Do You Have a Better Chance of Winning on eBay?

With a recession on, it seems natural that more people would turn to the Internet, looking for deals. And eBay (Stock Quote: EBAY), the granddaddy of discount online shopping seems the perfect place to go. But eBay bidding has dropped off. With sellers lowering prices to lure in buyers, and competition amongst buyers decreasing, this may be your chance to get that item you’ve been looking for at a discount rate.

Mathieu Bourgie, from Hardware Revolution, has been selling computer hardware and accessories on eBay for a little more than five years. He pointed out that part of eBay’s current problems stem from policies the company has been following for the past few years. eBay has been hiking fees and sellers have been forced to use PayPal. “eBay easily eats up 10% to 15% of your closing prices,” Bourgie said. “That made a lot of sellers quit eBay, simply because it was no longer profitable. Fewer sellers mean less competition. That, and higher fees, result in higher prices for items, making eBay less attractive to buyers.” Sellers and buyers alike abandoned eBay for competitors as prices rose.

But perhaps it is worth revisiting eBay now. “People used to just look for those bargains for fun, because they could easily afford it. Now everyone is tight on money, spending less,” Bourgie observed. “Due to the recession and high competition,” prices are lower. Sellers need to compete with each other, and never mind the higher selling fees. This represents an opportunity for buyers.

Consumers looking for good deals may find that, when they visit eBay now, the competition has dropped off and they are more likely to win an auction. Few sellers can charge premiums, so “Buy it Now” prices are also lower—in some cases eliminating the need to attempt to win an auction at all. eBay has also introduced Daily Deals, which lists deeply discounted bargain items that come with free shipping. (Twitter users can receive regular tweets about eBay deals).

However, there are still some items that haven’t gone down in price. Shawn Crandall, at Dave and Adam’s Card World, one the largest sellers on eBay, pointed out that bidding competition largely depends on the type of items buyers want: “There has been a lot of stories on ‘steals’ or ‘great deals’ found on eBay. For single, non-vintage cards overall there are a lot of great buying opportunities for collectors. [But] for many of the items we sell that are listed with a straight bidding format, we have seen a little decreased demand but overall we have not dropped prices in response to this. Some items sell for more than they would have a year or two ago.”

Buyers should also beware of prices that seem too low. Sometimes there is a reason for a seeming steal of a deal. A seller whose eBay store creates a low overhead situation, as well as a wholesaler, can afford to charge lower prices than competitors online and off. However, some merchandise is so cheap because it is damaged, a knock-off, or a second. When buying on eBay, you need to be careful. Reviewing feedback about a seller is one way to determine trustworthiness.

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If you are truly determined to win an eBay auction, and you are still running into some competition, there are some measures you can adopt to increase your chances. Bidding odd amounts ($15.07 instead of $15), using a proxy bid to automatically raise the bid each time someone surpasses you and sniping an auction (watching until the final moments and swooping in at the end) can all increase your chances of winning.

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