Since their introduction several years ago, online auctions, such as eBay, have been one of the hottest destinations on the World Wide Web. Auction sellers are attracted by the prospect of a broad venue for their products and the possibility of high profits resulting from emotion-driven bidding wars.

Bidders on online auction sites are drawn to the unique shopping opportunities and potential to purchase hard-to-find items at low prices. One technique many successful auction bidders employ is called sniping.

Auction sniping is waiting to place your bid until seconds before the auction closes. In most cases, the last-minute bid precludes competing bids and assures the sniping bidder the winning bid at the lowest price. Some web sites estimate that sniping occurs on 5 percent of all eBay auctions that close with bids.

While this technique is not without controversy (mostly from disgruntled sellers or competing bidders) it is permitted on most online auction sites including eBay. In fact, an eBay Community Development representative related eBay’s position on one of eBay’s message boards:

From: daphne@eBay.com

Topic: Re: Snipers How To Workshop

Just for the record, contrary to what some people think, there’s no rule against “sniping,” or bidding in the last moments of the auction. You will hear all kinds of debates about which method (proxy bidding or sniping) is more effective, and eBay would recommend proxy bidding, but bidding at the last moment of the auction is perfectly acceptable and legal. :)

Daphne
eBay Community Development

There are several advantages to sniping on auctions. The first is that the sniper prevents counter-bids and is more likely win the auction. The most significant advantage is that sniping prevents emotional bidding wars. These are events that auction sellers dream about — two or more bidders start running up the price of a listed item because they get caught up in the excitement of the moment. More often than not, the sniper will win the auction at a lower price if they do it correctly.

There are some problems associated with sniping manually. First, you must be online to bid when the auction closes. This may not be convenient if the bidding for that PEZ dispenser you’ve been drooling over ends in the middle of the night or while you are at work. Second, depending on your connection speed, your last second bid may be submitted too late. The auction might close before your bid reaches eBay.

Not to worry though, there are several software and web-based solutions to automate the sniping process for you.

Sniping software programs, such as iSnipeIt reside on your computer. You simply enter the item number you wish to bid on and input your maximum bid. At the appropriate time, the sniping software connects to the internet and places the bid for you. This requires your computer to be on, the sniping program to be active, and a connection to the internet. One advantage to having sniping software resident on your computer is increased security. Most desktop applications don’t require your eBay ID and password to reside on servers continuously connected to the internet. However, the timeliness of your snipe depends on your connection speed and your internet service provider. This can be a problem for some people.

Online services such as AuctionStealer mitigate these connection issues. They have high-speed connections to the internet and can place your last second bid regardless if your computer is on or not. While web based services are generally more expensive than a desktop software application, their reliability is remarkable. An advantage to online sniping services is that they respond quickly to frequent changes in eBay’s web site that can disable a desktop software program. The hapless auction sniper who is attempting to use a desktop solution is often out of luck until the programmer modifies his or her code and the user installs the update.

Sniping online auction sites such as eBay can be of great benefit to the bidder. It saves them money and greatly increases the chances that they will win the auction. Give it a try on the next auction you bid on!

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Posted Dec 12, 2005

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