Ebay Sniping

So I just used a snipe service for the first time this evening.  I’d been watching this item for days:

The packaging on this looks very much like the Stunning Vintage Bottle I mentioned in my No. 5 post.  I emailed the seller to ask if the scent was fresh, and she replied back that it “smells full and fresh.  There’s nothing like perfume!”  Well, Amen. 

Earlier today I decided how much this bottle might be worth to me, and set up my first-ever snipe bid.  I’ve gotten tired of losing out on really great deals right at the last minute, even though most of the time it isn’t something I desperately want.  This one, though, I really wanted.  If I can’t beat ’em, I said to myself, I’ll join ’em.

The way a snipe-bot works, I found out today, is that the service places your max bid at whatever time you set (typically 5-7 seconds before the auction ends).  Of course, eBay’s general rules apply, and if you place your snipe bid at, say, $41.54 and 6 seconds before end of auction, and the closest bid is, say, $36  at 4 seconds before end of auction…

You win.  (Yessssss!)  You pay $37.

I ran across one of those Yahoo! Answers issues where an eBay seller was complaining about snipers – he liked to “watch the buyers get into a bidding war” and “watch the bids go higher and higher all week.”  In the comments, other sellers complained that the final selling price stays too low, when sniping is allowed. 

Butbutbut, I’m thinking, I put in the highest amount I’d be willing to pay.   I wouldn’t have bid above that anyway, even if I’d put that bid in five days ago.  I stay out of bidding wars – could I ever want something that much? – and it’s fairly nerve-wracking, watching your little “I want this” bid risking its life against “I REALLY WANT THIS” bids, but that’s the Nature of EBay.  It just is, that’s why. 

Are snipe services ethical?   It’s my opinion that they are, given that they operate within the parameters of the eBay system.  It’s okay to, um, “work” the rules, as long as you’re sticking by them, I say.  Football players do it all the time.  So do tennis players and runners and swimmers and volleyball players, and everybody else. 

So do lawyers.  (Lawyer joke told to me by one of the ushers at our wedding, who happens to be both an attorney and an amateur magician – no, seriously, Bobby is a terrific guy and a good friend:  “What’s the difference between a catfish and a lawyer?  One is an ugly, scum-sucking bottom feeder, and the other is a type of fish.”)

In your opinion, are auction snipers ugly, scum-sucking bottom feeders?

Image of perfume bottle from ebay seller rhinestonegreyhounds.  Image of catfish from wikipedia.


17 thoughts on “Ebay Sniping”

  1. I’d say definitely not (I didn’t know there was a name for that). 🙂
    I used it several times and those were the only times I actually managed to win something. And as you say, I put the maximum amount I was willing to pay. Someone else could have done the same without all the anxious bidding wars (I hate that). I think this is much more buyer-friendly.

    1. I think I like it better, Ines. Sometimes things work out for me when I bid the typical way, but again, I bid the maximum I would be happy spending on whatever-it-is anyway.

  2. Not only do I think it’s perfectly ethical, I want to know the address of the service you used! I’m not the type to hang out on ebay and get into a bidding war, so I never win anything. This sounds perfect. I never even knew such a service existed.

    1. There are several services, K – I used Auction Sniper, which gave me three “free” snipes to sign up. After that, there’s a fee which amounts to 1% of the price you paid for the item (minimum 25 cents, max $9.95). They supposedly give free snipes if you get your friends to sign up, wink wink, so if you use it, my username there is gregbrady-half.

      I did feel better about my chances of winding up with that bottle, which was nice.

  3. Big fan of the snipe. If it’s not a Buy It Now item, I *only* snipe, because then I know I won’t get snookered into paying more than I’m willing to. What’s unethical are the people who place ringer bids and all that kind of stuff to drive up the price of their auctions. I do like them a little less when I’m selling something, because you often have no idea if your item is going to sell or for how much, but hey — you pays your money, you takes your chances.

    Good luck with the Chanel. As your pithy seller points out, there is nothing like perfume.

    1. SS, yep – eBay is a big ol’ risk all the way around, so I do follow that rule of not bidding more than I’d be willing to lose. (I have been snookered a coupla times, too – but at least as often, whatever I bought was wonderful. Can you say “vintage Jolie Madame”?)

