How to buy on eBay

I am continually amazed at how many people incrementally bid up an item they want six days before an auction is over. It’s like watching someone walk around with a switch unknown to him flipped permanently to stupid. It’s easy, really. All it requires is patience, knowing what you want, what it is worth, what you are willing to pay for it, and then, again, and this is the important part — waiting.

Step One:

Find the product you want.

Step Two:

Save the product to your watch list.

Step Three:


Step Four:

Just before the item ends, enter the maximum amount you are willing to pay for the item.

Step Five:

Click submit.

Did you win? If you put in an amount you would be comfortable paying for it, you did. At the very least, you did not:

  • Signal your intention to every jingjang from here to your momma who might be interested in the item.
  • Bid up the item to what you wanted to pay for it days before the auction is over.
  • In the final frenzy talk yourself into spending more for it than you were willing to pay.

Follow these rules and you’ll be happy and end up with most of the items you bid on. But be warned, the next time you see two hoopleheads bidding up an item six dollars at a time twelve days before the auction is over, you’ll want to poke your eyes out with a stick.

Oh, and before anyone goes to complaining about sniping, let me corral that concern with this argument: go fuck yourself.

That is all. And happy hunting!

24 thoughts on “How to buy on eBay

  1. Kathy Hilen-Smith

    In the final frenzy talk yourself into spending more for it than you were willing to pay.

    Ah… the meth moment. The sweaty, vein-slapping, adrenalin-charged ICANNOTLIVEWITHOUT IT moment so filled with the thrill of winning that it’s possible cut your finger on the ENTER key.

  2. Sheila Ryan

    It’s like watching someone walk around with a switch unknown to him flipped permanently to stupid.

    Sure is.

    I like that expression.

  3. Cindy Scroggins

    Early bidders are either stupid or ignorant of the process. And your approach is correct if the goal is simply to make a purchase at the price you wish to pay. But eBay is a lot more than that to a lot of people. It’s a form of gambling to some. It can be a game of wits. It can even be a community, where bidders on the same kinds of items get to know one another and their bidding styles.

    There are some things offered for sale on eBay that are amazing, one-of-a-kind works of art, and taking the dispassionate approach you describe here will generally result in a no-win of such items (unless you’re just made of money and are willing to pay anything). Knowing your absolute maximum for something like that can be difficult–it involves measuring your likely level of disappointment in not getting the item.

    I pretty much always win auctions that are important to me (my feedback rating is 1251–one sale, 1,250+ buys). But that can involve being up at 2 am battling some one-armed asshole in the final 30 seconds of the auction for Ezra Pound’s own review copy of Personae. (I got it, of course. Dumbass needs more than one arm to beat me.)

  4. acm

    not taken into account here is the person who’s not willing/able to check eBay every day, or is unavailable on the day that the auction ends. I don’t really see how they have any option other than to enter some approximation of their maximum price a day or two ahead and hope for the best. after all, some items don’t get a lot of traffic…

  5. Mau

    Are early bids a reason or a consequence of human stupidity? =)

    And this is priceless:

    “Ah… the meth moment. The sweaty, vein-slapping, adrenalin-charged ICANNOTLIVEWITHOUT IT moment so filled with the thrill of winning that it’s possible cut your finger on the ENTER key.”

    Thank you Kathy!

    C’mon, y’all have experienced it.

  6. Makurrah

    Yep, have experienced it all right. Bidding on an Airstream trailer located in Arizona (I live in Toronto). Thankfully didn’t win, and managed to get a better deal on a better Airstream nearby. But the meth moment landed me on auctionsniper for anything I really want. No more all-nighters waiting on auction ends.
    Cool post, thanks.

  7. Tom

    Yes! I have been going on about this for YEARS. I don’t understand why people treat eBay like it is a traditional auction. It has a time limit! Do like a basketball player, and run out the clock!

  8. Pingback: Scam Artists (via postie) | Cool Thing

  9. Pingback: Sniping and Squatting « Cheap Talk

  10. CaptainReality

    If it weren’t for complete and utter retards, auctions generally wouldn’t work at all. The only exception is people with limitless money bidding on Van Goughs.

    Take housing for example. Why, oh why, does ANYONE bid before third and final call? Answer: they’re stupid and lack self-control. Same goes for ebay.

  11. Pingback: Wednesday Reading | The Big Picture

  12. Philip Cohen

    After the experience of receiving a SCO from an apparent shill-bidding seller several years ago, followed by eBay’s introduction of masked bidding aliases as a hide for such shill bidders some time ago, I started watching auction activity on eBay more closely—as closely as one can from “the outside”. The following article of mine is an introduction to the results of those observations. Anyone who is a regular buyer on eBay may find it/them of some interest.

    Why is “Noise” Donahoe trying to destroy eBay?

  13. Carl Weiss


    Not only have you clearly documented a great approach to getting good deals on eBay, you have also, IMHO, documented what it takes to be a great day-trader.

    Using your discipline, patience and foresight, you could make a mint trading futures, stocks, currencies, whatever.

    Great post.


  14. Pingback: Link Love: 12.10.09 |

  15. sharkie

    I also thought people who bid days before the end of the auction were stupid (and I still kinda do) but once I tried a new technique : instead of waiting until the last minute of the auction I bid the first day (yeah, I know). Of course, some idiot outbid me and then I didn’t try to bid over him. This way, the item was already quite expensive and I knew that many people wouldnt even watch it because the price was to high so many days before the end of the auction. Of course, I could afford to do that because it was a bottle of perfume so it wasn’t something unique and I could still have it another time (actually, the seller sold one bottle every week). Anyway, I did that 3 times for the same item but it didn’t work because some people were always willing to pay a higher price. So now I’m back to the old technique but I can understand that people bid days before the end in some circumstances.

  16. Eric

    Another tip, I always bid half or 3/4 or (in any case) close to my top price in the last 30 seconds. Once the page refreshed, I ignore the page and bid again, to my full price. While some schmutz is sitting there seeing the bid go up, they might bid only a dollar or two over it, and then I’ll have already beat them when I set my top price. I haven’t lost many auctions this way, and it seems to me like I’ve saved money doing it this way. Usually I end up getting it 20 or 30 dollars less than my absolute max on 100 dollar items, which is 20 or 30 less than other places on the net. I don’t use ebay for retail priced items.

  17. Mr.9000inc

    one thing i really hate about ebay bids & listings is that the price paid for an item is usually more or the same for the exact same item new. its not ebays fault its the sellers fault for pricing it soo damn high, thats why id rather use the buy it now or only bid on objects that i absolutely cannot live without then i pay more, LOTS MORE.

  18. Pingback: How to win at eBay » St. Eutychus

Comments are closed.