IF you’re in the habit of bargain hunting on Ebay, you’ll know how annoying it is to find yourself outbid a few seconds before an auction ends - especially when the price has held steady for the previous six days.
The practice of bidding in an auction’s closing seconds is known in Ebay parlance as sniping. It’s not outlawed or even discouraged, and you don’t even have to be at your computer to put it to the test. Instead, you can outsource your bidding to an industrial-strength online service, which will bid automatically on items of your choosing, immediately before the auctioneer bangs down his virtual gavel.
You might think this takes the fun out of the whole thing. But if you’ve set your heart on a particular item it sometimes pays to fight fire with fire. Besides, there are definite advantages: bidding too early can force up the price unnecessarily, and it’s hard to retract a bid should you change your mind.
You can, of course, bid manually just before your auction ends - but you’re at the mercy of your internet connection and you’re unlikely to have time to re-bid if you need to Here are two better solutions...
1. Install a sniping program on your PC. Applications like JBidWatcher and Buyertools run in the background on your computer and bid automatically on your behalf at exactly the right moment. They are secure and much more reliable than leaving things to chance, but they do rely on your computer being switched on and connected to the internet at the requisite time. You should run an anti-virus check before you install programs like these, as some distributors are fond of loading them with spyware and other nasties.
2. Use a sniping website. This is the most reliable way of bidding automatically, so long as you don’t mind giving your Ebay login details to a third-party site. There’s really no way around this, as the sniper needs your password to submit bids on your behalf - but any risk is countered by the convenience of a “set it and forget it” service.
A number of sites with names like Bid Slammer and Auction Sniper charge you a percentage of the final price on items you win. My preference is for Gixen.com, which does offer a paid-for service with extra options but will snipe with its default settings for free. Using it requires no specialist skill: you just enter the Ebay number of the auction you’re interested in and the maximum amount you’re prepared to bid. Gixen will also import your current Ebay watch list and let you select the items you want.
Sniping doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win every auction; after all, other buyers may be sniping, too. But at least it means you’re not playing David to some other bidder’s Goliath.