Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Win at The Game of Ebay

Ive been on ebay almost since the beginning, I think I started in '98 or '99, and Ive had at least 5 different accounts. Over this time span, I have bought and sold tens of thousands of dollars in items. A lot of music equipment, collectibles, gaming stuff, watches, computers - whatever had some value. In this time period I have learned a lot, and here Im going to share with you some of the best tips on maximizing your return on everyones favorite auction site - whether you are buying or selling.


Let me just start off with the #1 most important tip - sniping. Just like in Halo and Gears, if you are a good sniper, you are going to go far. What is sniping? Its waiting until the very last possible moment to put in a bid. Now, why would you do this, when ebay allows you to proxy bid and will bid for you automatically? It has to do with human psychology, but basically, if early on in the auction you bid several times and send the item value up close to its maximum final value, it has the effect of making others compete with you to win the item. People want to win - they dont want to be outbid, and that final 5-15% extra that they will pay to outbid you really adds up over the course of dozens of auctions.

So you have two options, one wait by your computer until the auction ends and bid with 5 seconds left, or number two, using a sniping service. This is basically like having James Bond 007 on your team in Halo. Sure, you could attempt to snipe yourself, but you might hesitate at the last moment, miss the bid, forget, or bid too early. Its best to leave these things to the pros - and in this case that pro is a 100% free sniping service called Gixen. What they do is take your ebay information and item numbers, and automatically bid for you with just a few seconds left. Never buy an item without using Gixen, because you may end up paying much, much more than you would have otherwise.

OK, so now you are using Gixen, but how do you know how much to bid? This part of the game is all research based. What you do is enter your item # on ebay, and then select from the left column Show Only "choose more" and select COMPLETED LISTINGS. By doing this you will only see auctions which have already finished, the ones with green numbers are completed sales which you will base your research on. For example, a completed listings search for "korg microsampler" reveals that they have sold from $200-$350 - a huge range! You want to base your bid at the bottom of the completed listings range. In this case, a bid of $220-230 looks like you would be getting the best of it for a used model. You have to factor in shipping costs, because some sellers will charge significantly more than others.

So you enter in your bid in Gixen, then wait. Its very likely that you will be outbid, before Gixen is even able to enter your snipe bid, but dont despair. Ebay is all a numbers game. If you consistently target the same item and put in a good bid, a certain % of the time, maybe 20-30% of the time, you will take down the auction for a great price. Its very little work to save a lot of money. So for every 5 snipes you enter, expect to win the item for what you want to pay. Once you get a feel for how the system works, you will be taking down great deals in no time.

There are so many little tricks and tips I could list here but I dont want this post to go on forever, so I may break it up into two parts, but let me at least mention a few more buying tips. You have a better chance of winning items that end on a weekday afternoon, or early evening, because people often cant bid from work or while they are stuck in traffic. Sometimes, you will see an item for a great buy it now price. If its very close to your target price, it may be worth pulling the trigger. But if there is an option to MAKE OFFER next to BUY IT NOW, always, let me repeat, ALWAYS attempt to make an offer first. You can often catch a seller desperate to turn a quick sale and get a price 10-30% less than the posted buy it now price.

In terms of buying, you usually want to see sellers with 99-100% feedback with a score over 20, but you can also get some great deals targeting sellers with low or even zero feedback. If you do target an item from a seller with 0-10 feedback, or a seller with a few negatives, always contact the seller first via email, and ask as many questions as possible. You can usually get a good sense from how quickly they respond and how detailed their response is to whether they are likely to deliver your item as described and on time. Sometimes, its just a gamble but you have to think like a gambler to maximize your time on ebay. If you bid on something from a seller with zero feedback, the bid has an expected value which is lower than a bid on an item from a highly reputable seller.

Recently I took a gamble with a zero feedback seller on a vintage casio keyboard which I had seen sell from $120-300. The listing had no pictures and a very short, one line description. Sketchy looking, to say the least. I emailed the seller and got a good response, so I put a bid into Gixen of $85, and won the thing for $60+20 shipping. I got it in a slightly beat up box a week later and the keyboard was in great shape. This is an item I could easily take and relist on my perfect feedback account, with a detailed description and pictures, for $250. When I bid I figured about 25% of the time I would not receive the item or it would come damaged or not as described, but this happening one in four times is more than outweighed when I do get the item as described 75% of the time and am able to resell it for a lot more money.

I hope this post has been helpful to all you out there who use ebay, and if you are interested and I drink enough caffeinated beverages I will come back with a part 2 on selling.


umo said...

Snipe-bot sounds like a good ebay pal. Shame I can't use my Catan skills on ebay. People just don't like getting paid in bricks.

The listing time of day is a really simple but effective way to affect selling/buying price like you say. I love auctions that end at 6am or 2pm for buying and always try and set my sales to finish evening time (after dinner).

There was a site I used to use too that would take a search term and look for all the mispellings on ebay. It would throw up some nice bargains that hardly got many views.

Back when the Euro used to be strong it became really cheap to buy UK games from Europe so nearly every game auction I'd get enquiries about would I post to Europe and how much, so if it's really not much more hassle don't be afraid to offer overseas shipping and widen your range of bidders.

I've been having the odd look for a PS2 recently, it's good to take a longer research period if you're after something like that, which will be used and could be in such a wide range of conditions, yet your not in a big rush to buy it.

Some come with a bunch of games, some with a broadband adaptor, some with extra memory cards, controllers. Seeing what price they go for and what the bidding is like etc. If a nice bundle comes along I'll be able to spot it.

Chronic said...

The older PS3s are so cheap, maybe look for a 20gb model with backwards compatibility, probably wont cost much more than a PS2 slim, and unlike the 360 you can put your own hardrive in if you need more storage.

Also, online is free with the PS3! I think most PS2 games have been taken offline like the old xbox ones. Not sure what games you are looking at, but some of them have been ported to the PS3 in HD collections like the Ico/Shadow of The Colossus collection and God of War 1&2.

umo said...

In Europe there never was a backwards compatible PS3 that used the hardware emotion chip, it was only ever an emulation thing.

So then you're dealing with a 5 year old machine that had maybe 60% of PS2 games emulated properly, we've seen the results of 360 emulation and things not being quite right. Maybe I'll just end up using the PC emulator. I never did play Burnout Dominator, even though it's Revenge-esque it's still a Burnout.

The Youtube app came out today, it's pretty slick, only ever shows 3 lines of desc. though. I imagine with kinect commands it would be a good way to waste a couple of hours.

umo said...

I'm sat here driving a green Euro around, chaining boost on a big old PS2 now all for under £20.

The EA Trax suck still, so lucky the xbox had a hard drive I could load my own music on to.

Anonymous said...

Great EBay Guide, did you ever do a Part 2?