      The seller’s absolutely right about perfume. I hope it’s as nice as that other bottle I lucked into last year!

    1. Uh-oh… I’ve created a monster.

      Now we’ll probably wind up bidding against each other at some point! Kidding – I think you love vintage chypres, right? Those are not really my thing (although I do love the aforementioned Jolie Madame). I think I’m finished accumulating vintage Emeraudes, too.

  4. I think most “serious” ebay-ers either use a sniping service, use ebay’s own sniping service (Countdown, which doesn’t get a lot of publicity) or do it manually by opening two screens, watching the bidding on one and bidding during the last few seconds on the other. Of course, most sellers hope for bidding wars. I’ve tried never to get into one. I’ve never been a seller, so don’t know how they’re charged, but I imagine there is some percentage involved. If so, a bidding war means more money for the seller, and ebay. So there’s nothing unethical about sniping. It’s just part of the game.

    1. I s’pose I’m not a “serious” ebayer, despite my dropping bucks over there for vintage stuff (and discontinued jeans for my daughter, and replacement cell phones, and stuff like that). Last year, I lost several auctions last minute for vintage Jolie Madame, before scoring a couple of really amazing bottles and deciding I was done. I can see that sniping would be very valuable for that stunning rare bottle of, oh, Fath de Fath or something like that.

      And I can see why a seller, particularly one who sells stuff for serious money, as opposed to supplemental income, would be annoyed by sniping. The uncertainty! The hair-tearing! The wrinkles! Essentially, the stress I usually feel as a buyer gets transferred to the seller in this case. (HAH.)

  5. I think sniping is fine, but I can see why sellers may be a bit miffed. If you place a normal max bid early in an auction, and get outbid right away, you have several days to think about it and maybe bid more than you originally planned. I haven’t done it yet, simply because I’ve been too lazy to figure out how and I’m pretty sure I’ve been a victim of it in a few auctions where I lost out at the last minute because I wasn’t paying attention and maybe would have paid a bit more than my max bid.

    1. J, that’s happened to me several times. Sometimes it’s not that big a deal – I can wait for the next bottle of vintage Chloe to show up because they’re alllll over the place. But for that rare bottle of original-issue Chaos, or Fille d’Eve – it’s good to know that you used all the weapons at your disposal, and if you lose that auction after sniping it, then somebody really did want it more.

  6. I’ve never used a snipe service, but I’ve done regular manual sniping many times. Seriously, how can you not? I lost out on too many things that I wanted to not turn into a sniper myself.

    The only times that I don’t snipe is if I’m going to be asleep or busy during the auction end – then I just bid my max and hope for the best. So, I can see that a snipe service would come in handy – but I’m probably not willing to pay for it.

    I actually prefer to “Buy it Now”- except that some of those prices are higher than retail. 🙁

    I can understand why sellers don’t like it – after all, their goal is to make as much money as possible, but I’m not getting involved in a bidding war. I’ll never up my price from my max and I hate losing by a few cents, so sniping it is.

    1. Cynthia, I think anybody who’s bid on anything on eBay has missed out on something to a late higher bid. Grrrr. I have done a “manual snipe” thing in the past, when bidding on something I really wanted (2006 Diorissimo comes to mind – I bit my nails all through the last ten minutes of that one).

      I think you’re right about not wanting to pay for it – but the first 3 are free, so I didn’t pay anything this time. I shall save it for the times when I MUST HAVE IT!!!

      “Buy it now” is great, if the price is reasonable. I tend to look for those first, with more mundane items. I was thrilled to find Bookworm some jeans that actually FIT her (Levi’s curvy jr jeans, which have been discontinued – the new so-called curvy ones aren’t curvy enough for her, and they’re skinny leg, which she hates). Buy it now? YEP. Snapped up those suckers.

    1. Good to know, and thank you.

      I will say that the perfume in that bottle is actually fairly nice to wear. It is not the wonderful thing in what I’ve been referring to as “The Stunning Vintage BOttle of No. 5” – which I also bought on ebay secondhand, and which really cannot be anything other than the real deal, or again – if it IS? I don’t care. Because it smells like heaven.

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