EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2893 - September 17, 2012     3 of 5

Counterpoint: It's NOT Okay to End eBay Auctions Early

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Do you think it is fair for a seller to end an eBay auction early once a bid has been placed? Steve and "Monkey" don't.

In Point/Counterpoint, EcommerceBytes asks readers to present different perspectives on an issue of interest to online merchants and marketplace sellers. Today's feature is a Point/Counterpoint debate on the right of sellers to end eBay auctions early once a bid has been placed. (More information on this issue is published in the EcommerceBytes Blog.)

Here are Steve and Monkey's arguments for why it's not okay in today's "Counterpoint."

Steve is a multi-channel online seller. He doesn't want to identify his website because it is a niche business (specialized hobby supplies) and he keeps a low profile - "those that know, know," he said. He has had an online presence since 1998 and began selling collectibles, antiques, and hard-to-find items on eBay in 2001. Steve thinks it's not fair for a seller to end an eBay auction early once a bid has been placed, here's what he had to say.

I feel that after a buyer places a bid there is too much disappointment if the auction is canceled. Unless there really is a flaw or some problem, I think a seller should follow through with the sale if he gets a bid. It hasn't happened but a few times, but I have bid on items only to have the auction canceled at the last minute. Not only am I disappointed, I am usually mad because I have wasted several days waiting for the auction to end. I would never consider bidding again on anything that seller had listed and usually he would disappear anyway.

Nowadays sellers list the same item on more than one venue. I have listed the same item on eBay, Ruby Lane, Etsy, and Bonanza, but if the eBay item gets a bid, I will cancel the sale on the other venues.

Trick is I consistently set the price on eBay about 20% higher to cover the increased fees. It is not unusual for a buyer to contact me saying they have found the item listed on two sites and they will want to know which site they should buy from, I always tell them to choose the site they are most comfortable with. Greed usually wins and they buy at the cheapest site.

I want to add that on large items that are pick-up only, I will list on eBay, Bonanaza and Craigslist. Craigslist is almost always the winner of the three.

Just so you know, my entire livelihood comes from online sales. I have had an online presence since 1998 selling specialized hobby supplies to a niche market. These items are never offered anywhere but on my web site. I do have a shop and showroom but I am open by appointment only and the appointments are generated off of the web site.

I started selling collectibles, antiques, and hard to find items on eBay around 2001. As the venue changed I expanded to Ruby Lane where I have consistent sales for more expensive items, next comes Bonanzle (Bonanza) where I have fair sales, and have recently started on Etsy where I have already had a few sales and see great potential.

My all time money-making place this year other than my own site has to be Craigslist, but only because I listed a lot of large equipment I was wanting to get rid of.

"Monkey" (EcommerceBytes Blog handle) is a self-described small seller of vintage and collectibles, with less than 50 listings per month and sales of about $300 per month. Monkey thinks it's not fair for a seller to end an eBay auction early once a bid has been placed, here's what Monkey had to say.

Early-ending auctions ruins the excitement of the auction experience for the buyer. If you, as a buyer, place a bid on an item ... you're automatically connected to the rush of possible success in outbidding others. It's a visceral reaction. It's why auctions are fun and exciting.

When the seller cancels an auction with an active bid, the buyer's excitement is similarly crushed. That buyer will unconsciously think twice before bidding on another auction.

eBay's action to penalize sellers for early-ending auctions is a favor to all sellers who play by the rules. It keeps buyers interested in the auction process. As a small seller, I'm in favor of anything that keeps potential buyers coming back to shop eBay.

See today's Point here, and comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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