Has eBay killed sniping apps?

After JBidwatcher stopped supporting multisniping several years ago, I switched to Auction Sniper for eBay for my eBay sniping needs. (Sniping, for those who may be unaware, is a way to bid on auctions at the last minute, so you don’t get into a bidding war with other buyers, and multisniping is a very useful feature where you can set bids for multiple auctions at once but only pay for the first one that actually wins.)

However, the developers of both apps now say that eBay has changed its login procedures so much that they can no longer keep up, and are deprecating their apps.

Thought this might be worthy of a mention in TidBITS. I’ve been a happy user of Auction Sniper for years; this is going to make my eBay experience more difficult and possibly more expensive.

Interesting, and good to know. I haven’t used eBay in years, so I’ve lost touch with such details. I do see that there’s a service called Gixen that promises to do it for free, and there’s a Safari extension that claims to work with it. So perhaps they still work?

https://www.gixen.com/

‎eBay Gixen Sniper on the Mac App Store

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eBay sniping has always amused me because it’s not the last bid that wins, but the highest bid.

eBay’s proxy-bid system, for those who are unaware, means you bid the maximum you want to spend. The system will use this to (effectively) automatically increase your bid by the auction’s fixed increment amount until it is highest. Then if it’s not up to the maximum you provided, it will do it again if someone else outbids that amount.

In other words, you submit a high bid and if you win, you pay one increment higher than the next-lower bid, not the maximum you bid.

I’ve won a few auctions due to understanding this. I evaluate the item and bid the maximum I would honestly be willing to pay for it, even if I think I can get it for less. As the auction draws to a close, I often see people jump in with last-minute bids, but I frequently win the auction anyway because the snipers are repeatedly bidding one increment higher than the last posted bid instead of the maximum they are willing to pay. That last posted bid is not my maximum, but one increment higher than the next-lower bidder’s maximum (often the sniper’s bid).

Sniping really only makes sense in an auction that works like an in-person auction, where you pay the amount you bid, no matter what the losers bid. In that scenario, you want to bid the minimum amount that can win, because anything higher is a waste of money. But eBay doesn’t work that way.

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I’ve always used eSnipe. The last time was December of 2020. I went into the site just to look around and everything still looks the same. As far as I can tell, it looks like it’s still working or at least in business.

This makes certain assumptions about the behavior of everyone else in the auction. Another key difference between eBay and live auctions is the fixed ending time.

Over the years, I have seen many cases where one person places an initial high bid, and someone else bids over and over, never beating the original bid but pushing the final price up substantially. Is this rational? Probably not. If they had been the high bidder after their first attempt, would they have still put up the higher bid amount with which they ended? Also probably not. If you bid only right before auction close, you can protect yourself from these folks who don’t really know what their max bid is but are willing to keep pushing the price up. The deadline forces people to make a real final offer.

In addition, in the collectables world, there are a lot of services that circulate lists of “hot” auctions with significant numbers of bids or high bids. By postponing bidding until the last minute, you may be able to keep a particular auction off those lists and reduce the number of possible competitors.

Dave

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You would think it works that way. But in practice, it doesn’t. If you bid as you do, others will bid too, and…well, let me quote from the Gixen site Adam mentions:

  1. Your early bid is an important information for other bidders. This specially applies to rare items, value of which is directly determined by interest. Other bidders may realize true value of an item only after you submit your bid. By bidding early, you are helping them, and that’s against your own interest.
  2. Bidders tend to be overly optimistic, and therefore enter value lower than what they are really ready to pay. Leave them time to bid again after being outbid, and you will end up paying more, or lose the item you are bidding on.
  3. Bidders get excited during auctions, and are often ready to bid way more than what is rational.

I find that I win auctions more cheaply with sniping, because there’s no bidding war. Plus, I find multisniping indispensable. I can bid on twelve iPads, and it will stop bidding when I win one. I can just automate the whole process.

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David C – I completely agree. Sniping isn’t rational (and yes, I’ve read the other messages in this thread). Personally, I’m glad to see eBay take action against it, even if they’ve only done so accidentally with other changes.

If it’s irrational, and hurts buyers who use it, why should eBay care?

If you look at eBay’s forums, you see sellers complaining about it because they are making much less money with it. You can say that that’s unfair, but hardly irrational.

Sniping takes advantage of other people’s irrationality.

Yeah, Gixen looks like it works. At least, it lets me log in to eBay (with a more modern, and official, method than Auction Sniper for eBay used). That’s not as convenient as the Mac/iOS syncing that Auction Sniper for eBay (not, by the way, to be confused with Auction Sniper, which is still working as far as I know), allowed, nor as secure or private as an on-device solution, but it looks like a reasonable substitute.