When it comes to winning auctions on eBay, there are few practices as controversial — or effective — as sniping.
Sniping is simple: you wait until the end of the auction, then swoop in with a low bid that’s just high enough to win before anyone else can raise their maximum bid. It’s certainly a viable, if somewhat irritating, strategy.
Let’s take a look at what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to eBay sniping. And check out some of the tools for using it effectively.
Does Sniping Really Work?
Most of the evidence points to yes. Bidnapper has collected a number of quotes from researchers that support this idea. The research is getting dated, but in general, it does seem like people who know what they’re talking about believe that sniping is the way to go.
Moreover, the data indicates that incremental bidding significantly diminishes with experience (as measured by the bidders’ feedback numbers), while last-minute bidding increases with experience. —2001 Harvard Study
Sniping allows you to conceal information (always a good idea in auctions and similar events) and bid without giving anyone else time to react. It’s a win all around.
However, there are some important caveats, especially for eBay beginners.
The Balance notes that eBay’s proxy bidding system and the increasing popularity of fixed-price listings mean you could actually win fewer auctions with sniping. It depends on a lot of factors. But remember that any bid entered on eBay will immediately beat out a snipe bid because of the proxy bidding system.
Proxy bidding system: eBay adjusts your bid as needed to ensure that you only pay the minimum you have to in order to win something.
In short, sniping generally works very well. It won’t always win, and it won’t always result in you paying less. And if you really want something that doesn’t show up on eBay very often, sniping probably isn’t the best way to go. But in general, it’s not a bad strategy.
Why Is eBay Sniping Controversial?
Some people think that sniping goes against the spirit of auction sites. Without sniping, if you want to make sure that you win the auction, you need to either enter a very high bid or rearrange your schedule so you can be there at the end of the auction to make sure you win. Sniping software means you can put in a single bid and then totally forget about the auction.
When a snipe bid wins an auction, whoever was previously in the lead to win can feel like they’ve been cheated. Even if they were willing to enter a higher bid, they didn’t get a chance. It feels bit like someone has stolen the item out from under you.
Interestingly, eBay doesn’t have a problem with sniping. It’s an allowed and effective practice. In eBay’s own words,
Sniping is part of the eBay experience, and all bids placed before a listing ends are valid, even if a bidder places the bid one second before the listing ends.
It’s completely legal and allowed. And after you start doing it, you’ll see that it’s a great strategy — putting down bids here and there just raises the price of items (which is exactly what eBay wants) and makes people get emotional. Which further raises the price as emotion gets in the way of reason.
How to Start Sniping Auctions
eBay sniping couldn’t be easier. There are a lot of websites out there that help you do it. We’ll take a look at Gixen, because it’s totally free.
But there are a lot of other options like:
Some are paid, and some require software downloads, but Gixen is free and browser-based. Many sniping tools also offer browser extensions that save you a couple clicks.
Keep in mind that to use any of these services, you’ll need to hand over your eBay login information. It might be a good idea to use an extra email address or an entirely different eBay account if you’re going to be sniping.
Using Gixen is really easy.
Sign in with your eBay username and password to get started. Then go to eBay and find the item you want and make a note of the item number. You can find the item number in the URL or in the top-right corner of the Description box.
Enter the item number and your maximum bid in Gixen and hit Add. That’s all there is to it. You can also group items so you can place snipe bids on multiple copies of the same item without winning them all. If you win one, the other bids won’t be raised in response to someone else bidding.
That’s all there is to it.
Of course, using paid services gives you more options. But Gixen is a great way to snipe a few times and see if it’s worth investing in.
And it’s worth mentioning that you can always snipe using eBay’s proxy bidding system. Just hang out on an item page until the auction is almost over, and register your bid right before it ends. If you feel like sniping software is cheating, this strategy might appeal to you.
It can certainly work — it just requires that you’re around when the item is ending.
A Few Things to Remember
Sniping is generally pretty straightforward, but there are a few important things to keep in mind.
Don’t retract your bids. You might be tempted to if you won an item and have placed bids on other copies of it, or if someone drove up the price too quickly. But retracting bids violates eBay’s terms of service except under specific circumstances. So don’t do it.
Be careful about over-bidding. When you get started with sniping, it can be easy to put a ton of items on your list. And if they end close together, you might end up with a lot more of them than you expect.
Remember that sniping isn’t always going to work. If an item has a huge number of bidders or a single very committed bidder, you’re likely to get outbid by eBay’s proxy system. Sniping is best used on smaller items that aren’t seeing a huge amount of competition. Remember that sniping isn’t a guarantee of anything — it might save you a few bucks here and there, but it’s not likely to get you a $1,000 item for 10 bucks.
As long as your expectations are reasonable, sniping can be a great strategy for winning eBay auctions. Just know the limitations, don’t go crazy, and you’ll be fine.
How Do You Snipe?
eBay isn’t always the cheapest option, but sniping can help you save some cash. It’s not going to win you every auction, and it could actually end up losing you a few. But it remains a viable strategy in many circumstances.
Whether you use an online tool, a piece of software, or just hang out and bid at the end of the auction, it’s generally not a bad way to go. And now, we want to hear from you!
Do you snipe auctions? Do you use a sniping service, or just do it by hand? Have you found it to be a useful strategy? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below!
Image Credit: Maxx-Studio via Shutterstock.com
Originally written by Joshua Lockhart on 24th April, 2013