Sniping Theory and Practice.


I just watched an auction end on eBay for a VERY nice HP9100a, and yes, someday I hope my own 9100a will "benefit" from the price it sold for (though I guess I have my doubts right now about that... and my someday is probably a year or more away).

I've been keeping an eye on the auctioned one for the better part of a week, though, and sort of suspected I was going to have to "tune in" Oct-31-00 20:44:25 to find out what it would ultimately be like at the end of an auction like this.

Wow. I had my own guess on its worth. I figured the Stanford guy had it pegged at the top and thus sewn up... but the last four minutes astounded me. And it leaves me with a question or two about auctions and the tactics therein, which I hope are not totally out of place here.

I have been looking to get a good 67 or 97, and it finally occurred to me that eBay was going to be the place for finding that "fixer-upper" (my funds are variable to cloudy, more often than not). But I also have bid on some little parts like LED displays, etc. And the same always would happen: I would be high bidder for two whole weeks, with seemingly few others even caring to bid. Then, I would look a minute AFTER the auction, and someone had bid one dollar more than me, or such. Geez, it is so exhausting to lose in the space of a minute what you fretted over and bid on and watched for two weeks! It seems SNEAKY.

But I have come to understand that "sniping" is a practice you have to get used to on eBay. Some bidders just don't want to telegraph their intentions on an object and maybe drive the price up further, that I can understand.

But I sat back and wondered about a theoretical case and its possible implications. Let me ask whether it is a valid theory.

Say bidderX (273) is a prudent buyer, as is bidderY (122). They each know the market, the worth, and their own budgets, and decide they want a particular "widget". Starting bid on the widget is $5, and bidderX says to himself, 'I know that widget is worth $50 to me, so I will bid $51 to be sure.' And he does, at the start of the auction.

And bidderY says, 'hmm, someone is getting that widget for only five bucks, I will wait until the last few minutes, and bid THIRTY, procuring the bargain of my life'.

And bidderZ (1) says, 'I have nothing to lose but one more dollar than the highest REAL VALUE as determined by ALL others, so I will wait until the very last minute, and bid $9999999.'

BidderZ is always the winner, and he got it for $51. His feedback is just (1) or at least fairly low, because he will occasionally run into more of his kind, playing the same game, and so will back out of a ridiculous price clash and simply change eBay logins and free email drops like last week's underwear. (Heck, the AOL account disks come in the mail every week, anyway)

Witness the number of seller complaints of bidders backing out of frivolous bids, the number of snipers who we see winning with practically NO feedback, but not strangers to the eBay ways, and the last-second ature of so much of the bidding. Aren't you just a bit curious what numbers they entered, not just what they ultimately got an item for?

I know this possibly doesn't matter. I know that I will continue to determine what I CAN pay, and what I want to pay, and *I* will bid only that way... but I can tell you, while I thought it was my dial-up connection holding me from getting the stuff on eBay I wanted, I now think that even with fiber-optic cables piping directly into an eBay server, my lack of willingness to "play high-stakes chicken" means I can forget bidding on anything that isn't of such obscure value that no one else CARES if I win it or not...




My advice is... don't play high stakes chicken. Just bid what YOU think the item is worth, but bid as late as possible, to avoid being outbid by someone who thinks you're an expert, and if you think the item is worth $X, it's probably worth $X+1.

But never, ever, bid _against_ others. It's not a race; it's a simple purchase. If someone wants to pay more money than you do (and consequently, by your own evaluation, pay more than what you think the item is worth) just sit back and enjoy the show. Unless it's a 95C, chances are that another item of the same kind will show up again next week...



I almost always bid snipe. I learned early on that if I bid early, whether my bid was reasonable or high, I would most likely be out bid. With bid sniping, I have had a much higher success rate on auctions. I further believe that bid sniping actually keeps the final auction price lower than it might otherwise be.

I bid because I want to purchase the item for a [usually] reasonable price. To that end, I employ techniques to improve to the probability of success. Bid sniping is one of those techniques.


A good, current illustration of this issue is the HP-65
that's currently on eBay ... with the box. The HP-65
card reader doesn't even work and the thing is already over
$300 simply for the box. I wonder what the finaly price will be
and if sniping will occur on this one?


Viktor raises some very good points. I don't like to snipe, but if there is something on eBay that I REALLY want, I know I'll have to snipe it. It's just the way the system works. However, I never snipe friends, and generally ask before I put a bid on something where another collector friend is the high bidder.

I know many of the calculator collectors on eBay, this forum, and elsewhere. I don't collect calculators merely to collect small electronic devices. There is more to it than that. Sharing knowledge and experiences with other calculator collecting enthusiasts adds tremedously to the collecting hobby, but you don't make friends by sniping each other.



Good points, Todd. Good points


I agree with Victor, Todd and Tom. I try to never snipe collector friends, people that I know from this forum, private emails or otherwise. If I do by mistake (because I didn't pay attention to the bid history) I'll write to them and offer the item to that person (for what I paid) if they want it.

