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eBay Hacks, 2nd Edition by David A. Karp

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Hack #66. Let's Make a Deal

Handle impatient bidders without losing customers and without getting kicked off eBay.

From time to time, bidders will contact you with special requests, such as those suggested in "Manipulate Buy It Now Auctions" [Hack #31] and "Retract Your Bid Without Retracting Your Bid" [Hack #32] . How you respond to such requests and how you decide to conduct business is entirely up to you, but you'll want to be careful about some of the steps you take. As a seller on eBay, you'll have to walk a fine line between protecting yourself from dis-honest bidders, not upsetting your honest bidders, not violating eBay policy, and not wasting large amounts of your time.

Tip

See who you're dealing with by taking a moment to look at the feedback profiles [Hack #1] of those who contact you [Hack #67] . That way, you'll know whether you should trust the bidder or cancel his bids and add him to your Blocked Bidder list [Hack #68] .

For instance, an impatient bidder might want to use Buy It Now on one of your auctions, even though the item has received bids and the option has dis-appeared from the page. The following are a few different approaches to dealing with this type of request, each with its own advantages and disadvantages:

Forget it.

Assuming you know the value of your item [Hack #42] , you should be able to look at the current bids—as well as the relative success of your competition—and predict how much you're ultimately going to get for your item. Your auction may indeed be on track to fetch a higher amount than your original Buy It Now price, in which case you'll want to politely tell the bidder that you prefer to let the auction run its course. Naturally, you run the risk of not getting as much as the bidder is offering, or, at the very least, driving the bidder away by making him wait.

Cancel bids.

If you cancel all bids on an auction, the Buy It Now price will reappear, and the bidder in question can buy the item. Unfortunately, this approach is not without risks. First, you'll need to get the timing right; if the bidder isn't quick enough, someone else may place a bid and the Buy It Now price will once again disappear. But what's worse is the possible flight risk: if the bidder doesn't end up using Buy It Now, you've essentially canceled a bunch of honest bids on your item for no reason.

Wink, wink.

You may be tempted to make an under-the-table deal with the bidder, agreeing to end the auction early for a certain dollar amount. But this, too, is fraught with peril. First, eBay may consider this to be a violation of their "fee avoidance" policy, and as a result may suspend your account. Second, since it is an off-eBay transaction, it won't be covered by eBay's fraud protection policies, and neither you nor the bidder will be able to leave feedback. And worst of all, some bidders who pursue this may be trying to rip you off [Hack #69] .

Warning

As a seller, you should never solicit an off-eBay transaction from your bidders, either in your auction descriptions or in any eBay-related emails. There are several reasons for this, not least of which is that it's a common practice of scammers and spammers [Hack #25] and may unsettle otherwise-interested customers. It would also violate several eBay policies put in place to protect both buyers and sellers. This doesn't mean that you should never entertain such requests from bidders, only that you should be very careful about how you proceed.

Second Listing.

Probably the safest approach is to create a second listing, identical to the first. When it's ready, send the URL to the bidder and instruct him or her to use the Buy It Now option promptly (before anyone else bids). Only when that auction has closed successfully should you cancel bids on the original auction and end it early. This way, you and the bidder can complete the transaction officially and enjoy the protection of eBay's buying and selling policies. And if the bidder backs out, you can simply end the superfluous listing or modify it to accommodate a different item.

Best Offer.

eBay is well aware of these types of requests, mostly because any off-eBay transactions rob them of the final value fees they'd otherwise collect from a successful listing. As a result, eBay provides the Best Offer feature, essentially allowing a particularly anxious buyer to make you an offer through official channels, at which point you can accept or decline the offer (again, through official channels).

Tip

Ironically, the Best Offer feature is available only for fixed-price listings, suggesting that someone at eBay has a loose interpretation of the meaning of the word "fixed." If you're using the more-popular auction format, you'll have to resort to one of the other solutions in this hack.

You can select the Best Offer option when creating a fixed-price listing [Hack #43] , or you can add it when revising your listing [Hack #65] . Then, the bidder views your listing, clicks the "Submit your Best Offer" link at the top of the page, and makes you an offer.

As you might expect, this feature is intended to be used when you otherwise might post an ad with the phrase "40 dollars or best offer." Of course, this is pretty much the whole point of the auction format and the Buy It Now option [Hack #31] .

Although the preceding example is the most common request of this sort, it's not the only one you'll receive. Bidders often contact sellers to ask for alternative colors, versions, etc., as well as related items and accessories, and a cooperative seller can stand to make quite a bit of extra money. Just be careful about how much you reach out to bidders.

If you're selling shoes, for example, it's generally acceptable to mention that you have other sizes and colors, either in other auctions [Hack #60] or for sale in your online store [Hack #91] . But this is different from posting a "dummy" auction whose purpose is to simply direct customers to your off-eBay store. Bidders won't buy it, and eBay won't tolerate it.

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