What is auction sniping?
Sniping in auction terms is the process by which a bidder places their bid amount during the final seconds of the auction in order to get the big through before other bidders have a chance to see that the bid amount has increased and bid again.
Some people might ask why not just place your highest bid amount at the beginning of the auction and let it ride. There are three reasons that this is not the best choice.
Firstly, you still have a chance to be outbid and because your highest bid has been placed, other bidders can keep bidding until they bid more than your bid Amount. By placing your maximum bid at the outset, you are allowing other bidders the chance to outbid you because all that they have to do is keep bidding until they have beaten your bid. If you do not place your maximum bid until the final seconds of the auction, your bid is unseen and unknown, and therefore other bidders will not see your bid coming and will not have a chance to outbid you. It might seem sneaky, but everyone else is doing it. If it is a popular and expensive item and you want to win it, you stand a better chance of getting it if you do the same thing that they are doing, which is sniping.
Secondly, sniping offers the best chance of getting an item cheaper because others, who might not really want to bid an amount higher than your bid, but if given it few minutes to reconsider their bid, they might catch the bid fever and outbid you. By sniping, you are taking away that few minutes where other bidders are reconsidering their bids and so, they are not outbidding you.
Thirdly, many other bidders are using sniping techniques to outbid you and others. Since sniping is not illegal and no online auction site has a policy against it, and why would they because higher bids equals higher fees and profits for the site, why not do it as well?
How to snipe an auction
There are two main ways in which to snipe an auction. The first is manually which is a bit tougher and grates on the nerves with an adrenaline rush. The second can cost you a bidding fee and this is accomplished by one of many sites that will bid for you in the last seconds of the auction.
Let us begin with the manual form of sniping. I have done this for years and the results are about 50-50. The main reason for losing a sniping war is that another bidder places their bid closer to the end of the auction than you do. Some of this is because the other bidder is faster at clicking the bid button, trusts that there bid will go through in time, or uses a site to bid for them and we all know that a computer and server will always be able to bid faster than any of us.
Okay, now to set up a hypothetical sniping situation. Let me set the exact situation up so that you can follow along. Let us say that the hypothetical item is a diamond ring with a retail value of $1000. The item began a $10 without a reserve price. The ring has a real value of $700 and this is the maximum amount that you wish to pay. And let us say that all of the other bidders know that it is also worth $700. The auction has a duration of seven days. We will setup our “sniping station,” if you will, at 10 minutes left in the auction. This will give you plenty of time to set everything up and decide on your final bids. The object of the auction is to get the item for as low as possible, which in this case is $500-$600.
First, open up the web page to the auction that you are interested in buying. Now, open up four more web pages and point them all at the same item. Wait until they are all fully loaded. This first page will be your monitoring page. By this, I mean that this will be the page that you keep refreshing in order to see the auction’s end time and the current maximum bid. The other three pages are for bidding.
For each of the three bidding pages, click the “Place Bid” button in the middle of the screen. This takes you to the bid page. For the first page, enter the amount of $550. For the second page, enter the amount of $600. $650 on the third page and $700 on the fourth page. Then for each page that you entered the above amounts, click the “Continue” button. This will take you to the “Review and Confirm Bid” page, but whatever you do, do not click confirm! Not yet anyway.
Now, you just have to wait until the last minute of the auction. At the one-minute mark, you have to monitor it like a hawk. Make everyone leave the room, turn off all music and videos, and anything that can distract in any way. You have to concentrate 100% on the auction. At this point, your adrenaline will go in to overdrive so careful and the caffeine too!
Every few seconds you should hit refresh to see what is happening with the other bidders. At about the thirty-second mark, you need to be on guard. Around 20 seconds left, you want to go ahead and click the confirm button for the $550 bid. Around 15 seconds, place your $600 bid. At 10 seconds, place your $650 bid. Then, depending on how fast your Internet connection is, at the five-second mark or, if you feel up to it, the three second mark place your maximum $700 bid. I call this the build-up snipe.
