Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Auctions that go on forever? No thanks!

WebProNews has an interesting piece proposing a solution to the problem of scamming bidders on high ticket auctions:

Now here's another reason for eBay to start thinking seriously about automatically extending auctions when late bids hit. Scammers hitting electronics auctions with inflated bids followed by requests to ship items out of the country, spoofed PayPal payment notifications, and other naughtiness ought to be enough for eBay to do something about the situation. ... If eBay enabled the ability to automatically extend an auction by a few minutes when a late bid hit at the last second, buyers and sellers could both benefit. Sellers could ban obvious fake bids, while buyers in legitimate sales would have the chance to increase their bids above the sniped amount, making more money for the seller.

I've been around eBay for a few years now, and this auto-extension option has been suggested a lot. But I've never seen it proposed as a solution to the problem of the Nigerian father who wants your mobile for his son's birthday - so kudos to Mr Utter for imagination here. But I'm afraid he's completely wrong.

There is already a solution to the problem of scamming bidders: buyer management. *Every* eBay seller should be using some of these: whether it's just blocking buyers from countries to which you don't ship, or whether you want to go the whole hog and block buyers without a credit card on file and/or without a Paypal account. Most legitimate buyers would pass this test; most scammers won't.

Auction extensions are a bad idea for a whole host of reasons. eBay buyers ALREADY expect sellers to be at their computers 24/7 (*waves to the lady who mailed me at 4am and again at 7am to complain she hadn't had a response*): extending auctions would just make things worse. It would also vastly increase the problems of bidding wars: most of us have had experience, either as buyer or seller, of two or more bidders who between them drive the auction price way above what any sane person would expect. Currently, eBay's hard ending does put a curb on that; with extensions in place, nothing would. We would just exchange one set of non-paying bidders for another.

[PS - Hey, WebProNews, how about some form of comments/trackback on your articles? No dialogue is just *so* Web 1.0 :-p ]

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