Revealed: How eBay sellers fix auctions

21 comments

The The Sunday Times is running a major piece about crooked eBay auctions.

Quote:
CUSTOMERS of the internet auction site eBay are being defrauded by unscrupulous dealers who secretly bid up the price of items on sale to boost profits.

Ya think?

Quote:
An investigation by The Sunday Times has indicated that the practice of artificially driving up prices — known as shill bidding — is widespread across the site.

The article is partly based on their conversations with Eftis Paraskevaides, who became a “Titanium PowerSeller” — one of eBay’s handful of top earners — selling more than £1.4m worth of antiquities a year on the site.

They are also loosely implying that eBay knows about this and is turning a blind eye because the more it sells for - the more they get...

Sunday Times article here

Comments

next

people will be abusing the voting system on sites like Digg

What has the world come to

*Yawn*

Rocket science is ain't. A five year old could shill bid on eBay.

NB: A recent straw poll amongst my non-geek friends revealed that many had no idea it was against eBay's T+Cs.

...wait until they get a

...wait until they get a load of the Nigerians

Not the Full Story

This has, obviously, always gone on, started the day after the idea of an auction was invented I expect.
This principal is really split into 2 categories and is poorly covered by the article:

Shill bidding and bid padding

There is a small but important difference. In theory, shill bidding is trying to drive another bidder into paying more for the item.
Bid padding, in strict terms, is effectively placing a reserve on your item. You get someone to leave a, ideally the first, bid on an item. If the item does not go past that amount you buy it in and swallow the fees.

Shilling is far less rampant than it was, mainly because of the lowering of buyer interest and the risk of buying the item back in.

I think bid padding however has increased hugely. For several reasons; ebay introduced new fees that made reserve fees very expensive if your item did not sell, basically to make more money and to try and stop people having reserve prices.

Bidders don't like reserve prices and like to see auctions start at a 1p or 1c.
Bidding has dropped off massively now, in the collectable goods market, so you can and do see things sell for nothing. People who do it professionally cannot operate like that hence bid padding.

Sorry for the boring nature of the above

In addition to shill bidding

In addition to shill bidding and bid padding there is also sketchy variable s&h handling charges.

Like I just saw a buy it now item for $49 + $10 shipping.
Then I saw the item for $35 + $25 shipping.
Same item and same seller.

I think eBay should just include shipping charges in the bid price or come up with some way to deter shipping & handling spam.

S&H

That's funny. Cause I just bought a book for $1.99 where they loaded on a $18 shipping fee at the end of the auction.

Another Type of eBay Spam...

Bought a Nintedo Wii. It came with Zelda, etc etc etc.

In smaller print far down in the listing it said that you only got Zelda if the bid price was over amount x. So you don't see that, bid assuming you are getting that item (as do other bidders), and then the auction goes for $5 less than the amount they wanted to include game X. You overpay because everyone was bidding on a package with more stuff than they actually intended on selling unless you paid a true nosebleed price.

And that had a $35 shipping fee as well.

Each of these types of scams erodes trust in eBay. I am actually quite embarrassed for eBay for them to suck as bad as they do after existing as long as they have.

high shipping fees

Another thing is that the shipping cost is not included in the value for insurance. Buy a $1 widget and pay $200 S&H. If it gets 'lost', you get $1 back.

Remo, hope you were sarcastic!

Remo, I really hope you were being sarcastic!!

Or have you not heard that 90% of the top-10 stories on Digg are submitted by the top 25 highest ranking members, who are all friends and all make sure every story is top ranked? HEll, a few were *bought* in 2006 by various corporate interests to make sure at least a few of their stories each day were in line w/ the corporate agenda :O

High shipping

My favorite was a bid I won for Houston Rockets tickets for a sold-out game back in December. They wanted *twenty* dollars in shipping fees! I checked local pickup.

Local merchant, so I took time off work to go pick it up; they were most displeased.

I am actually quite

Quote:
I am actually quite embarrassed for eBay for them to suck as bad as they do after existing as long as they have.

Right on. The investment community and buyer public are more savvy every day. It might take a long time for them to catch up, but it won't take forever.

using ebay effectively

I use ebay to find local vendors who offer local pickup.

Build a relationship, then buy direct in the future.

Ebay might be unhappy about this. Screw Ebay.

Also screw the local vendors who refuse local pickup.
No local pickup. No bid.

