Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Sniper" Psychology

There is a thread currently in progress on the Allspark about "sniping." I've commented on the matter before, calling it "dishonest and cowardly." I've also encouraged people to bid whatever they're honest maximum is on an auction, because unless eBay changes their system, "sniping" isn't going to go anywhere, and eBayers must accept that fact.

But I must admit to being more than a little frustrated that "people should just bid their maximum" seems to be the mantra of most of the posts defending "sniping." I think that this is a bit disingenuous. The following comments are edited from a post I made on page 4 of the Allspark thread:
It must be acknowledged that there is a "psychology" to eBay that actively encourages sniping. Many people say that they snipe because it tends to get them auctions for less money overall. IF everybody bid their maximum, it theoretically wouldn't matter what time you placed the bid. 2 days early or 2 seconds early, it would all work out the same in the final bid.

But we all know that the reality isn't this way. Snipers do what they do because, as eBay is set up, it tends to result in lower prices for the person who bids at the last minute than for the person who bids early. This is because an auction that is bid on early stands far more chance of being bid on later by a competitive person. Yet a similar auction (we'll call it "Item 1a") might go the entire auction length without even getting a first bid because the minimum bid is too high, even though the first item with multiple bids results in a final price higher than Item 1a's minimum.

The fact is, sniping works because of the way the system is set up. It is a cowardly practice, and is not performed by people who are honestly "bidding the maximum they're willing to bid," the way that sniper-apologists are telling sniper-foes to do. This is because snipers know that, if they actually did this themselves, they would end up paying higher prices. This is an abuse of the system, and it is in eBay's power to do something about it by the simple act of setting up a nominal automatic extension after the most recent bid.

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