One definition for this site could be: A website for the buying and selling of unnecessary tat. --Tsunami
In the latter context, AlexChurchill has got caught a few times by auction sniping: people who use software or websites (either free or paid) to submit their bid in the final seconds of the auction, thus allowing no possibility of overbidding. This has some disquieting societal consequences, because of the phenomenon known as "auction fever" where bidders will raise their maximum bid if they get outbid. It's clear that bidders using an auction sniping tool will be more likely to win certain items, and likely to get better prices on some items than if they made their bids earlier and allowed their opponents a chance to overbid.
But the thing is, is it moral? If everybody did it, the auctions would still work but would be more random and less interactive. Ebay themselves would probably discourage widespread sniping use since their cut increases as the final price does. Is it unethical to fight fire with fire, or just practical? I'd value your thoughts. --AlexChurchill
Well, the model suggested by Ebay themselves is, "say how much you're prepared to pay and we'll do your bidding for you". So if you're "raising your bid", what you've actually done from Ebay's POV is lied about what you were prepared to pay the first time around, and hence you deserve all the sniping you get. If you just enter your maximum budget initially, the item will not go to another buyer at a price you can afford to pay. This could potentially cause problems of its own for the user - namely, the temptation for the seller to employ a friend to outbid you, then "be unable to pay", leaving the seller to make the "gracious" offer for you to acquire the item at your highest bid (todo: link to WebComics/SomethingPositive strip); however, this is theoretically against Ebay's TOS, so Ebay should theoretically be able to do something about such cases. Interestingly, this is actually exactly the same thing as the sniping software does - the sniper enters their maximum budget into the software which then bids on their behalf! - so I am not entirely certain what they are gaining by using it rather than eBay. - MoonShadow
I would argue EBay's suggested model is generally better for your wallet than the "auction fever" style of bidding, watching what others bid and then deciding that perhaps if you don't eat for the rest of the week you can afford a little more - you're supposed to be performing a cool-headed, well-considered business transaction, not gambling. If gambling is what you are after, what are you complaining about? Go join the snipers. - MoonShadow
I think this is where eBay will quietly sit back and let people divert from their suggested model, though, because they know that if you get told you've been outbid, you might raise your supposedly "maximum" bid a bit higher. They do encourage you to "enter the most you'd be willing to pay for this item", but they also email you the moment you've been outbid saying "Don't let this item get away: enter a higher maximum bid now!" They know that huge amounts of bids made are not actually "maximum" bids, and they benefit from it. But that's helpful in letting me identify the subtle inauthenticity in the standard bidding practice. Thanks --AC
Actually, those emails are HTML, so I don't get them :) But I can't really talk since I gave up on EBay ages ago because I've had uniformly bad luck (in the "poor quality" sense) buying electronics from it - it's always been a false saving; these days I only buy from places where I can come back and hold the salesman by his shirt collar until they cough up a replacement, unless it's something that can't possibly break - and there isn't really much else there I'd want to buy even if I had any money. - MoonShadow, who's skipping LAC this month
I think I would dispute the "if everybody sniped, auctions would get more random" suggestion, though - I'd say if everybody sniped, the end result would be the same as if everybody followed EBay's model - that is, the person prepared to pay the highest amount (since they would be the person entering the highest amount into their sniping software) would get the item. - MoonShadow
The presupposition here is that everyone has an objective maximum bid amount, and I don't think that's the case. But the auction principles as stated are consistent with sniping, though. --AC
Ever wonder what happens to all the nail clippers that get confiscated in airport check-ins? [Wonder no more].