One thing that I do that hasn't been mentioned here, is to not advertise what I'm bidding on until the last minute by keeping it on my watch list. If it's a hard item to find (because of a bad description) and I've found it (because I've spent a lot of time searching ebay) then I don't necessarily want to advertise it by bidding on it early. It's not snipping, just keeping a low profile.


There are a few collectors who place early bids on virtually everything on EBay that is HP related. These bids are almost never successful. They only win when no one else wants the item.

How can you ever bid if you don't want to outbid them?


Following Tomd bids is pretty quick way to find HP items...People often place a small early bid to allow tracing an item quickly


Time to change my bidding habits, I guess! ;-)


Does anyone experienced the Esnipe software? I am on eBay since 1997 and I am often outbid due to the disadvantage of my time zone, but I was also outbid during the last 2/5 seconds before the end of the auction... a perfect killer or high technology?

I agree with tomd and todd... you may have the best HP calculators collection with all the manuals, accessories and carton boxes (argh...), but if don't share your experience, trade your calculator with friends and talk with them about that hobby it's probably lost the 50% of the meaning of to be a collector.


> if don't share your experience [...] it's probably lost the 50%

On that note... to those of you who haven't seen it yet, please feel free to pay a visit to It's a work-in-progress of course but I hope you like it :-)



I also use bid sniping because it's often the only way of
actually getting an item that you really want on eBay.
If you bid what you are actually willing to pay too early,
it really does drive up the price. I also find that the
price I really think an item is worth is closer to what I
WANT to pay for it and not what it is really worth. What
is an item worth?....that is a debateble topic.

Unfortunately there are collectors who have a lot more
desposable income than me and are willing to pay more than
I think something is worth. That's why I didn't get that
reddot HP 35 on eBay for $250.00 :)


I sniped the second guy on this calculator, but I bid, what I wanted to bid anyway. In fact my bid was not a lot higher than the result of the auction.

My bid was a mean of getting this calculator in my country (Austria) in some way. I'm pretty sure, I'll be the only guy in Austria with a red dot HP-35 for the next time :-)

BTW: The bidders list for this auction seems like a Who's Who of the guys in this forum. It's surely a Who's Who of ebay bidders on HP calculators.

I also use the sniping procedure to keep the prices low and I never bid more than I want to pay for the item. Sometimes I regret that.

BTW sniping is rather hard for me, because most calculators go when it's between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. in Austria, so I do it, when I really want something.
In this special case it was even harder, because the auction ended at abt 3 a.m. and I had to catch a train at abt. 5 a.m.

I'm also into test equipment, where it's more important (and less expensive) to avoid false moves.


Consider this: Supply and demand
We all have an idea what these items are worth. This is or has been based on our idea of supply and demand (before the internet).

There is a fixed supply. There has, up to now, been a rather low demand. The demand was always there but we had no access to it.

Now with the internet, we have a new "demand" part of the equation. Our idea that item "x" was worth $y.yy was based on a false "demand" pool.

So what does that mean. It really means that the demand is higher than we thought. And with a fixed supply, the prices will go up.

Now to sniping:
This does absolutely NOTHING to harm those who are bidding "their worth" of an item. If they get outbid, they would have been out bid, even if everyone placed their bids as soon as they saw the item.

For instance, say a 6100 was worth $1000 to you. And say you bid early. And further say that the guy who got it bid what it was worth to him. You would have still been outbid. So, you were not harmed.

All sniping does is prevent driving up the price.

Test you can do:

Go out and bid "on anything you actually have a need for". Figure out what you feel the item is really worth (to anyone). Then make that bid.

I guarantee you that you will be outbid. Someone out there will say, "if it is worth $x.00 to you, then it's worth $x.00+ "a measly $2.00". Thus, you are outbid.

So, what's the point of placing an early bit "that is flat guaranteed to be beat". None! It just drives up the cost.

What does sniping do:
It prevents the guy who is sitting there saying "I'm going to bid $2.00 higher than the high bidder". He has no idea what the final bid will be. He has no chance to get in and steel (or be taken) the item for an additional $2.00.

What you MUST NOT DO:
Never, never, never bid more than the item is worth to you. If you do, you will pay too much or force someone else to pay too much.


Over the last few years, millions of people ignored the fact that dotcom stocks were ridiculously overpriced by any conventional measure. They kept buying knowing that there would always be a bigger fool who would pay even more. This made a lot of people money for awhile.

However, the last year has taught some of them that there isn't always a bigger fool and some of these stocks have fallen by more than 95%. I can't tell whether ebay HP pricing is "normal" supply and demand or a speculative bubble that is about to burst.


We are NOT talking about investing... we (or at least I) am talking about collecting (you know, keeping what you collect).

If I want something for a collection, and if I get it at a price that is fair to me, it makes no difference what it does in the future. It is the item itself that is desired, not what someone else will pay or how much the price is depressed in the future.

