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How to Win at eBay:
How to Bid

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July 2011     top of How to Win at eBay     Index of detail pages

 

When to Bid

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Ritz Camera

I use Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet, J&R and ScanCafe. I can't vouch for ads below.

1.) Bid only at the last second. Never bid before the last few seconds. If you can't be present for the end of an auction, bid on something else for which you can bid at the last second.

2.) Never enter a bid more than once. You should have decided on your maximum bid days ago, and when you bid professionally at the last second, there's no time for anyone to place any more bids. That's the whole point.

3.) Presuming you know the correct time to the fraction of a second (covered below), click your Confirm Bid button (also covered below) some couple of seconds early so that your confirmed bid actually makes it to eBay in time.

Depending on your computer and connection, there can be anywhere from zero to ten seconds of delay.

The way to see how long your system takes is by practice, and by noting when you clicked the Confirm Bid button and comparing that to eBay's time stamp for your bid in Bid History.

On my desktop Mac connected via cable modem, I see between zero and two seconds delay, so I click my Confirm Bid button at T minus 3 seconds.On my slower laptop over wireless, I may have to click at T minus 10 seconds. Oddly, I've bid competitively with my iPod Touch over WiFi, using my mechanical Swiss watch for time, and won within seconds, but I'm a nerd who knows how to measure time.

 

How to Tell Time Correctly to the Second

You'll need a clock accurate to a fraction of a second. If you have a way to do this, you can skip ahead. Personally I've been doing this since being a kid in the 1970s, when I would sync my wind-up watch to shortwave broadcasts from WWV's time signals.

For every second of inaccuracy, that's one more second early you'll have to bid to be sure you don't miss it, and one more second you give early-bidders to try to outbid you. Bid ten seconds early, and just about everyone will have the chance to react. Bid in the last second, and no one else sees your bid before the game is over.

For most people, any Casio Waveceptor atomic watch syncs itself to WWVB broadcasts automatically. Be certain that the "Sync" icon (ironically a satellite dish) is lit, otherwise, your watch didn't set itself today. Be sure to check for the sync icon, since I've met many people who thought their watches were set, but in fact were several minutes off because they'd kept their watches in the wrong place at night.

Another good way to tell the correct time to the second is to click on the clock on the top right of your Mac and click on Open Date & Time. (Sorry Windows users, you're on your own. Buy a Mac or a watch, or ask someone else how to do this. Pros use Mac.)

You'll get the Date & Time panel. Be sure "Set Data and Time Automatically" is checked, which is by default. This automatically syncs your Mac to God's own atomic clock.

Select the Clock submenu, check "Display Seconds," and you're done. Close the window, and the clock on the top right of your Mac is now dead-on to a fraction of a second.

Mac clocks can vary a few seconds before they resync, so once you've set these options, on OS 10.4.11, simply opening the Date & Time control panel will resync your Mac to the fraction of a second the next time you bid.

The easiest, and probably best way, is to use the free TIME app for iPod, iPad and iPhone.

You can check yourself against eBay, who keeps remarkably accurate time, by clicking the "eBay official time" link at the bottom of every page. I credit eBay for making this easy to check, and for keeping accurate time, even if they hate pro bidders who keep prices low.

 

How Much to Bid

For your "maximum bid" amount, enter the absolutely, positively highest amount you'd be willing to pay. You should have arrived at this a week ago. It's unlikely that you'll actually have to pay as much as you enter as your "maximum bid."

 

The Actual Bid-Placing Process

Here's what you click, in what order. This is important, because if you click the wrong thing at the wrong time, you'll miss your bid.

After bidding on a few items this will become second nature.

1.) Be sure you're logged in. No problem, because if you aren't, eBay will ask you to log in.

2.) Be sure to re-read the listing, just in case there were any last-minute changes. This is rare.

3.) About a minute before the close, enter your maximum bid in the box on the listing, and click the blue Place Bid> button. (If you click the blue Place Bid> button without filling in a value, the next screen will ask you to enter a maximum bid value, and then hit Continue> to get to the next step.)

4.) You will arrive at a Review and Confirm Bid screen. Review everything to be sure it's in order, and watch your clock. eBay conveniently puts the listing close time (end of auction) in the page title header which appears on the top of my Safari web browser window. Otherwise, you'll have to use pencil and paper to jot down the exact closing time.

5.) At the exact time you've determined (I use T minus 3 seconds), click the Confirm Bid button. (Don't click the eBay official time or anything else on that page, since it will take you to another page from which you can't confirm your bid.)

I usually write the exact time at which I plan to click the button on a piece of paper in front of me.

6.) Relax for a few seconds, and refresh the page to see how much you paid. (It's unlikely anyone outbid you.)

Whew! All this reading all just to click that one button at exactly the right second. If you've done all your homework, you just won.

If this seems like a pain, it actually becomes second nature. It's a lot more of a pain to early-bid, and be obligated to something you might win for days, worry about it all week, and then not win it and have to start all over again. For every item, there are usually many early bidders, all of whom lose.

If there's something I want, I place it in my Watch List and set my alarm clock. My alarm goes off at T minus a few minutes, I call up My eBay and my Watched Items page. I call up the listing, bid, pay, and go back to whatever I was doing. There is no emotion involved, I simply win what I need.

 

Multiple Items Ending at the Same Time

How do I win multiple items that close within seconds of each other?

Easy! Remember, once you've researched the item and the seller and arrived at the maximum amount you'd pay, there's nothing to do but wait for the rest of the week until the moment the item closes.

At the instant of close, all you do is make a click.

For multiple items, I call them up as tabs in my Safari browser. I click each tab and progress to the Review and Confirm Bid page for each item a minute or so before showtime starts (the close of the auction).

Then as my clock counts down, I unemotionally click the Confirm Bid button on each page at just the right instant.

I don't bother looking back to see what I've won until I've completed the entire string of bids, usually caused by buying several items from one careless seller who uses automated software to place multiple listings which all end at about the same time.

 

Automation

Some people use other online services to do this correct bidding for them.

I haven't tried any of these services, but the people who use them, love them.

If you use one, you can be out surfing in Bali while the system does your bidding.

I'm too cheap and too lazy: I still do it by hand and put the fees these services charge directly into my bid, so I win more.

 

Next: How to Pay

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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