Jul 29 2008

Be careful about ‘winning’ an eBay auction


With five minutes to go, my heart began to pound. Sweat moistened my palms, and I wiped them from time to time before pressing “F5” to refresh my internet browser.

An eBay auction was ending soon, and I wanted to win.


My prize? Getting to pay the price I wanted for a pair of long Gap maternity jeans.

I’m no stranger to the internet auction site, and lately, I’ve found some great deals on maternity wear. But the thing is, if you’re not careful, you could get caught up with the excitement of the moment, the desire to win–and pay more money than you originally intended.

I’m extremely competitive and if I have a chance to win something, I do my best to do so.

We need to be cautious about the language used on that site — “winning” an auction.

To avoid last-minute temptation by increasing my maximum bid higher than I’m comfortable, I do one of two things:

I choose “buy it now” listings instead of auction ones. That way, I know the final price and I’m not waiting for other bidders or for the listing to expire.

I search other web sites and other auctions to find out how much similar items have sold for. When you log in to your eBay account, you can view “completed listings” to see these prices.

If you’re seeking an item that isn’t totally unique and you aren’t in a huge hurry to own it, you can afford to pass on an out-of-control auction.

With regard to the maternity pants I wanted, I knew that the price I wanted to beat was $25. Old Navy has long length maternity jeans online for about $25 (plus $7 shipping), and several eBay auctions for the Gap line were selling for $22-30 with shipping included.

Since it’s still summer, and since I’m not particularly pregnant-looking yet, I knew I could take my time to bid on these auctions.

I found a listing for cute pants in my size, and the price was right so I gave it a shot.

I established my maximum price: $23.51 with shipping. I knew that if several bidders wanted the item and the price jumped higher than that, I would not continue to bid, since I knew I could find similar items somewhere else.

I didn’t bid until the last minute, and I put my maximum price in at that time. I didn’t want to risk increasing my max bid by $1 or so at a time, and then have my computer freeze and miss out. Some people choose to bid in small increments, hoping they’ll be able to pay less. That strategy doesn’t work for me.

I ended up “winning” the auction for cheaper than my maximum price. I paid $23.72 (this includes a $1.30 charge for package insurance, so if you want to get technical, it was $0.21 more than my max price).

I know that some bidders are really annoyed at people who swoop in and win an auction with just moments to go. Sorry. That’s how the game is played. If you wanted the item, you should have set your maximum bid higher. If someone else was willing to pay more money than you, then they should be able to buy the item.

How do you bid on eBay? What great deals have you found on that site?

Check out this recent post on Wise Bread that touches on the whole “eBay auctions can be like gambling” phenomenon. Also see this two-year-old Fox News article about addictive eBaying.

Posted under Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Be careful about ‘winning’ an eBay auction”

  1. Seems like I bid the same way you do. I wait until the last minute to put my bid in… unless I’ll be out or if it’s ending after I’m asleep or something. And I can’t understand why some people have a problem with that. It doesn’t matter when you bid, just matters who’s willing to pay the most.

    Oh and I always factor shipping costs into the price I’m paying. So then I can decide if I’m just better off going to the store and picking up the item myself.

  2. If everyone decided what they wanted to pay, and stuck to it, there wouldn’t be a problem with sniping. If you’re going to end up bidding more than your maximum, then just do it in the first place.

    Solomon’s last blog post..The “Things I’m Grateful For” July contest – NOW RUNNING!!

  3. I also bid on auctions in the last few minutes, part of the fun, I suppose…like a rush that you get as well Kacie (And I thought that only happend to me!. I have won many auctions this way…but have also lost a few bidding this way as well. No biggie, I guess they were just not meant for me to win…LOL LOL

  4. Back in 2004 I bought a used minivan on ebay motors and had to up my price to $250 since someone else showed up at the last few minutes. It was a rush to the end and my heart was pounding and racing.

    I traded the car in this past March for a newer model at a car dealership this time.

    Bonnie Sayers (autismfamily)’s last blog post..Autism Reviewer Book Swap

  5. i normally use “buy it now” to save from the headache of feeling like i missed out on a purchase if i don’t “win” the bidding. :)

    tiffanie’s last blog post..want to cut your grocery bill in half?

  6. The biggest thing I’ve bought on E-Bay was a dining room table with 10 chairs and 2 hutches…in Kansas. And I live in Oregon. Even with the shipping charge, it was a great deal and I got exactly what i wanted. I even passed it up the first time it was posted, and lucked out when they reposted with a lower starting price.

    When I first started using E-Bay 7 years ago I would get caught up in the excitement of bidding and outbidding others. That led to a few unwise purchases (small stuff like clothing). Now I know better. I hardly pay attention to when the auction ends. I just put in a sensible maximum bid and walk away.

    L. Ottaviano’s last blog post..July Update

  7. I’m a big fan of ebay, and I just started last year.

    Last week was my birthday and I was set out on buying an audio law lecture set on Ebay in preparation for law school. People have been bidding on it already, and I thought I’d wait till the last minute to bid.

    Why? Not because I wanted the rush. I usually in the middle, like 1-2 days before the auction ends. It’s more because I want to make sure what my highest bid would be.

    I was still calculating how much money I’d receive from my salary teaching nursing, and I had to make sure that I had enough for savings. Maximum bid: $35.

    I was there the whole time it was ending. I was winning around 7 minutes till the auction ends, until someone bids $42.77.

    Sadly, I lost. But I knew until when I would stop. Even if it was for my birthday.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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