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Last Minute Bidder – (Almost) Always Win the eBay Auction

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esnipe_ebay.gifA couple of months ago, I wrote about how eBay changed my life as a seller. However, much more often, people proclaim how eBay turned their lives around as consumers. They not longer get excited when they see a sale in the Sunday circular, look in the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart, browse a garage estate sale, or shop at the local Salvation Army. I mean, these low prices are a normalcy on eBay. The other day, my dad excitedly informed me that the Computer Show was coming to town. But I told him, “What’s the use? I can get even better prices on eBay. It’s not worth the gas money and admission fees.”

eBay is great and all, but who has time to keep up with an auction? Often, it may seem like you could save just as much money by visiting financial advisory sites such as, which don’t require you to sit around waiting for an auction to end. Auction-style retail seems like such a waste of time if you’re considering petty items like Beanie Babies or computer memory. They only appear relevant for big-ticket purchases like computer systems, cars, and famous works of art. Because of this, I love eBay’s Buy it Now, Express, and Make an Offer formats. They allow bidders to just cut to the chase and flat out purchase the item without the mess of a long, drawn out auction. Unfortunately, the majority of eBay listings are still in the auction format.

Manual Sniping

That’s where snipping comes in. What is “sniping?” For those who do not know, sniping is a controversial technique advanced eBay bidders employ to win an auction. Sniping is not that new of a concept. People have used it ever since the dawn of eBay. They place a bid a couple of cents higher than the current bid within the last 10 seconds of the eBay auction. They do this in hopes that competitors will not be fast enough to strike back with a counter bid. If the “sniper’s” bid was higher than any of the “proxy” bids, the sniper wins the auction.

Automated Snipping

Who has time to actually wait for the last seconds of an auction? What if I experience this sudden wave of diarrhea!? 🙂 The only time I actually did this manually was when I was a pubescent teenager with nothing to do during the summer. Then, I discovered automated sniping.

Automated snipping uses the same concept. But this time, you can schedule bids to be placed on your behalf in the future. Imagine, winning an eBay auction while you are at work, at school, or in bed, all without gluing your eyes to the computer screen. There are two ways to achieve automated sniping. The first way is to actually run a background “Daemon” program on your computer to place bids for you. The second way is to subscribe to a service provided by various third parties that charge a monthly or a small “per-bid” fee to actually do the dirty work for you. Below are the pros and cons of each method.

Home Option


  • You don’t have to reveal your eBay login to third parties.
  • It’s free.


  • It requires a little technical know-how.
  • Internet and computer always have to be on (i.e. no dialup). If internet connection or power fails, you lose the auction.
Outsourced Option


  • Setup is easy. You don’t have to worry about any technicalities. The professionals do everything for you.
  • Computer and Internet don’t always have to be on.
  • Bid time is more precise. You can schedule a bid at the 3rd second if you wanted to.


  • It costs money.
  • You have to reveal your eBay login to third parties.


esnipe_sniper.jpgWhich is better? The choice is up to you! Personally, I’ve been a happy customer of eSnipe for about 5 years already. Their price is about 50 cents per auction win. If my bid was too low, I don’t get charged.


What’s cool about this service is that they promote a feature called “BidGroups.” You can schedule a bid on an unlimited number of auctions of the same item. When one of them fails, eSnipe will try the next auction on the list. When on of them wins, the rest of the auctions in the BidGroup gets canceled. For example, I was looking for a cheap complete reverse osmosis system under $75 this past week. On Wednesday, I searched for all of the auctions this weekend that met my criteria. Then, I scheduled my highest proxy bids on each of the systems that I would be happy to win. Some auctions ended Thursday evening. Some ended Friday afternoon. And others ended Sunday morning. I placed each of those scheduled bids in a BidGroup. Thursday, my bid was too low for those auctions. But Friday evening, I was happy to discover that one of my bids was the highest. When eBay confirmed the win, eSnipe automatically cancelled the scheduled bids the rest of the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). Now, I’m waiting for my new Kenmore Reverse Osmosis System!

Closing Remarks

The reason why you can “(Almost) Always be the Top Bidder” and not “Always be the Top Bidder” is because of proxy bids. With eBay, you bid the highest price that you are willing to pay. eBay will automatically, increment your bid up until someone outbids your highest bid. Read eBay’s explanation for more details. Because of this, your bid may still be lower than the highest bidder’s proxy bid. Only if you set extremely high bids will you “Always be the Top Bidder”

Earlier, I said that sniping was controversial. Some people say this is unethical and it gives people an unfair advantage. Personally, I think its fine. Capitalism right? 🙂 Is it illegal? No. Is it unethical? Maybe. Does eBay condone it? Yes and No. eBay does not take an official stance on this issue. Basically, they say, “If your sniping software doesn’t work. Don’t come crying to us!” So, it’s up to you. Try it! You’ll be a more sophisticated consumer.

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Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007

6 Responses to “Last Minute Bidder – (Almost) Always Win the eBay Auction”

  1. Last Minute eBay Auction Bargains Says:

    Indeed the last minute bidder will always win the auction. I had a self-updating list of eBay auctions that are ending in an hour or less, for a dollar or less. You might want to see them.

  2. Robert Says:

    Sniping is great, however, the best way to get great deals on eBay is with It will immediately send you an email when a new item has been listed on eBay that meets your search criteria. If the item has a low-priced BIN, you’ll get it cheap!


  3. Jack Says:

    I was trying to bid on an Ipod Touch 64GB Gold Plated with an engraved: “To a very special person” and another one exactly the same but engraved with “I know your jealous of me!” and they were both £453 each but something must of happened and it has given me them for just £2! I DONT BELIVE IT!

  4. CJ Says:

    I HATE snipers!! )’:
    I was bidding on a typewriter I REALLY REALLY wanted, and I was high bidder until the very last second and someone outbid me, I had no time to bid back. It was extremely saddening.

    Same thing happened on the next typewriter of the same model.

    There’s one more I’m watching, and I guess I’m going to have to give in and learn how to snipe myself, or I’m never going to win anything! D; Sniping is such a dick move.

  5. Ranger Rick Says:

    The bad news about last minute bidding and services like Esnipe. Nowdays, no one bids on the auctions until the last minute, thus everyone thinks no other person is interested in the item. When people think that no one is interested, they put in a lower bid than they really would be willing to pay for the item, because they think they will be the only bidder and get it real cheep. In the last 6 seconds, all the low “snipe” bids come in and some wins by the luck of the draw. If you really want an item, just bid on it or set you “snipe” bid for what you would normally bid, don’t assume no one else is also going to bid at the last second. If you do, you will loose every time!

  6. Maggie Says:

    I got sniped on something I wanted SOOOOOOOO badly and when that person outbidded me I wanted to kill them. So now I’m a sniper! 😀

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