Thursday, October 27, 2005

My best eBay snipe so far

If you ever buy or sell things on eBay, you are probably familiar with the practice of sniping. Basically, if you are going to bid on an auction, it's usually in your interest to bid as late as possible. Why? Because some bidders can't decide what's the maximum amount they are willing to pay for the item. Therefore they bid some amount early in the auction, and check back later to see if somebody has outbid them; then they place a new, higher bid, etc. By bidding very late, just a few seconds before the auction ends, you are preventing these people from responding in this way. They won't have enough time to place another bid, and you may be able to win the auction for less than they would be willing to pay for the item (if they had had enough time to place another bid).

Some web sites offer sniping software or services, i.e. you can tell them to place a bid on your behalf and their software will take care of bidding just a few seconds before the auction ends. However, I just do it the old-fashioned way — by obsessively refreshing my browser window in the last minutes of the auction, and finally clicking the “Confirm Bid” button some 15 or 20 seconds before the auction ends. Frankly, most of the auctions I bid on don't really require sniping; often I'm the only bidder anyway. But manual sniping is, as others have observed before me, a ‘cheap rush’ — one feels a kind of thrill, one's heart beats wildly for a while, and if they find me dead of a stroke in front of my computer one day, it is just as likely to be due to a particularly exciting snipe than to some particularly kinky porn site.

Anyway, today I placed what was probably my best snipe so far. Of course it would be foolish to try to achieve this on purpose — in case of any network glitch, your bid might arrive too late and you would lose the auction. (In fact network glitches have on one or two occasions saved me nontrivial sums of money by preventing me from winning auctions and buying yet more books that I wouldn't have time to read.) But today it happened by pure chance. I was thinking of bidding on an auction that was going to end a few minutes after noon. But as it often happens, I was immersed in other work and when I next looked at my watch, I saw it was 12:13. I was sure the auction was over, and decided to look at its web page again to see if somebody else had bought the item (there hadn't been any bids there in the morning when I had last checked the auction web page). To my surprise, I noticed that the auction wasn't over yet — there were 37 seconds left, and no bids yet. So I quickly placed my bid, which required going through three web pages (sign in, enter bid amount, confirm bid); thankfully I typed my password correctly on the first attempt; and anyway, at the end I saw that my winning bid arrived just in time — two seconds before the auction ended.


Blogger crni said...

Nice! I usually just put in my *real* max price and forget about it. Not worth obsessing over.

Friday, October 28, 2005 5:15:00 AM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

Well, I spend too much money on books anyway, so I try to get them as cheaply as possible. In my experience, there are still quite a lot of bidders who start by placing a low bid and then wait to respond to other people's bids. So whenever an auction that I'm interested in ends at a convenient time, I try to snipe it. But I agree that much of the time it doesn't really make a difference.

Friday, October 28, 2005 9:28:00 AM  
Blogger Matej said...

sori, care, kaj je 'dulness'?

Friday, October 28, 2005 9:52:00 AM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

Ti lenoba lena :) Puščobnost, duhamornost, pogojno tudi topoumnost. Verz je drugače iz ene sijajne Coleridgeove pesmi (A Fragment Found in A Lecture-room). On se sicer tam zgraža nad puščobnostjo matematike (ki se meni sicer ne zdi tako zelo puščobna), jaz pa sem se kasneje spomnil na tisti verz, ko sem razmišljal o tem, da bi se najbrž marsikomu tudi moj blog zdel precej puščoben.

Friday, October 28, 2005 11:37:00 AM  

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