The last two columns have discussed selling on eBay. This final column on the subject will discuss buying. The first two columns were published November 1, 2002 and November 8, 2002. [Editors Note: Please note that this column was originally published as "Part 2," which was a mistake. This is the 1st, and so far only, part of Nancy's bidding tips. - Editor]
HINT: New computer users may be unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this column. If you come across something you are unfamiliar with you may go to the Computing With Bifocals Index for help.
What Does eBay Mean By a Maximum Bid?
When you bid on an auction you will see three items of information. The current bid is just what it says. The bid increment is the minimum you must bid, and the maximum bid is the maximum you are willing to lay on the line.
For instance lets say I bid on a new printer. The opening bid is US$25. Three bids have been placed and the auction is now up to US$37.50. The printer is just what I have been looking for and I am willing to pay as much as US$75 and I bid that amount. If no other bidder has bid more than the incremental amount, my bid will show up as US$43.75. The difference between the US$75.00 and the current US$43.75 remains as a reserve bid you have in place.
When someone else bids on the item my reserve is automatically tapped into and eBay bids on my behalf. This continues until one of us has the highest bid either because the other bidder gave up, or the other bidder exceeded my US$75 bid. If the bidding remains at US$43.75 until the auction ends, that is all I have to pay. Obviously, if another bidder also has a maximum bid in place when I first bid then, my opening bid will either be rejected or it will reflect the amount required to outbid my opponent.
Bid Smart. How many days till the auction ends?
If you bid too early you may be inviting a bidding war. On the other hand, if you wait too long, the item may be higher than you wanted to pay. If it is something you absolutely must have or die, then bid up front as high as you are willing to go. Each person will have to experiment with this to see what works best for them. Don't be surprised if you get taken a time or two until you figure it all out.
Be Aware of Snipers.
Sniper is a term for a bidder who doesn't bid until the last few moments of an auction. Typically a sniper will identify something they want and save a link to it. Then when time is running out (1 minute, 2 minutes, etc.) they will pop in with a bid, hoping to take it away from other bidders. They take the chance that a current bidder has a maximum bid in reserve that will protect their bid. However, more often than not, the sniper steals the item away at the least amount of cost to him or her. I'm not trying to imply that there is anything wrong with sniping. It is perfect legit and is a technique that a number of bidders use. However, if you are bidding on something that you really want it would be worth your while to stay with the item the last few minutes of the auction.
Read The Whole Ad.
Read it not only to get an accurate description of the items, but to look for fine print. See if the shipping amount is included. Lots of sellers tack on a handling charge to the shipping costs and that can increase your cost significantly. Don't hesitate to send an e-mail asking the seller questions if things are not clear. There is a link within each auction that allows you to quickly access the sellers e-mail address. Also check out what shipping options are offered.
Most sellers in the US seem to use the postal service. The postal carriers usually try to deliver a package once. After that the recipient will have to go to the post office and pick it up. UPS will make 3 attempts, but if you work during the day you will probably end up having to pick a package up from them. Check to see where your nearest office is and how long it takes to get there. I believe though that a recipient can redirect a package to their place of employment or other place where a package can be signed for. When I was still working a day job, I could not do that because it was not allowed in my place of employment.
Consider How You Want to Pay.
Certain payment options contain guarantees that may be worth your while. Check out PayPal and BidPay as well as the regular eBay payment model. Read the fine print. Many sellers ask for money orders which is fine, but consider sending your money order payment with a confirmation requirement so you have a paper trail. Disputes will be your word against theirs unless you have proof payment was received.
There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
If we have not learned anything else as we have aged, most of us have figured that one out. As they say, if it looks to good to be true it probably isn't. I saw an auction for some very nice steak knives. Each box was being auctioned at US$1.00. Each box probably weighed a few ounces. Shipping and handling charges for each box was US$6.95 no matter how many you purchased. (It was a dutch auction -- see below). It is not that I think the total of US$7.95 was unreasonable, but I felt it was unethical to handle the auction that way.
What Is A Dutch Auction?
A seller pays a fee for each auction they post. Some sellers who have multiples of a single item will list the items as a dutch auction. Obviously it will be less expensive to pay for one dutch auction than for 25 individual auctions of the same item. In a dutch auction your bid price is the one you, and every other winner, will end up paying. The seller will determine a price they want and hope for multiple purchase
On To Macworld
The next Macworld convention will be held in San Francisco early in January. I will be presenting a break-out session concerning ways to encourage your parents and grandparents to use a computer. I would like to have your input as I prepare my presentation. What was the most confusing thing you encountered when you first started using your Mac? Please take a few minutes to let me know.