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eBay Blocks Snipe Bids, Leading to Lower Selling Prices

eBay auctions continue to falter, with auction format listings declining 20% in the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period the year before – yet the marketplace has failed to address a critical problem that stands in the way of auction aficionados.

Collectors and auction buyers often engage in “snipe bidding,” the practice of placing last-minute bids on auctions to avoid drawing attention to the items they’re interested in and to reduce the chances of an all-out bidding war with other collectors.

And they often use third-party sniping tools to automate the process.

Yet such services continue to report problems interacting with eBay. The latest example: eSnipe reported last month that eBay is making it very difficult for its users to use the tool and said eBay had implemented more stringent security measures that were affecting eSnipe bids. See update below.

A reader reported a new problem on the Ecommerce EKG board this weekend:

“eBay is blocking snipe bids coming in from esnipe.com, trying to force bidders to bid directly on eBay. Today this finally affected me and eBay refused to accept my bids made via eSnipe. I would most certainly have won the lots, thus the SELLER LOST OUT.”

The reader messaged me separately and explained how this hurts sellers and wrote, “I am about to give up buying on eBay,” he said.

In April, a Wall Street analyst had asked eBay’s leadership if there was a point at which auctions would become stable, noting the 20% decline in auctions and the 11% increase in fixed price format. It isn’t clear from the response that eBay’s current management understand the dynamics of its users’ auction behavior.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Letter to the Editor Blog.

UPDATE 7/29/16eSnipe CEO Tom Campbell reached out to EcommerceBytes this week to give us an update on the issue it had with eBay snipe bidding on May 23rd. The problem was an error on eSnipe’s part, and he said eBay quickly diagnosed the problem.

“We had a lame reverse DNS delegation,” he said. “This made us look like we weren’t us. eBay suspected something was wrong, and quite rightly started blocking our login attempts. Not because we were snipers, but because it looked like we were doing something malicious. These errors caused a cascade of other errors and we were looking in the wrong place altogether. Executive summary: eBay did all the right things, and we’re very grateful for their assistance.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.