. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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    I don't see that sniping matters or makes any difference. If you've placed a bid for the maximum you're prepared to pay, and another bidder (sniper or not) makes a higher bid, then so what? You'd have lost either way. Cheers, Graham.
     
  12. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    http://kuznets.fas.harvard.edu/~aroth/papers/eBay.veryshortaer.pdf

    First of all I'd suggest reading that.

    1) Even with real auctions I "snipe". I haven't been at a real auction for years but why would anybody bid early and bid often? You want to be the last winning bidder not the sellers best friend. Bidding early only helps other people at your expense.

    2) I'm thrilled to be outbid 99.9% of the time. Why? My bid is basically at the point I figure any higher bid is too high. If somebody outbids me then they've paid more then what I feel fair value is.
     
  13. unohuu

    unohuu Member

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    i enter my max bid and leave it alone. just last week i bought the monolights with what i thought was a fair bid. i was surprised that someone did not snipe it away in the final moments. eBay is like an addiction if one is not careful.
     
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  15. MikeS

    MikeS Member

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    Sniping is a way of life on eBay. I personally feel it's wrong, but I also feel that it's about the only way to not overpay for items. Do I snipe? You bet I do! Bidding on an item attracts attention to it, which makes more people look at the item, and so more people to potentially bid on the item. Perfect example: Somebody lists an item as "Old steel developing tank" with an opening bid of say $5.00 I look at the item, and see it's really a Nikor 4x5 tank and reel (or is that thing a rack?), so I'm willing to spend say $30.00 on it. If I do the proxy bid at $30.00 and then somebody else comes along and also notices what it is, and bids $50, now the bid is up to $30.50 and I've lost the item. But now others browsing thru will see the listing, and the higher price, and wonder what could it be? If OTOH I don't bid now, and leave it with no bids, there's a better chance it will go unnoticed, and when I snipe my $30.00 bid I could win it for $5.00 or maybe $20.00 etc.

    I have a friend and calling him anal retentive would be an understatement, he's done some informal testing, and came to the conclusion that if you proxy bid you will pay more than if you snipe, and I've also found that to be the case. As I said originally, I think it's wrong, but it IS the only way to get the best prices possible on eBay.

    There used to be another auction site (I don't recall if it was Amazon or Yahoo) that would allow auctions to be extended, and the listing wouldn't end until there was a 5 minute period with no bids (that is after the set ending time), this is much closer to a true auction, and in a system like this sniping is a waste of time, and wouldn't help any. At least that's my opinion of it.

    -Mike
     
  16. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I don't see a problem. All sniping is doing is entering your maximum bid at the last moment. It does not matter when you enter your maximum bid: if someone else's maximum bid is higher, that bid will win. Indeed, if you enter the same snipe bid as someone who is not sniping, their bid will win because it was placed before the snipe bid.

    What it does do is stop the people that keep sneaking up on another bid (usually newbies) until they finally enter a bid that tops the other bidder's maximum. It just pushes up the final price as you can bet anything you like that a couple of snipe bids will top the newbie's bid as they will have only bid one or two points above the previous high bidder's maximum... One other good thing about sniping is that it stops you re-assessing your own bid if you see someone else winning and thereby bidding more than you should!

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  17. david b

    david b Member

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    I buy and sell a lot on ebay. yes sniping pisses me off. so what.

    ebay won't stop it because it makes them money.
     
  18. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Consider this... If EVERYBODY sniped, then the Ebay selling prices would be lower. So I consider the sniping services to be doing a service to us all.
     
  19. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Neal Williams, aka Flotsam, asked "But I'm wondering, what is the consensus on Ebay ethics?"

    Ethics? I don't know about ethics, but I do have an opinion about proper behavior. Buyers should pay promptly. And most do, or face repercussions. Sellers should not misrepresent their wares. Some do, others don't. And sellers should deliver the goods without gouging on shipping. Some do, other's don't.

    As for sniping, I think I can prove that in a rational world sniping will have no effect on closing prices. But this isn't a rational world. Sometimes people bid to win, not to buy an item at a price that's not too high. Some people are poor searchers and rely on others to find "the good stuff."