If you want to invest, you should play the stock market, not EBay.


other people speculate in commodities and collectibles all the time - much to the annoyance of self-proclaimed "real collectors."

Even though I'm not a speculator, I would be annoyed to find that the collection I paid $X for this year could have been bought for $X/10 next year.

What's the "fair price" of a 9100? In a vacuum, I'd say maybe $100. However, the market forces me to pay much more if I want one any time soon so I adjust.


"What's the "fair price" of a 9100?"

It is what someone is willing to pay. Nothing more, nothing less...


So the fair price of a 9100 is $100 and $2500. OK. Not a real useful thing to know then.


Several months ago I received an email from a recent immigrant to the US who had me confused with HP. He had just purchased an HP 10B in New York City and was complaining that a calculator this expensive should come with the manual included. He also wondered if there was an on-line manual.

After a round of emails, I learned that he bought it at one of those little "tourist trap" stores and paid:

HP 10B      $199
3 batteries $27 (not included with calculator)
Slip case $29 (again not included)

They wanted $39 for the manual but he decided to try to figure it out himself first.

Fair price?

At one level I find these little shops highly amusing. You can spend an hour negotiating and still be at twice the MSRP and so you leave and they yell a lower price, only to tell you that you misheard them when you come back. When tourists are in, they somehow can never quote the price in the tourist's local currency but they'll quickly rattle off options in five other currencies that the tourist also doesn't know.


Mike Davis> "What you MUST NOT DO: Never, never, never bid more than the item is worth to you. If you do, you will pay too much or force someone else to pay too much."

For example: .

This person bought a used 32SII for $92!?!?! A new one can be ordered from Onvia for $49.95 including shipping. Granted, this *may* have been his first Ebay purchase (he has (1) feedback) and he *may* have been caught up in heat-of-the-auction sniping during last minutes. It's the only scenario I can speculate.



I have seen many, many instances of people paying higher
than retail or mail order for items on eBay. This might be
the Price Club/Costco phenomenon. Many people assume that
prices at Costco are ALWAYS better than other sources. This
is not always true.

With eBay, I think sometimes the bidding turns into a contest and prices go
higher than they should. Other times I think people assume
that eBay prices are better than other sources and of course
this is not always true.


Another point worth considering is that somtimes things are rarer in other countries.

This means that I may be prepared to pay more for a relatively common item on ebay because it is hard to get here.

Also, lets not forget that the item may have a low serial number, or other somesuch that the buyer has determined from the seller.






You, nor anyone else, was hurt by that. You can go down to any store and buy it for less. So, you were not hurt. The only person that was hurt was the person buying it. So, no matter what strategy he used, he only hurt himself.

The people that do the most complaining about sniping is because they feel that it hurt "them". I say it does not. Bid what something is worth to YOU. If you are outbid, you would have not gotten it anyway. If you win, you got it at a price that you are happy to pay.

Sniping cannot hurt someone who is only bidding what an item is worth "to them".


The winning bidder placed his bid 3 days before the auction ended. This is not a case of getting caught up in sniping.


now I can't even feel any sympathy for the buyer! Can't say I've been there, done *that* (yet ;-) How come I couldn't have been the seller on that one?!?



The 2nd bidder at $90 has a feedback rating of 64. Several bidders bid twice in a row indicating that they didn't understand proxy bidding or instantly revised their idea of worth upward based on someone else's bid. (It does look like auction mania.)


There is something screwy (or inconsistent) about how ebay logs things. This may just be a case of proxy bidding logging a 2nd bid and immediately being outbid.

I have even seen multiple of my ids listed and I have never bid against myself or revised a bid for which, I was the current high bid.

I had one auction where there were nine bids in a row for one individual. I know he did not bid against himself 8 times at the incremental increase.

I have for one reason or another knowingly bid more than I thought something was worth 1) because I knew I could take part and resell the remainder and get my money back or 2) because I knew it would go for more and just wanted it.

Manuals are a good example. I will sometimes bid more than an item is worth, to get a manual. I know full well the price is too high but also know that I can sell the other items as separate items and recoup my money.

There is one person who suggested that a 9100 was worth $100. Well I have a standing offer to give him, or anyone, $100 for any 9100 in working condition like the one offered:-) Any takers?


"There is one person who suggested that a 9100 was worth $100. Well I have a standing offer to give him, or anyone, $100 for any 9100 in working condition like the one offered:-) Any takers?"

I've purchased several around this price point but they're not for sale.

There are takers, but you have to look well beyond ebay or the museum ads to find them. I believe that ebay is a wonderful place to sell things, but I avoid buying there for the most part. It really depends on whether you want something right now or don't mind hunting for it for awhile. In the meantime, while hunting for HPs I turn up other non-HP things that I buy and resell on eBay. My best single item so far was an item that I bought for $250 and ebayed for $4950. I don't know what that one was really "worth" either but I was so shocked that I threw in free shipping ;-)


I know that people revise their bids upwards after seeing others because I do it myself. I get all set to snipe with my maximum amount and I'm thinking "this is it! I've got it!" Only to see my self outbid by another sniper or the proxy.

