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Spotting eBay Bidding Violations and Problems

Nothing can ruin an eBay seller's day like a difficult bidder. Some eBay bidding violations, such as bid shielding, are unethical. But some eBay bidders, such as someone who asks questions that are clearly answered in your auction description, are merely annoying.

Bid shielding

When two or more eBay members work together to defraud you out of real auction profits, they're guilty of bid shielding. Here's how the scam goes down: One member, let's call him Joe, places an early bid on your item, with a proxy bid (an automatic bid that increases your bid to outbid any competition, up to the highest amount you specify). Immediately, the accomplice (Ann) places a very high proxy bid to drive the bid to the max or beyond. Then, if legitimate bidders bid, they only ratchet up the second bidder's bid — they don't outbid the high bidder's proxy. When the auction is coming to its 12-hour bid freeze, the high bidder (Ann) retracts her bid, thereby granting the winning bid to her buddy (Joe), the original low bidder. The ultimate point of outlawing bid shielding is that it increases the bid to such a high level that normal bidding by authentic bidders is discouraged and they stop watching the listing.

This illegal bidding process is used not only to get bargain-priced merchandise but also to drive bidders away from competitors' auctions by artificially inflating the high bid level.

Unwelcome bidders

In this business, you might think that you couldn't possibly regard anyone as an unwelcome bidder, but you just might. Remember how you painstakingly explain your terms in your auction description? That's lost on people who don't take the time to read those descriptions or choose to ignore them. Consider the following points:

  • You state in your description that you ship only within the United States, but you see a bidder with an e-mail address that ends in .jp (Japan), .au (Australia), .uk (United Kingdom), or wherever.

  • A prospective buyer has three Unpaid Item strikes on his or her account in the past 30 days and decides to bid on (or buy) your item. You probably won't get paid, but you still have the hassle of cleaning up and trying to get fee refunds.

  • You don't want bidders who have a negative feedback, but someone fitting that description bids on your auction.

  • You decide to cancel a bid for one of the previous two reasons, but the bidder continues to bid on your auction.

  • You've blocked a particular bidder who's now using a secondary account to bid on your auctions.

To solve these issues before they occur, you can set your Selling Preferences to prevent bad bidding from ruining your sales.

Nonpaying buyers

If there's one thing that just ain't tolerated at eBay, it's unpaid items. eBay reminds all potential buyers, "If you are the winning buyer, you will enter into a legally binding contract to purchase the item from the seller." You'd think that was clear enough, but sadly, many people out there think bidding and buying on eBay is a game. If you see a high bidder on your auction who has very low or negative feedback rating, dropping a line reiterating eBay policy never hurts.

How you, as a seller, communicate with the high bidder is also important. Many times, a well-written, congenial, businesslike e-mail can cajole a basically good person into sending payment.

To reduce the number of nonpaying buyers, eBay has established that any eBay user who has three nonpaying buyer alerts filed against him or her is suspended indefinitely.

Know that eBay has your back and will send e-mails to buyers who have not paid through PayPal or through eBay's Selling Manager or Selling Manager Pro.

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