EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 137 - February 20, 2005 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 9

Going Undercover: eBay Private Auctions

By Ina & David Steiner

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eBay allows sellers to make their bidders' identities private by using "Private Auctions." For years people have emailed me criticizing private auctions, claiming it aids sellers with bad intentions. These people claimed that when they saw warning signs of foul play by a seller, they were unable to contact the bidder to warn them. Sometimes these people were former victims of the seller, other times they were experts in a field of collectibles and said they knew the seller was listing fakes as authentic items, others claimed sellers were using Private Auctions to place shill bids to boost their selling prices.

But some sellers are reporting that Private Auctions are helping them tremendously by preventing competitors from stealing customers and prevent scammers from ripping off their customers.

Here's eBay's definition of Private Auctions ( "Want to let bidders on your item remain anonymous? When you use Private Auction, your bidders' User IDs won't be displayed on the item listing or bidding-history screens. When the auction is over, only you, the seller, will know who bought the item. Please don't make your auction private unless you have a specific reason, such as potential embarrassment for bidders and the buyer. Restriction: This option can't be used with Multiple Item Auctions (Dutch Auctions)."

What do you think of Private Auctions, and do you ever bid on Private Auctions or sell items using Private Auctions?

About the author:

Ina and David Steiner are publishers of and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.

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