If you really want the item and it is rare, you might just want to read your maximum bid of $700 right at the five or three second mark. This is easier because there is only one amount to know and just one amount to bid. You have to be careful that your computer or Internet connection does not decide to lag at the last second and prevent you from bidding. This has happened a lot to me in the past. The best way to prevent this is to do a fresh reboot of your computer about 20 minutes before the end of the auction. After your computer reboots, do not open any program except your browser. You do not want anything to lag your computer near the end of the auction or everything is lost.
Years ago, when everyone was on dial-up Internet connections, sniping was a completely different story. While most of us were on slow dial-up connections, other bidders were on cable or T1 connections at colleges and businesses. Anyone who was on a cable or faster connection would kill us in this sniping process. It would take us about eight seconds to place a bid while others were at three seconds. Unless our bid was really higher, we would lose most of them. Also, I believe some dubious bidders with a faster connection would repeatedly refresh the page in order to lag it for the rest of us. Now eBay servers are faster and most of us are on a DSL or faster connection, thus leveling the playing field. Now we use that to battle with other people using Web-based sniping programs to out bids us who do it manually. This brings us to the other way of sniping.
That is, sniping using a program to bid for us. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of programs that you keep on your computer to bid for you in the last seconds of the auction. I have never tried any of these, but I do not believe they will help you be a person using a web-based site. This is simply because a web-based site that bids for you almost certainly has a faster Internet and server connection than you do. So I will just describe a web-based site.
The main concern with Web-based sniping sites is that you must give your eBay ID and password over to their site in order for them to bid for you. I am sure that there are dozens of bad sites out there that will steal your login information and use it for their own purposes. You can easily find an honest and legitimate site by searching the net and seeing what others are saying about the site.
I did a little searching and found a great legitimate site that really works. It is called eSnipe and I saw it recommended that another great legitimate site called CNet, so I went into it fully trusting the site with my eBay information. They give you a free two-week trial to test it out so that you can see that it actually works. After the free trial, the site only charges you a fee if it helps you actually win the item. If you do not win, the site does not charge you. I think that this is a fair price to pay if it helps you actually win things that you want to buy and would have probably lost if you did it manually. Fees start at $0.25 for items with the winning bid of under $25. Then, 1% of the auction’s end price with a winning bid of between $25-$1,000, and for winning bids over $1000, you only pay a $10 fee. The fees are worth it if the site helps save you hundreds of dollars on your bids.
Now for how eSnipe works. It is really simple. First, you register and enter your eBay login information and you are ready to go. To set up your first snipe, it cannot be easier. Log into this site. Next, go to the members section. You will see the “eSnipe Bid Wizard” and a box to enter the eBay auction Item number on which you want to snipe. Enter the item number and click next. This will open up a page with all of the item information.
Bid Checkup is the time at which eSnipe confirms that the auction is still active and no problems have arisen. If it was cancelled, eSnipe will e-mail you so you know what to expect. It defaults to 90 minutes but I set it to 30.
Buffer Time is the number of seconds before the end of auction that you want eSnipe to bid. It defaults to five seconds. I set it to three and I noticed that the bid is made at two seconds, so give yourself a one-second buffer. I would not have it set to less than three because eSnipe might not be able to bid at one second left.
Maximum Bid Amount is where you place your bid. Decide carefully because you only get one chance to snipe. Sniping only bids your maximum bid, no more. If someone enters a higher maximum bid, your snipe is moot. Think of sniping as an eBay maximum bid that is unseen. Other bidders see eBay’s maximum bid because eBay will keep showing you outbidding them over the duration of the auction. Sniping will not show any of your bids until the last moment.
One other thing that can go wrong with web-based sniping is the same as the manual sniping of yesteryear: the other sniper might be faster. In this case, your “opponent” bidder might be using a web-based sniping site with a faster server. If it is, every millisecond counts. This is out of your control. The best thing to do is set it to snipe at three seconds and hope for the best. Your chances of winning with a web-based sniping site are pretty good.
In conclusion, sniping is great if you want to hide your maximum bid until the last moment and you really want to win the item at the lowest price possible. Do not worry about the ethics of it all because other bidders will not. It is survival of the fastest bidder.