How to win an eBay auction:
- Stop bidding all the damn time.
- Bid once. Bid the maximum you would be willing to pay. Bid the amount where, if someone outbids you, you can live with that. eBay works by "proxy bidding" -- your actual bid, the amount you pay if you win, will only be one step above the closest bidder below you.
- Bid as late in the auction as you possibly can. There's a herd mentality on eBay; if people see someone is bidding on an item, they'll be enticed to bid themselves. If they're outbid, hey, the item must be worth more, so they'll bid again, higher. This spirals up and up and up and if you'd just left the thing with zero bids people would be ignoring it. Bidding early is like waving a big flag with "PLEASE OUTBID ME" on it.
- Sniping is not illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is not "stealing" your auction. The only way that a sniper can win is if they bid more than you did. If you bid your maximum, then they bid more than you were willing to pay, so what's the problem? Yes, it always looks like the damn sniper outbid you by $1. In all probability, they didn't. See the bit about proxy bidding above.
- If you want the best chance of winning, use a sniping service yourself. Sniping services are cheap. They will keep you from forgetting that the auction's about to end. They will let you bid nice and late so that people who did not bid their maximum (or people prone to getting caught up in the heat of the moment and raising their maximum bids) will not get a second chance. You can just sleep or work or read a book while the auction is counting down. Stop feeling guilty. eBay is not a game. Having a robot bid for you is not cheating. I use auctionsniper.com.
- Now you've either won the auction, or somebody paid more than the maximum you were willing to pay. It's that easy.
How not to get burned afterward:
- Don't buy from people with lousy feedback. Generally, anything under 98% is lousy, though there are a few exceptions. If the seller's relatively new, has one negative, and the person who left the negative sounds looney, go for it. If the seller's got 10000 feedbacks and a 99% positive rating, that's 100 really pissed off customers. I'd reconsider buying from them. http://www.toolhaus.org has a nifty little tool that sorts the negative feedback out from the sea of generic A+++++++++ positives.
- Pay by PayPal, and fund it with a credit card. That gives you two layers of protection if the seller doesn't come through. Don't let anybody string you along past the 45-day window for filing a PayPal complaint; no matter what excuse they give, if the item's not there in 44 days, file. You can always withdraw your complaint later -- but never do it based on a promise. Do it because you have the item in your hand and are happy with it.
- If you pay by any other method, make sure it's no more money than you're willing to lose. eBay protection is mythical. Only credit cards will give you much recourse.
- Anyone who takes PayPal on eBay has to take credit cards. They cannot tell you that they only take PayPal if you fund it from a bank account or check.
- Leave positive feedback when you receive your item and are happy with it. If that hasn't happened yet, wait on the feedback. Feedback means the transaction is over and you are prepared to give a final verdict. Writing a negative may feel good, but it won't accomplish much (except to warn off other potential buyers, when a situation has really truly gone to hell). If you get to that point, be calm and factual and don't call people names. If someone leaves you raving-looney feedback, be calm and factual in response. Trust me, you'll look better for it.