We're talking multi-thousand dollar servers here.
Not green widgets.

Oh, and the longer the list of terms and conditions the
less likely a bid is forthcoming. Especially for those
vendors who have pages of terms, and a one liner description.

I don't really know what...

...it is eBay could do to stop these issues other than maybe placing a percentage cap or such on S&H charges, but then even that will screw some legitimate sellers.

As in pre-internet days, it is buyer beware and read the fine print.

A relative of mine got screwed over in an estate auction just two years ago that didn't involve the internet.

There are "made for TV" products with crazy S&H charges, etc.

There are two types who suffer from these sleazy tactics:

- Those that don't read the fine print and/or research a bit.
- Those that practice these sleazy tactics and price themselves out of the market.

I believe eBay's thought is just that...those sellers are or will be pricing themselves out of the market.

SB

The theory that the

The theory that the sleaziness will price them out of the market would probably be easier to agree with if people did not wait until the last second to make a bid looking for a steal, etc.

S+H Fees would prob solve the problem

But then things wouldn't look so cheap on ebay. All else being equal. A person who sells a widget for $5 + $10 S+H makes more than the person who sells the exact same widget for $10 + $5

yup

Remo, I really hope you were being sarcastic!!

Trust me I was being scarastic

But, eBay Kicks Out Shill Bidders

His seller ID was "bidancient" and he has been NARU'ed from eBay:

http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=bidancient

It may take awhile, but eBay will find them and get rid of them.

Bid padding is easy to

Bid padding is easy to detect. Here's a 30 day bid history from the last-round bidder on a collectable camera, who took the price up to a reasonable level which held as high bid for 3 days before the auction ended. Pay attention to the number before "Seller" which is the number of bids, and the last number, which is the time of last bid. (the last hour, last 4 hours, etc):

Item 1 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 2 Seller 1 4h
Item 2 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 9 Seller 2 3d 2h
Item 3 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 3 Seller 3 <1h
Item 4 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 4 Seller 4 3d 4h
Item 5 Collectibles > Science, Medical > Engineering 14 Seller 5 1d 20h
Item 6 Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Women's Clothing > Skirts 1 Seller 6 4d 1h
Item 7 Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Men's Clothing > Sweaters 2 Seller 6 1d
Item 8 Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Women's Clothing > Skirts 2 Seller 6 3h
Item 9 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 10 Seller 7 <1h
Item 10 Cameras & Photo > Film Camera Accessories > Camera Body Accessories 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 11 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm Point & Shoot 3 Seller 9 20h
Item 12 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 1 Seller 10 5d 17h
Item 13 Business & Industrial > Construction > Levels & Surveying Equipment 6 Seller 11 <1h
Item 14 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Scopes, Optics, Lasers 1 Seller 12 5d 22h
Item 15 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Taxidermy, Mounts, Antlers 15 Seller 13 2d 20h
Item 16 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Scopes, Optics, Lasers 3 Seller 12 15h
Item 17 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Gun Parts 3 Seller 14 2d 13h
Item 18 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Gun Parts 3 Seller 15 3d 8h
Item 19 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Vintage 1 Seller 16 5d 15h
Item 20 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Vintage 4 Seller 17 1d 11h
Item 21 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Gun Parts 2 Seller 18 1h
Item 22 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Vintage 2 Seller 19 3h
Item 23 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Vintage 1 Seller 20 1d 17h
Item 24 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Gun Parts 5 Seller 18 20h
Item 25 Sporting Goods > Hunting > Gun Parts 3 Seller 18 20h
Item 26 Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Men's Clothing > Blazers & Sport Coats 1 Seller 21 4d 3h

Looks like a typical ebay customer with an interest in this collectable camera, if he can get it for a great price. He bid $322 which stayed the high bid for 3 days, right up to the last hour.