So, with 2 seconds of serious throught, I bid a whole bunch more - usually with about 2 seconds to spare. The rush at the end really does distort my sense of reality. Sometimes I'm OK with what I've bought and sometimes I feel like an idiot.

On the other hand, I once placed the first bid on an item and the next morning there were 33 bids on it and I wasn't the high bidder anymore - but only one more bidder was listed. I emailed him and he told me that he did make 32 bids and he thought that I was amazingly fast. I tried to explain proxy bidding to him twice but he claimed to "get it" the second time - but he told me I was amazingly fast again so I don't know what he thought was happening.


> The rush at the end really does distort my sense of reality

Why do you care? You know what the item is worth... you go there in the last 20 seconds, if the current bid is still under your max, you submit your bid. (Otherwise, just sit back and watch the show. It's fun.) 20 seconds later, you know the result. As long as you don't bid against others, but against your own estimated as to the item's real value, you're okay.



There is something screwy (or inconsistent) about how ebay logs things. This may just be a case of proxy bidding logging a 2nd bid and immediately being outbid.

I have even seen multiple of my ids listed and I have never bid against myself or revised a bid for which, I was the current high bid.

I had one auction where there were nine bids in a row for one individual. I know he did not bid against himself 8 times at the incremental increase.

I have for one reason or another knowingly bid more than I thought something was worth 1) because I knew I could take part and resell the remainder and get my money back or 2) because I knew it would go for more and just wanted it.

Manuals are a good example. I will sometimes bid more than an item is worth, to get a manual. I know full well the price is too high but also know that I can sell the other items as separate items and recoup my money.

There is one person who suggested that a 9100 was worth $100. Well I have a standing offer to give him, or anyone, $100 for any 9100 in working condition like the one offered:-) Any takers?


I was bidding on the 32SII, because it has a very early serial number, and was made in the US with the old-style keys. But I think at least one other bidder valued this higher, so he got it, where's the problem? If someone has to sell one like this for less, please contact me.


If you get the chance, try the goodwill stores and flea markets. I've seen Pioneers in great shape selling for anywhere from $2 to $20. I never thought to pick them up because I stick to LEDs.



You can make the supply/demand argument all day, and you'd be right. But you should know that sniping does have it's consequences. Keep in mind that many of the best transactions DON'T happen on eBay! They are trades or transactions done off-eBay and even off this site's classifieds, and the prices are far less than those for the same items on eBay.

I've observed that the people who regularly snipe eBay auctions are quickly identified by the handful of us long-term collectors, and quite frankly, we don't like to do business with them off eBay. Those snipers are basically ostracized from the group of us who trade and trasact in a friendly manner. And it's the long-term collectors who trade who usually have the best stuff! So I'd be careful about sniping. You don't want to burn all your bridges, especially when you need that obscure manual or part to make a calculator set complete.





I understand the emotion behind the subject of your message but I have to argue that it's illogical.

Let's say you bid $60 on an item three days before the close of the auction and I think it's worth $100. I have two choices; bid now, or bid moments before the auction close.

Either way, you will be outbid. However, if I outbid you now, I risk the chance that some clown comes by and outbids me, because he has no clue as to the real value of the item, so he uses my bid amount as his basis for bidding. By bidding at the last moment, I reduce the chances of that happening, and at the same time also help keep the final bid amount lower.

Why are you more offended, then, if I outbid you 5 seconds before the auction close instead of outbidding you three days earlier?


PS: I know several people here whom I have a great deal of respect for, despite the fact that they outbid me numerous times in the last 20 seconds of the auction :-)


I know a good friend, and collector, who needed a 10A to complete his collection. As luck would have it, 3 of them showed up on Ebay all in a two day period. And he went after all of them, bidding a more than fair amount. Wouldn't you know it that the SAME guy sniped him for ALL 3 of them? Nice guy. A real Chip in, complete with sniping software and an alias account under his wife's name. What worse is that he probably had 6 of them already.


And how do I know that the high bidder is a collector?

When should I bid against tomd?

At a real auction a bid tends to prolong the bidding (but not always - I have been at many an auction where the auctioneer accepted the first bid and sold the item).

Ebay is thus not a "real" auction and buyers and sellers really need to remember that. There are different rules, and even if we're all gentlemen, theres 100000 other people out there who aren't


But would it have been any better if the same guy had outbid your friend on all three items a couple of days earlier, instead of sniping at the end? He'd have lost to the other bidder either way. Or was your friend planning to raise his bid if he was outbid? That's the whole point of eBay's proxy bidding: You bid the ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM you're willing to pay, no matter when you make your bid. If someone bids higher than your maximum, then you lose; otherwise you win. The timing of the actual bidding process makes no difference if you only make one bid and stick to it. Sniping is only effective against people who want to wait and see what everyone else bids, then raise the price $1.00 or $2.00 at a time until he beats the high bidder by $1.00. That seems a lot sneakier to me than just making one best-guess bid, regardless of when the bidding takes place.