    In an irrational world, sniping can be good for bidders. But in the end, who wants the item most will get it.

    If you're outbid and would have paid more than you bid, shame on you for concealing your true preferences. You lied to yourself and were caught.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  20. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I don't see how. If anything, it loses them money because it stops prices being driven up as most people here, who have expressed a preference (as they say in the cat-food adverts), seem to agree. Therefore, they get less in fees due to sniping.
     
  21. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    Ethics, morals.....I'm not really sure this discussion is about ethics or morals as much as it is how sniping affects the outcome for an individual. If eBay sets out a clearly stated set of rules that apply equally to everyone who bids and if everyone who bids has an equal opportunity to use exactly the same devices to bid, then how can it be unethical? It's a level playing field. In case you haven't guessed, yes, I snipe for every auction I bid on. I bid only and exactly what I feel the item is worth. I lose more than I win and that simply means that someone wanted it more than I did.
    My reason for sniping is this - quite simply, there are people who develop "bid-fever". They see something that they want and when the price goes up, they create some reason in their mind for bidding more. They will bid waaayy past any reasonable price for an item just to get it. If they can't see your bid, then they have no reason to bid emotionally and the "bid-fever" factor is much reduced.
    Does sniping affect the seller? I don't think so. The seller will get what the marketplace thinks it is worth, without the fever affecting the price unreasonably.
    The way eBay works is not a traditional auction format. If it was, everytime an auction received a bid, the sale would be extended another period of time. In this case sniping wouldn't work.

    just my $0.02

    cheers
     
  22. magic823

    magic823 Member

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    I snipe. Its the only way to fly since lots of others are doing it.

    I watch a lot of items. If I won everything I was watching at what I thought it was worth to me, I could get overextended.

    I bid my max in the last 10 seconds, if I get it, I get it. If I'm not going to be around for the close I use a sniping service.
     
  23. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    NZ has a site similar to ebay, which allows the auction to autoextend for two minutes if you are out bid, seems to work well and you don't have to worry about getting sniped. I think the last 10 items I have purchased from ebay were 'buy now', I just got sick of the sniping game..
     
  24. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I snipe -- I know I'm a bad peachButt. I don't use a website or application to snipe, I do it myself. If I am not alone in my sniping than the price goes up. If the original bidder places a high bid than the price goes up. In other words I didn't gain a lower price by sniping and the seller is not 'cheated' out of 'fair' price. What I gain by sniping is the chance to limit opportunities for other bidders. The reality is that sniping sends the price up at the end of the auction instead of throughout the auction. It is as fair as any other bidding technique and in my opinion much smarter than bidding early.

    A nice side affect of snipping is that I can't get carried away. If my initial, last second, bid is too low to win the item then I have no time to bid again and pay more than the item is worth.

    I have run a lot of auctions. I have seen people get into bidding wars and run the price of used item up over the retail price of new. I have seen this dozens of times.

    As a seller I love it when people bid early and often, but I don't begrudge the snipers.

    It is fun to sit and refresh your auctions at the end and watch the price climb and sometimes jump in the last few seconds.

    Its all part of the game.
     
  25. seadrive

    seadrive Member

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    I guess I'm really unethical. :surprised:

    What I do is wait until the last minute, then bid what I'm willing to pay for it. If the amount I'm willing to pay is substantially more than the current price, going into the last few minutes, I will almost always win, because the auto-sniping programs are busy upping their bid by a dollar here and a dollar there. Given the nature of the HTTP request/response system, they eventually run out of time. :smile:

    As someone said, you are only going to do this for an item you really want, and if the auction ends at a time when you can be home and otherwise unoccupied. If I can't be home, or if it's not something I'm crazy about, I just bid what I'm willing to pay, and if I win, so be it. :smile:
     
  26. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Of course sniping hurts sellers. That's the point. They don't get bidding wars. It's harder for a shill bidder to bid against nobody.

    I really don't understand the line that it hurts sellers. If you get a good deal from the corner shop do you feel bad? If you find a house you like do you jump up and down? Tell the seller how you love the house and will die if you can't have it?