eBay Needs To Extend Auction Endings

    January 29, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

I’ve ranted a few times in the past about auction sniping, the practice of bidders using software to hop in at the last second and snag an item at a price below what other bidders may be willing to pay in open bidding.

Now here’s another reason for eBay to start thinking seriously about automatically extending auctions when late bids hit. Scammers hitting electronics auctions with inflated bids followed by requests to ship items out of the country, spoofed PayPal payment notifications, and other naughtiness ought to be enough for eBay to do something about the situation.

The problem as noted by Robert Rittmuller on his Daily Techno-Babble blog concerned the misadventures he faced during his recent efforts at being a seller:

Just this past week I attempted to use eBay to auction off two notebook computers and quickly discovered that this was an impossible task thanks to all the scammers who now appear to have almost complete control of the site. Yes, you heard that right. Complete control.

The way these scammers work is they send you an email asking to purchase your item outside of eBay, then when you won’t bite they hose your auction using a hacked account effectively preventing you from making a legitimate sale and at the same time sticking you with huge sellers fees from eBay.

Robert included emails received from supposed buyers, requesting shipments outside the country despite his notice in the auctions that he would not ship outside the United States. After refusing these come-ons, a fake bidder hit one auction with a winning bid of $4,494, when the next highest legitimate bid was $640. The other auction is still in progress.

Sellers on eBay can ban problematic buyers, to keep them from wrecking future auctions. But when they snipe an auction at the last second, they can’t be banned when the auction ends. This leaves the seller with eBay’s non-paying buyer process to recoup fees associated with the auction.

If eBay enabled the ability to automatically extend an auction by a few minutes when a late bid hit at the last second, buyers and sellers could both benefit. Sellers could ban obvious fake bids, while buyers in legitimate sales would have the chance to increase their bids above the sniped amount, making more money for the seller.

Both scenarios should end positively for not just the buyer and the seller, but eBay as well. Sales that earn sellers closer to their expected price will encourage them to sell more on the site (which makes eBay more money in fees) while buyers will be more willing to participate in auctions by making diligence a viable competitor for software agents.

Buyers will still be able to automate their bids; they will just have to be willing to pay closer to their maximum bid with a flexible end time.

Isn’t this a better scenario than enabling scammers and penny-pinching buyers from souring sellers on using eBay?


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.