IMO, the real problem in your friend's case is that the other bidder should have been considerate enough to let your friend win one of the auctions, instead of outbidding him on all three. It's pretty selfish to grab the whole supply of an item. But that has nothing to do with the bidding procedures used, just with the ethics of the person using them.


I agreed with Viktor, I usually bid on the last 10 – 20 seconds with the intention to purchase and to avoid pushing up the price. Now, when you place your bid on the last seconds, essentially you are forcing yourself to place a maximum amount that you are willing to pay for the item, as you don’t get a second chance to bid again! Therefore, if you are successful you get the item (or calc) at the maximum price that you are willing to pay; otherwise, it is just that someone out there willing to pay more for it. So… do you consider that as "snipping" as compared to those that just keep increasing their bid amount to outbid the highest bidder by a dollar?

Y K Wong.


1) Those who are trying to get something below market value (and you can't fault them for that).


2) Those that pay too much because they overbid and were stuck at the overpriced bid, because of another sniper.

This may be a little oversimplified but...




I don't agree with Mike but I do believe that it is far better to be the ebay sniper than to try to defend against him. You may consider it impolite and sneaky but it's basically the way of ebay.

Ebay recommends behavior that is doomed to failure - bid your max at the beginning. I think they do this to drive up the prices and their fees. I look at auctions on the last day and almost always find that they are already way too high and waste no more time. On the rare occasion that they're not sky-high, I snipe.


Dave, your method is the same one I usually use. Once in a while, though (like this morning!), I get to the last day on an item in which I'm moderately interested and see that the price is still low, but either I won't be around when the auction closes or I think I might forget about it. In that case, I place a fairly low bid. Later, if I'm home and I remember in time, I may go back and snipe with a slightly higher maximum. If I forget, and get the item, fine; if I'm outbid, that's fine too.

Most of the time I just wait and snipe at the end if the price hasn't already gone beyond my range. I first started sniping after this sort of thing happened to me several times:

(1) I place a maximum bid of $100 on the first day of an auction with an opening price of $10.

(2) For several days there are no other bidders.

(3) In the last couple of hours of the auction, the price climbs to $70 or $80. No one outbids me, though, and I win the item.

(4) After the auction closes I check the bidding history and see that though there were a dozen other bids, there were only one or two other bidders.

It's clear that the other bidders were bidding in small increments of $5 or $10 at a time, and finally gave up when they saw how high the price was getting. I still win, but the price I pay is pretty close to my maximum. After seeing the same thing happen several times, it occurred to me that if I had waited until near the end of the auction, I would have gotten the items at much lower prices because there wouldn't have been time for all those little bids that didn't change the outcome except to drive up the price. Of course, if someone had bid $110, it wouldn't matter when either he or I placed our bids. I would have been outbid in any case.

The bottom line for me is that sniping doesn't really increase my chances of winning, but it does make it more likely that if I do win, the final price will be further below my maximum than if I'd bid earlier in the auction.


Let me reflect for a moment ... I bought several things from ebay, before I sold my first item. I was not running intenet at home back then, and my wife said it was time to have a garage sale. I had too many worthless computers stacked up in the garage. I had gotten them at garage sales with the thought that I would find time to play with them. I called my friend Joe and offered that if he wanted to put the junk on ebay, he could keep half. A Commodore PET computer that I got free at a garage sale (I was going to leave it but the guy said to take it free with the items I bought) sold for over $250. My wife couldn't believe it! Joe got $130, I got $130, and that sale alone almost was more than what my wife got for everything we sold at our own garage sale.

Having said that as a buyer, I find it most helpful to bid the "maximum + $2" as measured by what it's worth to me during the last 2 minutes. Sometimes I miss a bid, and wish I had bid the last 5 minutes. If I really like it I may bid real early, just so I can find it more easily later, or so I don't forget it. As a buyer I wanted a HEPAX module with 16K RAM. I wanted it more than any other HP-41 item, and positioned myself through promised sales to be able to buy it. As bidding wars will be, I got it in a last one minute war, during which the price doubled. The sad part was I bid against my friend and "neighbor" Joe, also from Oviedo. Also sad, we have not seen a second one for sale since (it's been two years).

As a seller, I try and start items at the price of the model number, or perhaps $9.99 (still only $0.25 listing fee) and promise free shipping worldwide. Sometimes this has surprising results, like $60.00 magnetic cards, or software titles for a Sinclair ZX-81 software tapes that I bought for $1.00 fifteen years ago brand new, and close at the opening price of $0.81.

I will continue to sell on ebay, and ususally guarantee what I sell, and hope there is "crazy" bidding, except when I am bidding. However, I reseve the right to bid crazy, and rationalize that I can sell the part I don't need, or say to myself that I just sold something else to pay for this. Generally my goal is to build a library of HP-41 software and documentation through working with others. With luck, and the grace of God, I'll be 100 years old someday, and still playing Bill Wickes' 9-letter hangman on my HP-41CX. (Hey it just occurred to me that I am 41 years old, like the calculator module. Hmm ... maybe I'll start an auction at $0.41 tonight).

