Will Guns Change the Way eBay Auctions Operate?
The more I talk to people about eBay, the more they are annoyed by one simple fact; the auctions are not, well, auctions any more. Auction sniping and the ensuing last-second bidding frenzies have turned the auctions into something many people deem unfair. But, an auction site for firearms may just change all that.
If you know eBay, you know there are several ways to get your hands on the good. There are the usual auctions, which give you several days to bid on an item, the winner being the highest bidder. There is the Buy It Now button, which is a time-saver; bid a lower price and hope you don’t get outbid or see the price go higher, or But It Now for speed. And there’s the Make An Offer button, which is a hybrid of the two.
The trouble is, regular auctions have been hijacked by sniping (I should know, I have used sniping a lot in the past). This method, when first introduced, was designed to stop a bidding war. There was speculation that some sellers were even raising the price of the item artificially by bidding on their own items, and sniping put an end to that.
But now sniping has taken such a hold on eBay that people are just getting sick of being outbid at the last second. It’s not worth their time, and trouble, to bid on a regular auction. Instead, they are resorting to the more favorable But It Now button, which basically turns eBay into a giant storefront. No bidding, no fun, right? Like their own ads say, it’s more fun when you win something, especially when you know you got the item at a great price.
Well, a site called Gunbroker.com has found a way around that sniping issue with something called “the 15 minute rule;” and it could breathe new life back into eBay auctions.
A friend of mine recently told me of “the 15 minute” rule after he purchased a replica gun from the site, and I was fascinated. To sum it up, it basically puts no hard stop on the auction. If there is a frenzy of bids in the last 15 minutes (something that happens often on eBay auctions) then the end time of the auction is postponed until all the bids have been taken. In effect, the “going, going, gone” aspect of live auctions is reintroduced on the web. Here’s the write-up from Gun Broker explaining it:
All of our auctions use something known as the '15 minute rule'.
In a typical auction setting, there is always a called out counting that happens to allow buyers time to decide to place higher bids. This 'final call' is reset each time someone places a bid. "Going Once, Going Twice, Going Three times" - someone places a bid - "Going Once, Going twice" - another bid placed - "Going once, going twice".. and on and on until the auctioneer completes the entire phrase "Going Once, Going Twice, Going Three times, SOLD to the highest bidder"
So this rule is no different, but because of delay caused by the internet and other possible technological speed bumps, we have a 15 minute final call time.
When the seller lists an item, he specifies the number of days the auction will run. The auction listings display the scheduled closing time for the auction. If there is bidding activity on the auction within fifteen (15) minutes of when the auction is scheduled to close, the auction automatically switches into a special mode analogous to the 'going, going, gone' period of a live auction. In this mode, the auction is automatically extended until there have been no bids placed within fifteen (15) minutes. When fifteen (15) minutes have passed with no bidding activity, the auction closes.
The 15 minute rule makes auctions more fair, by allowing all bidders an equal opportunity to place their best bid. In other online auctions where an auction ends exactly at a given time, some bidders will hold their bids until the last minute or so, in the hope of winning an item on the cheap. This is referred to as 'sniping'. The 15 minute rule gives all bidders an equal opportunity to place their best bid on an item before the item closes. This way, no bidder loses an item to sniping, and the seller can be assured that he has gotten maximum value for the item.
Our auctions are more like a live auction. In a live auction, bidding continues until no one wishes to place another bid. The auctioneer does the 'going once, going twice' routine, and if someone places a bid the bidding resumes. Since all persons bidding on an auction are connected by the Internet, which can be slow and cranky at times, we picked 15 minutes as a reasonable amount of time to overcome any slowness or technical problems.
In a 'live' auction, the person who is willing to pay the most wins the item. Why should it be different on the Web? We certainly don't hide the fact we do this - you will find the 15 minute rule described in our Help Center, User Agreement, etc. It is also why our auction listings say "Ends On or After".
In a recent survey, a feature similar to our '15 minute rule' was the #1 most-requested feature addition that eBay users would like to see added to the eBay site.
So what does this mean to you? Well, if eBay redesigned the auctions to have a 15-minute rule (or something similar), sniping would disappear completely, at least in its current form. There’s not much point in putting a bid in at the last three seconds if it then extends the end time of the auction and opens it up to more bidding.
It may mean prices will go up in the auctions, which is much better for sellers but not so good for buyers. Now, the possibility of getting into a real bidding war is back on the table. Hopefully, the ability for sellers to artificially inflate prices and then ‘drop out’ of the auction can be combated.
Conversely, it could sometimes mean better deals. The auction snipers looking for last-minute deals won’t be as interested in getting into the bidding wars, so they may just forget the whole process and opt for the Buy It Now or Make An Offer features when they’re available. Less people in the fray for products means more chance that you’ll get it a little cheaper.
Either way, this could invigorate eBay auctions, which have been sadly declining over recent years. Will I miss sniping if this happens? You bet, I have got some killer deals through auction snipers. But everything must run its course, and a small part of me does relish the idea of seeing the real auctions return. There’s nothing quite like winning an item and getting a deal at the same time.
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