On-line auctions are a lot like opinions:
everybody has one. The December 1999 issue of
eShopper stated that there were over 1,000 on-line auctions.
While new auction sites arrive daily, eBay is the
granddaddy of them all with 7.7 million registered users
and items in nearly 3,000 categories. Using eBay as
an example of on-line auctions, in this article I give
you some basics to get you started in the realm of
on-line buying and selling.
Ebay is a massive site with help at every corner.
At the top of each page on this site is a link to the
Home page, which contains a list of categories, site
search engines, tutorials, and chats. My eBay is a link
to your activities, and another page has a site map
that lets you access all the site's features. There's a lot
to see, so spend some time looking around.
Before you place or accept your first bid in cyberspace, you need to register. Ebay asks for
your name, mailing address, telephone number, and
e-mail address. This information is all you need to
give before you can place bids. Next you select a
user name and password, and then you're on your way.
You'll probably find what you're looking for by
viewing the list of categories or by using the search
engine. Each item is placed on its own page. From
this page you can view vital information about the
item, place bids, or obtain the seller's e-mail address
so you can ask questions. On an item page, you can
expect to find:
- A description and usually a picture. Read the
description carefully! Look at the pictures!
Defects or anything unusual about the item are
usually mentioned. The means of payment or
shipping costs may also be included in the
description. Some sellers reserve the right to not sell to
certain bidders, such as bidders in another country
or ones with negative feedback.
- The opening and closing dates. Auctions
last from 3 to 10 days. Most of the action takes
place in the last few minutes of an auction and is
when snipping may occur. Snipping is when a
bidder waits until the last few seconds to place
his/her bid, hoping to outbid everyone and leave too
little time for another bid. This technique is
generally considered poor sportsmanship!
- The opening bid price, an increment amount
and whether or not this is a Reserve auction. A
Reserve auction means that the seller is not under any obligation to sell the item until his
reserve price is met. Usually, only the seller knows
what this amount is. If the reserve is not met, the
item may be re-listed.
EBay encourages Proxy bidding. Proxy
bidding means you submit the highest price that you're
willing to pay for an item the first time you place a
bid. EBay continues to place bids for you as the
price rises, until the point when you have been out-bid.
For example, suppose a poster has an opening
bid of $5 and has an increment of $1. You are the
first bidder and submit your proxy bid of $10,
because that's the most that you want to pay. After you
submit your bid, the poster is now at $6. (The
opening bid plus the $1 increment = $6.00.) Someone
bids $6, but you have cash in proxy for this item.
Now, the bid is at $7, and you still are the current
winning bidder. If someone bids over your $10 proxy, you
are informed by eBay via e-mail that you have been
out-bid, and you may bid again. If the price stays at
$7 until the end of the auction, you win it for that
price, even though you submitted a proxy bid of $10.
Buying on eBay is free; sellers are charged for
various services, many of which are optional. Since
October of 1999, new sellers are required to keep a credit
card number on file for monthly billing. Be sure to read
all of the information provided by eBay concerning
fees, optional services, and credit cards.
Once you have your Seller's Account set up, go
to the Sell Your Item page (you can find it from the
site map). You are asked to supply a description of
your item and a URL (web site address) where pictures
of your item are displayed. You may use dedicated space from your Internet provider, secure a web
site from another source, or pay for web hosting by
a company that provides this service. EBay walks
you through the process of placing your pictures on
the web; they even help you download an FTP
program to upload your own pictures if you choose to do
so. Once you have your description and pictures in place, let the bidding begin!
After the Auction
At the conclusion of an auction, both the buyer
and seller are contacted by eBay with the email
addresses of both participants and a statement that the
auction has successfully ended. This notification can
sometimes take a day or two. Returning to the item's
page, the buyer and seller can access the e-mail address
of the other, make contact, and begin the process of
exchanging money and goods before receiving notice from eBay. Money is sent to the seller, usually in
the form of a money order, and once the money is
received, the item is sent to the buyer. After the
conclusion of the auction, each member leaves (or should leave) feedback about the other
member's performance during this transaction. You can
comment on the responsiveness of the e-mail,
timeliness of the shipping, and the honesty of the
descriptions. Feedback is an important aspect of eBay; it
helps members get a better view of an individual's
I think on-line auctions are great! They let me
find just what I'm looking for at a price I'm willing to
pay without driving anywhere. The goods arrive at
my door through the mail or UPS, but the best
thing about on-line auctions is
Search for Items on Ebay Now!