On the philosophical side, when is a bid a "snipe"? In other words, how much time must there be remaining to call a bid a "snipe"? 1 minute? 30 seconds? 5 seconds?

I have ideas, but I'd like to hear from the group.


Yay! Todd!

This is such a good opportunity for me to jump back in and answer all of you who have been feeling OVERLY SENSITIVE about what amounts to clever use of eBay...

If eBay were designed a different way, say to take your bid as the current price if higher than the standing price (the way an auction is usually held with auctioneers etc), then timing would not be so important a factor in determining the end price. But the fact is, early bidding IN THE eBAY SYSTEM can have an inflationary effect on the item's final price.

Further, the fact is, if you observe eBay for a while, you can see people who have habits of choice, and if they happen to be known as collectors with knowledge, then following THEIR bids is a strategy which eventually "robs" the collector of opportunities. Late Bidding however, restores to the collector his anonymity and loses the parasites (who may eventually have to learn something on their own).

So I do not criticize late bidding as such. The eBay way leads to no other conclusion-- ya gotta do it. Stop feeling guilty about it. Neither I nor anyone else has a natural right to acquire anything on eBay IF WE ARE NOT WILLING TO COMMIT to a higher price than someone, anyone else.

I appreciate the people who wrote me personally to say that they would hold back on their bid so I could get this or that. My, that is friendly, but it is not smart. When I bid early, I understand that others will have the opportunity to aim for the same gear as me; I would HOPE that IF I don't have the price it takes, that at least one of YOU on MoHPC, whom I respect, would go for it, NOT the real "snipers".

Which brings me to my original premise: that a flaw in the eBay system allows a select few to exploit it-- and THAT'S the "sniping" I believe we all have a right to hate.

Who is a sniper? In my mind, to qualify, you MUST both:

1. Follow an auction and not bid on it until the last TEN or so seconds. Note how long it takes to submit, and okay your submission, even on DSL or cable. You don't WANT anyone to have an opportunity to REACT to your bid.

2. Submit a bid which, by way of the eBay system, allows you to be the high bidder while limiting your liability below what you WOULD OTHERWISE COMMIT TO. If I submit a thousand-dollar bid for those $10 LED displays I want, but I do it in the last ten seconds, the eBay computer bids will rise to a level just one dollar above any of the OTHER bidders. I am assured a win, no question. This is an exploitation of an eBay flaw.

3. Should a "sniper" get CAUGHT, as when someone else has submitted a frivolous bid in a similar time-frame, there are a few options for getting out of your bid, none of which are options *I* would consider, and I suspect you, here at MoHPC would not consider, but which seem to be "stock-in-trade" for a "Sniper". I don't ever take back a bid. I don't ever refuse to pay my final price. I do not ever "negotiate" with the seller to take less than that final price. I do not risk negative feedback.

But it is a FURTHER flaw of the eBay system that the unscrupulous bidder can, with little trouble, SHED a skin, and be back on eBay the next week. And that is one reason why, looking at the feedbacks most all of you have, higher than mine and/or lasting as one name for over six months, I have no feeling that anyone HERE is a real "sniper". Of course, each of you could have two or three eBay accounts and be using your "respectable" account as cover for your unscrupulous alter-ego, but I kinda doubt it.

I DO see snipers on eBay. I do KNOW they exist. But late-bidding alone, in and of itself, is NOT a problem. I recently looked at all the auctions I suspected being "sniped" in-- where the last ten seconds jumped the price over any reasonable expectation I had about a market-value. I had deliberately priced MYSELF in advance over the market value on the objects, because I really wanted them NOW, and would pay the premium. (By the way, this is NOT how I shop for calculators... In calcs, I am looking ONLY for "bargains", and often bid late if I have an expectation that I will BE THERE for the close date). In each case, the bidders showed up in less time than eBay takes to refresh the screen on my dialup connection. In each case, of course, the winners went just one bid increment over me, wherever it took them. Meaning either an incredibly lucky guess, or a different magnitude to their bid.

And ALL had feedbacks of less than 10 at that time. I mentioned this whie musing a few weeks back, when the thread ("Crazy eBay") was talking about prices, and I said: what I wonder about is why all these "newbies" would fight each other to pay much MORE for common items than what they could find in their hometown classified ads. I had nearly figured out the reason, but assumed the low feedback was low experience on eBay-- a correlation not quite substantiated by their sophisticated bidding BEHAVIOR.

So, Todd, a "sniper" to me is one who plays "high-stakes chicken", knowing that the eBay system can be exploited this way. It requires just enough time for eBay to respond by calculating your bid vs. others, but NOT ENOUGH time to have others REACT or even KNOW what you've done.