Here's the bid history for the "bidder" that joined that auction in the final hour, raising the price not a dollar over that standing high bid, but $233 over it:

Item 1 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 1 <1h
Item 2 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 1 Seller 2 <1h
Item 3 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 3 <1h
Item 4 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 4 1h
Item 5 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 4 <1h
Item 6 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 5 4h
Item 7 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm Rangefinder 1 Seller 6 4h
Item 8 Cameras & Photo > Film Camera Accessories > Camera Body Accessories 1 Seller 7 3h
Item 9 Cameras & Photo > Film Camera Accessories > Camera Body Accessories 1 Seller 7 3h
Item 10 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 1 Seller 7 5h
Item 11 Foto & Camcorder > Objektive, manueller Fokus > Voigtländer 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 12 Foto & Camcorder > Photographica > Alte Kameras 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 13 Foto & Camcorder > Photographica > Alte Kameras 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 14 Foto & Camcorder > Photographica > Alte Kameras 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 15 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 9 <1h
Item 16 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 7 5h
Item 17 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 7 5h
Item 18 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 10 5h
Item 19 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 5 Seller 11 <1h
Item 20 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 12 <1h
Item 21 Fotografia e Video > Fotocamere tradizionali > Reflex 35mm 1 Seller 13 <1h
Item 22 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 14 <1h
Item 23 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 15 <1h
Item 24 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 1 Seller 16 3h
Item 25 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 2 Seller 17 <1h
Item 26 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 27 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 28 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 29 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 30 Fumetti > Ristampe anastatiche 1 Seller 18 1d 22h

That's an aweful high percentage of single bids per auction, placed in the final hour. For this camera, the final bid was placed by one more "bidder" just a minute later. Hir 30 day profile is this:

Item 1 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 1 <1h
Item 2 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 1 Seller 2 <1h
Item 3 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 3 <1h
Item 4 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 4 1h
Item 5 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 4 <1h
Item 6 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 5 4h
Item 7 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm Rangefinder 1 Seller 6 4h
Item 8 Cameras & Photo > Film Camera Accessories > Camera Body Accessories 1 Seller 7 3h
Item 9 Cameras & Photo > Film Camera Accessories > Camera Body Accessories 1 Seller 7 3h
Item 10 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 1 Seller 7 5h
Item 11 Foto & Camcorder > Objektive, manueller Fokus > Voigtländer 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 12 Foto & Camcorder > Photographica > Alte Kameras 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 13 Foto & Camcorder > Photographica > Alte Kameras 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 14 Foto & Camcorder > Photographica > Alte Kameras 1 Seller 8 <1h
Item 15 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 9 <1h
Item 16 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 7 5h
Item 17 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 7 5h
Item 18 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 10 5h
Item 19 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 5 Seller 11 <1h
Item 20 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 12 <1h
Item 21 Fotografia e Video > Fotocamere tradizionali > Reflex 35mm 1 Seller 13 <1h
Item 22 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 14 <1h
Item 23 Cameras & Photo > Lenses & Filters > Film Camera Lenses 1 Seller 15 <1h
Item 24 Cameras & Photo > Film Cameras > 35mm SLR 1 Seller 16 3h
Item 25 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 2 Seller 17 <1h
Item 26 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 27 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 28 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 29 Cameras & Photo > Vintage > Cameras 1 Seller 17 1h
Item 30 Fumetti > Ristampe anastatiche 1 Seller 18 1d 22h

Again, so many single bids placed in the final hour of auctions in the "cameras & videos" category.

It looks like two "bidders" played this one up to the unofficial reserve price. Of course I'm not ebay, so I can't see the credit card data for these people, but if eBay was interested in eliminating this activity they could easily "see" it.

>> I think eBay should just

>> I think eBay should just include shipping charges in the bid price or come up with some way to deter shipping & handling spam.

I (or more accurately, my partner) sell a fair bit on ebay, mostly relatively low ticket stuff. We do use s&h costs as a way of putting a "reserve" on an item, so if it sells for 99p, we still get a decent price.

That said, we do make sure we are very clear about the amount being charged (it's usually in the description), and we don't abuse it. If we know shipping is going to be about £1.50 on a pair of kids shoes, we might set the shipping at £5, say. That covers the actual s&h, the outrageous ebay / PayPal charges, and actually leaves us making a small amount of profit, no matter what the "actual" sale price is. We rarely fail to sell any item

I'd PREFER to be able to set reserves, or have the shipping fees included more transparently, but that's up to ebay to resolve. We can't MAKE them make the system more useful / transparent

software

I never buy anything on ebay without using software to bid in the last few seconds.

I think eBay should just

I think eBay should just include shipping charges in the bid price

This might make it more expensive as sometimes when you order more than 1 item from a seller you get a combined postage discount.

People just need to check the postage costs before buying and try to see the item cost and p&p cost as total cost and not worry about which way it splits.

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