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This chapter is from the book

Secrets for Winning the Auction—At a Reasonable Price

When you've found what you want, the next trick is to make sure you end up as the winning bidder—without overpaying. Here are some secrets that will enhance your chances of being the high bidder, without bidding too high.

Secret #6: Do Your Research

Don't bid blind; make sure that you know the true value of an item before you offer a bid. Look around at auctions of similar items; what prices are they going for? And don't neglect researching outside of eBay; sometimes, you can find what you're looking for at a discount store or in a catalog or at another online site—where you'll probably get a real warranty and a better return policy. Shop around, and don't assume that the price you see at an auction is always the best deal available.

Be informed, and you won't bid too high—or too low.

Secret #7: There's More Where That Came From

In 99.9% of eBay's auctions, that "one of a kind" item really isn't one of a kind. In fact, some sellers (especially merchant sellers) will have multiple quantities of an item, which they release to auction in dribs and drabs over time. In addition, some collectibles are bought and sold and bought and sold by multiple buyers and sellers over time, continually changing hands via new auctions. If you don't get this particular item, there's a good chance you'll get to bid on something similar soon.

Along the same lines, you should never—I repeat, never—bid on the very first item you see. In almost all instances there are several other items on eBay similar to the first item you saw. Look at the entire list of items before you choose which one to bid on. Seldom is the first item you see the one you really want or the best deal.

Secret #8: Don't Show Your Hand

This is the first of the two key components to the sniping strategy: Don't place an early bid on an item. That just signals your interest and attracts other bidders—which results in a higher price.

Secret #9: Wait Until the Last Seconds to Bid

The second component of the sniping strategy is the snipe itself—the literal last-second bid. Wait until there are only 10–15 seconds left in an auction, and then place your best bid. By bidding so late in the process, you don't give competing bidders any time to respond. If your bid was high enough, you'll win without fear of being outbid in response.

Secret #10: Watch, Don't Bid

When it comes to not bidding (for sniping purposes), one of the key tools is eBay's Watch This Item feature. You can place any auction item on your watch list and keep tabs on the bidding while you wait to snipe. Just click the Watch This Item link on the item listing page and then watch the items on your My eBay page.

Secret #11: Watch the Finish

Don't forget the downside to sniping—that you can be sniped, too. Don't get outbid at the last minute. Because most auction activity occurs at the very end of the auction, track the last hour of your most important auctions and be prepared to react quickly to last-second snipers.

Secret #12: Get in Sync

When you're sniping, precision counts. Make sure that you're in sync with eBay's official clock (viv.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?EbayTime). If you're a few seconds slow, you could lose a sniping contest!

Secret #13: Look for Off-Peak Auctions

You already know that the final minute of the auction is the best time to place your bid. But are there specific times of the day that offer better bargains for bidders?

The answer, of course, is yes. Believe it or not, some sellers schedule their auctions to end in the wee hours of the morning—when there aren't a lot of bidders awake to make last-minute snipes. Look for auctions ending between midnight and 5:00 a.m. Pacific time if you want some competition-free sniping.

Secret #14: Bid in the Off Season

Although there is some category-specific seasonality, the best overall time of the year to pick up eBay bargains is during the summer months. Summer is the slowest period on eBay, which means there are fewer people bidding—and lower prices for you.

Secret #15: Put Your Best Foot Forward

When you do bid, don't weasel around. Make your bid the maximum amount the item is worth to you, and be done with it.

Secret #16: Don't Let the Proxy Bid Things Up

If two or more people are bidding on the same item, eBay's proxy bidding software can automatically (and quickly) rocket up the price until the bidder with the lower maximum bid maxes out. It's kind of an automated bidding frenzy conducted by two mindless robots.

Some bidders refuse to participate in proxy bidding. If the price is to increase, they want to do it manually. If you want to hold total control over the entire bidding process, how do you defeat the automatic bidding software? Simple: Make sure that your maximum bid is the same price as the next incremental bid and no higher. It might take a bit more work—and it's not the way I like to do things, personally—but it does put you in total control of the bidding process.

Secret #17: Know When to Say No

Be disciplined. Set a maximum price you're willing to pay for an item and don't exceed it! It's okay to lose an auction.

Don't automatically rebid just because you've been outbid. It's too easy to get caught up in the excitement of a fast-paced auction. Learn how to keep your cool; know when to say no.

Secret #18: Check the Seller's Past Auctions

While you're checking up on a seller, use eBay's search function to display all the seller's completed auctions. See whether the seller has sold multiples of this particular item in the past. There's no need to get into a bidding war if the same item will come up for auction again next week.

Secret #19: Bid in Odd Numbers

When you bid, don't bid an even amount. Instead, bid a few pennies more than an even buck; for example, if you want to bid $10, bid $10.03 instead. That way, your bid will beat any bids at the same approximate amount—$10.03 beats $10 any day—without your having to place a new bid at the next whole bid increment.

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