I believe this happens; I am not convinced I have seen it on a calculator yet, but then I am VERY picky on what I bid, when, and why. But I don't consider anyone HERE in this conversation a "sniper"... just late and clever bidders. I bid late when I see I can, and I do not assume that just ANYONE bidding late is trying to "snipe".

eBay defines bid sniping as "placing a bid in the closing minutes or seconds of an auction." However, eBay does not impute any inequitable conduct to the bid sniper. Neither do I consider bid sniping bad, althought it does annoy me when I loose to another bid sniper! As far as timing goes, a good bid snipe is one entered sufficiently near the close of the auction that others would not have time to react and place a higher bid.

Bid sniping is not unscrupulous. Unscrupulous bidders are an entirely different issue. Unscrupulous bidders exploit weaknesses in eBay to cheat sellers. This can be as simple as not paying, or as complicated as collusive action to drive up the high bid enough to drive away legitimate bidders, then withdrawing the high bids to allow a low-ball bid to win.


Not having known what eBay itself defined as "sniping", I knew from context that it had to do with bidding in the last few moments.

THEN, I speculated on a SINGLE methodology for doing "high-stakes" sniping, and asked for your thoughts on the validity of the premise that it COULD be and probably IS done, within the set of all tactics used.

I look back at my first post and still don't see a way to have stated clearer that I was talking of one particular practice, A VARIANT, NOT LATE BIDDING in general.

I tried to make my case in post two on this thread that I do not consider LATE BIDDING a problem; indeed it is a perfectly good tactic considering eBay's system.

But, well, I can't ask anyone to differentiate between a normal behavior and a deviant one by appropriating terminology that everyone believes applies to both. Sorry for confusing anyone.

If eBay defines ALL late bidding as "sniping", then please allow me to redefine my terminology with a new word:

DYNAMITING: Theory and Practice

(hey, does that have a ring, or what?) ;-)

I looked forward to responses indicating whether the specific methodology of Dynamiting (now that we know what to call it) was in evidence. While many in the course of explaining what THEY believe is happening told stories of price-swings which would tend to support my theory, it seems everyone has a DIFFERENT explanation for what is REALLY going on (naivety, heat-of-the-moment, etc).

But almost everyone was willing to believe that "sniping" is what THEY do, as if LATE BIDDING were in and of itself a dirty little secret for success (funny!).

Okay, all, "sniping" is what you do, and it works, and I do it too, and there is good reason to do it, and so the last one in is a rotten egg. Great, we should have a "Order of the Snipers" club, and award medals to those with ping/purchase ratios that most closely approach unity. ;-)

Pardon me, but I was ASKING something else: in that final few seconds, do you, would you, COULD you bid AN OUTRAGEOUS AMOUNT, knowing full well that, unless someone else is doing the same as you AT THE SAME MOMENT, you will never ACTUALLY pay more than "one bid-increment" more than the previous bidders who submitted logical and reasonable bids?

I am convinced that the REAL "bid out of all bounds at the last possible moment" sniping system, or Dynamiting as I now describe it, explains some of the anomalistic prices found on eBay.

("Dynamiting: When Good Sniping Goes Bad: A Fox Reality Special".) :-)

Whether by some automated software bidding script, or just nervy bidders caught in a clash by others using similar tactics, I think my theory is likely valid.


But, Mike:

I DO NOT AGREE that one bidder cannot, while submitting a bid that results in a valid auction result, be UNSCRUPULOUS to other bidders (the implication that the only unscrupulous behavior is the kind which is adverse to the seller kind of irks me).

Now, I suppose, Mike, I need to look up "unscrupulous". But before I check Webster's for the answer, let me say that I don't figure LEGALITY into my rough understanding of the concept. eBay has its set of laws, and it bans bidders and sellers which don't follow them. It also "punishes" behavior it does not approve of. But eBay may or may not approve of some behaviors *I* would call "unscrupulous". It may not have a law, nor a means to enforce, action against someone who is unscrupulous but who is not defrauding a seller or other bidders. In fact, if the behavior benefits the client of, SELLERS specifically, why WOULD eBay wish to legislate against a bidding behavior that say, merely annoys others by obviating their purchasing efforts?

I am not suggesting that Dynamiting is a good practice. It is NOT one I would engage in (I can't afford it should my timing be off by a second or two). I see NOTHING that violates the rules or even INTENTIONS of eBay, however, and the fact is, it would benefit the seller by the same degree as any other high bid. Is it a Scrupulous thing, then? Does it do anything beyond parasitically feasting at the valuation-table of other bidders? If eBay doesn't say any bad thing about a carefully-timed bid of intent to "pay whatever it takes to overcome the competition", is it therefore GOOD just because it is allowed?

eBay may settle this in its own way: by legitimizing a new way of ending the auction before one begins by allowing the seller to pick a "Buy it Now" price. Buyers could, prior to first bids, commit to purchase for the asking price, and no auction would then need to proceed. Whether that works is pretty much in the hands of the seller.

I think it will help. I myself would possibly pay more to get something RIGHT NOW, rather than wait for an auction with all its uncertainties and timing.

