I have lost eleven straight auctions on eBay. That’s over twice as many as I’ve lost in my life, though as an irregular eBay user that’s not too remarkable. What is remarkable is that of those eleven auctions, in nine I was the runner-up. I bid $75.01 and the item went for $77.51. It doesn’t matter if I bid the item up from $25 or $69. The item had gone for as low as $54 dollars before, though I have to wonder if I had bid on that one if it, too, would have sold for $77.51. I can’t help but think that my one bid is putting me outside my own price range. I would, in all honestly, gladly pay $77.51, though I suspect that if I bid that much, it would sell for $80.01 (there’s no way of knowing what their cap was). And on and on.
There isn’t a whole lot of backstory here. Basically, there is an item I want and there are a whopping three outlets selling said item. Auctions have been streaming for three days now with this particular product. I want the product though I don’t need it. Shipping is $24.99 and I refuse to pay more than $100. Really, it’s worth more than that. Two weeks ago, if asked, I would have probably expressed a willingness to pay $150 or maybe even $200. Hypothetically, anyway. But as I watch one after another go for a little over or a little under $100, I don’t want to pay any more than I have to. The curse of capitalism is the fear of getting ripped off. Pay no more than you have to.
That got me wondering… is there some guy out there collecting as many of this thing as he can, wondering why it is that this guy - every time! - keeps pushing units up to $77.51 when he could otherwise get it for less. The answer is no. All eleven were, it turned out, purchased by different people. Each outbidding me by the cost of a hamburger. Sometimes at the last second sometimes a couple minutes before the last second.
I kept wondering each time if this was the unit that was going to be different. In one case, it was the first order of the morning. Would that one go for more or for less? It could go for more because it’s the first (of the day, at any rate). Or it could go for less because they figure “Why bid on this one when that next one down is so much cheaper?” Then I’ll run across two items that expire minutes from one another. Should I bid on the first because there might be a last minute rush on the second by everyone that didn’t win on the first? Or should I bid on the second because there isn’t enough time for everybody to scramble? How does that equation change if it’s half an hour between them? If they’re the exact same time, should I go for the one that’s priced a bit higher because the last minute rush is going to gravitate towards the lower one… or is the lower one better because there’s less a chance that whoever bid on that one has a max bid higher than my bid?
Turns out that all of this gaming does not matter in this ruthless market.