Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Washing Machine

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Being no longer able to use the launderette in our old building, we need a washing machine to go with the new flat. In an attempt to pursue the low-cost strategy we used so far, we looked for second hand washing machines. And luckily we got one on eBay tonight. Downside: it's a no-name product, so no one knows how long it's going to last. Upside: It's only €85,22 – compared to the €200 they asked for at the used washing machine place. Let's hope it works well.

I haven't bought stuff on eBay for many months now and I think I never bought stuff over a modem connection. – It sucks. Loading one of those crowded eBay pages really takes ages – and those ten seconds can be crucial in the final race for the item.

In fact, as most people who have used eBay know, there is no point in starting to bid early on an item which you think there will be competition for in the end. That way the price just has the chance to go up more quickly and you have to be around at the end of the auction anyway as you may have to increase your bid slightly to outbid other people – so it's definitely enough to be around at the end of the auction, see whether the price is too high for your taste to begin with and do your bidding then.

The first rule of eBay: Never join an auction more than ten minutes before its end. This may drive the whole 7-day-auction concept ad absurdum but it seems to be the way things work. It may also be against whatever 'spirit' and 'community' eBay are trying to promote publicly – but at the end of the day, everbody is in there for the money and not for the 'entertainment'.

Of course time is a crucial issue in those last five minutes. Bids and timing have to be monitored closely (thanks Watson) and extra bids may have to be made swiftly delays in loading can seriously harm eBay 'performance' at that stage. And in fact, this was the first time the bidding was 'exciting' for a long time:

Nobody had bothered to put down a bid before this evening with the auction ending around ten. The initial price was €30 and it had already risen to €70 by the time I joined the party about ten minutes before the end of the auction. I used the first minute or two to actually get the login right (something that can cost a few more crucial moments) and then started with an exploratory bid of €75 to see whether the other people were already up to their limits. Our own limit was €90, so there wasn't a lot of wiggle room.

Soon I was outbid but the bid didn't increase further. So around two minutes before the end I thought I should go significantly higher in order to not give the other people the opportunity to make up their minds and offer more than I did. So, using The Second Rule of eBay: never make bids of whole Euros, I threw in a couple of extra cents and went up to €85,22, which did the job – with the next contestant having gone up to €85 nontheless.

Next steps are actually getting the washing machine, which will include carrying it and then hooking it up. It's about time, I need to do some washing urgently.

April 5, 2004, 0:30

Tagged as ebay.


Comment by mgseeley: User icon

I don’t use eBay the way you describe at all. I put in a bid at the highest price I’m willing to pay and wait for it to end. I don’t change my bid in the last ten minutes. If I could have afforded more I would have bid higher in the first place. Why do people put in initial bids that are lower then what they are willing to spend at the end? If you want it that bad, bid what you are willing to pay at your initial bid and forget about it!

April 6, 2004, 3:07

Comment by Anonymous: User icon

Seriously. What the last guy said…

Put down what you are willing to pay and be done with it. The way ebay works, it doesn’t mean that you’ll pay that amount if no one else bids. It means you’ll pay the maximum amount below the amount you put down to win the auction.

Stress free. Done with it. Sniping is just a bullshit way of saying “I was stupid and lost the auction because I was actually willing to pay more than I originally bid.”.

If the seller tries to shill bid to drive the price up, they lose if they go over your price. They either have to buy the product or cancel out all of their bids — end result: you would win the auction as if they didn’t bid at all!

April 6, 2004, 5:32

Comment by ssp: User icon

In theory I’d agree with both of you. I really do. That’s the way I’d like to use eBay as well.

But in my experience, using the last-minute way helps me ‘win’ more auctions for less. I don’t have a proper explanation why this is the case but I have a little theory going.

To begin with, as you pointed out, it is essential to fix a maximum amount that you are willing to pay. That may even be The Zeroth Rule of eBay: Figure out that amount and stick to it. I once got carried away and went over the amount I set for myself, won the auction and then was upset with myself because I felt I had overpaid for the item. That was only €1, so it didn’t matter as far as the money is concerned. Nonetheless it did feel bad.

Looking at eBay auctions, my impression is that prices will be higher in the end if people start bidding early. One way I try to explain this would be that the item seems more popular that way and people will think it’s good if others bid for it early. Another factor may be that having more time, will give people the chance to change their mind about the maximum bid they want to make. As I said – it’s happened to me before and I am most likely not a shopping addict, so I am fairly sure it is likely to happen to people who actually enjoy shopping. Not giving them the chance to go beyond my maximum bid is important here.

The strategy I describe is the one that works best to for me. Looking at the bid history of this auction, it seems like some bidders ‘probe’ the current bid Euro by Euro by increasing their own bid slowly. This may not make sense but it happens. Had I entered my maximum €90 bid right away, I am pretty sure I would have been outbid just because people had enough time to make up their minds and do so. Of course I cannot provide hard evidence towards this (perhaps some game theorists or sociologists can?) but judging from the fact that I lost all but one auction where I started bidding early, it seems like there is something to that ‘theory’.

That said, there may also be some local factor to this. Germany is a country of penny pinchers. People in the UK or the US seem to be much more relaxed in that respect even if they have less money.

April 6, 2004, 11:25

Comment by george: User icon

could u please provide me with further information about how to buy a washing machine in germany thanks for your sooner reply kind regards

May 15, 2005, 12:40

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