Regardless, Mike, let me tell you about my VERY FIRST eBay purchase. It was last February, and I cruised around, just marvelling at what you could find there. While using the search engine, I remembered that I once had a pair of stereo headphones I really loved-- made by a company called Stax. They were in a box the movers lost years ago, but I had never found any headphones I liked as much in the interval. I typed "Stax" and lo, there they were on eBay; in fact many pair... and I chose the ones like I had (a good model), and bid on them. Shortly after my bid, I get an email from "a friend" who said that what was being advertized on eBay as "electrostatic headphones" were NOT REALLY so, they were merely "electret", and that was VERY different and inferior, and I might not have known the difference, but I would likely be unhappy if I got the headphones. The post was from an anonymous server, so I did not respond to my "friend"... instead I upped my bid and got the headphones (oh the bliss of "electrets"!!).

Anyway, my first eBay experience clued me in to the fact that there are people out there who have little or no shame when it comes to acquiring things, who would misdirect or take advantage of their fellow bidders' trusting natures. I call that "unscrupulous", and eBay may think it unscrupulous, too, but then, that's the place where my "friend" got my email address, and eBay could not stop or stifle this kind of behavior if they cared to try.

Incidentally, that incident also made my mind up that I was going to be suspicious of people that spout "official" definitions pedantically, using them to justify opinions or advice that may only apply given their denotated criteria, without regard to the intended message of the person first using the word. ;-) But I do agree: Bid Sniping is NOT, in and of itself, BAD.

One solution I can see to bid spining on Ebay will be to close the auction at a random closing time. For example: Let say the auction is supposed to close a 9:30am. The solution will be to close this auction at a random time between 9:15 and 9:30. So you have up to 9:15 to bid for sure on the item, but after that nobody know when it will close.

That's an interesting suggestion. I wonder what it would do to the final bid price of an item as compared to the present system.

I've seen two sellers do this. They announced their auctions that they would close at some random time before the ebay end to prevent sniping.

Well... It worked... It prevented sniping. It also prevented the price run up and gave bargains to early bidders.

Strangely enough, both sellers stopped doing this. It's funny because they claimed that they were doing this to protect the early bidders and they seemed to be completely successful in this aspect :-)

I took the time to read all the messages...

Well, I think we all agree that sniping is not very "fair", but that is a consequence of ebay's auction style.

I have to admit that I have sniped a few times for an item that I couldn't find locally and that did not present very often on ebay. And yes, it really played in the last seconds (I succeeded in sniping though there ws only 3 seconds left).

I have allways tought ebay was the worst place in the world to buy something, but I have often bought there as it is often the only place where I could find what I was looking for, and, we have to admit it, it is quite easy. On the other side, it means that ebay is really a good place to sell stuff.

I had a mail from one of you who refused to consider ebay's prices that are often far too high in comparison with what it is reasonnably worth... Of course, he's right, but the fact is that market price is what a seller and a buyer are ready to trade for... and if I want my collection to evaluate, I need to sell and buy, and it's a bit difficult to admit to sell at "normal, friendly" prices and to buy at ebay's prices...

So as far as I am concerned I don't feel that sorry if I snipe someone I don't know, but if I notice someone I know from this site bidding on an item, I would send him an email saying that I'm interested in the item too and what would be his last price...

Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  OT--Found!!! An HP reference on 'The Big Bang Theory' Matt Agajanian 0 767 11-08-2013, 10:23 PM
Last Post: Matt Agajanian
  OT--'The Big Bang Theory' and RPN/HP--Any connections? Matt Agajanian 19 3,706 09-05-2013, 08:27 AM
Last Post: Adrien Bertrand
  OT: "The Big Bang Theory" actress visits the Datamath Calculator Museum Joerg Woerner 8 1,850 03-07-2012, 03:15 AM
Last Post: Johnny Bjoern Rasmussen
  major number theory discovery, if you can translate Don Shepherd 31 5,218 04-03-2011, 08:03 AM
Last Post: Oliver Unter Ecker
  Intesting Auction Site Practice!!!! Read and Learn Namir 8 1,796 12-10-2010, 07:24 PM
Last Post: Allen
  Inefficient Market Theory for the HP collector Mike Ingle 4 1,082 06-23-2007, 01:02 PM
Last Post: Seth Morabito
  Efficient coding practice for RPN programming Les Wright 7 1,422 02-19-2007, 12:27 AM
Last Post: john garza (3665)
  Red-Hot HP-34C auction over, lot of sniping NH 18 2,761 04-15-2003, 12:35 AM
Last Post: NH
  the nasa - ebay conspiracy theory db (martinez, ca.) 5 1,161 05-21-2002, 02:20 PM
Last Post: Ellis Easley
  Are people making "Conspiracy Theory" a-la Mike about sheating om E-bay, well I dont think so! HP - Freak 4 884 05-01-2002, 03:35 PM
Last Post: Dave Hicks

Forum Jump: