RISC World

Basics of bidding on eBay

Make sure that must-have item is yours

Okay, so you’ve registered and opened an eBay account, complete with a witty and original username, nipped across to PayPal and done the same, then logged onto eBay and started your searching.

Next thing you know, it’s there before you on the monitor. Be it a rare and obscure item of nostalgia or the latest in high-tech gadgetry at a knock-down price, the object of your desire is there for the taking, so let the bidding commence. However, before jumping feet first into the bidding process, it’s well worth gaining an insight into what is involved. Very often a little knowledge and know-how can go a long way towards getting your hands on the item of your dreams, and this tutorial aims to educate you in sensible eBay bidding practice.

First, remember to read the item description extremely carefully, so you know it’s what you want. Now for a little about how eBay bidding works. eBay uses an automatic bidding system to make the process as simple and convenient as can be. When placing a bid, potential buyers enter the maximum amount they are willing to pay. This amount is strictly confidential and is not actually disclosed to other bidders.

The eBay bidding system then places bids on the user’s behalf, using only the amount necessary to keep them in the position of highest bidder. This continues until another bidder enters a higher maximum bid. If this doesn’t happen, the item is won – sometimes at an amount much lower than the maximum bid entered! Basically, this system means that users don’t have to enter lots of individual bids to take part in an auction.

A useful feature of eBay is that it keeps you informed of all the events in an auction via regular emails, which are sent confirming bids and in the event of you being outbid. Sometimes users are informed that they have been outbid immediately after a bid has been placed. This can seem confusing, especially if the amount is higher that that displayed as the highest bid. This happens if the current highest bidder has entered a maximum bid higher than that being offered. eBay itself will then prompt auction users to enter a higher maximum bid.

It’s very important to bid responsibly when using eBay, as any bid is considered to be a contract and the buyer is “legally obligated to complete the purchase”. While it’s very unlikely that you’ll end up in court, it is extremely likely that you’ll get your account suspended if you fail to make good on any winning bids.

The following step-by-step tutorial will take you through the process of bidding on an item and show you everything you need to know before trying it out for yourself.

Logging into eBay

01: Before you bid - To save time, it’s a good idea to log in before you start searching. After you’ve searched and located your item, click on the listing to open it. Take a note of the time left on the auction and the current high bid.

02: Finer Details - Check all the details carefully. Take note of any extra costs such as postage and delivery. Then check the seller’s Feedback Score by clicking the link in the ‘Seller Information’ box. If it looks okay, then proceed with the bid. The Feedback Score is an indication as to how reliable they've been, whether as a buyer or seller, during their time on eBay. This stays with them regardless of whether they change their name on eBay.

03: Ask seller a question - It’s also a good idea to ask the seller some questions before bidding. If you have any queries at all on the item you wish to bid for, click on the ‘Ask Seller a Question’ link to send him/her an email.

04: Your first bid - Scroll down to the bottom of the page. In the example here, the highest bid is £6.50 and the increment is 50p, so we’ll have to bid at least £7. Enter your maximum bid and click the ‘Place Bid’ button.

05: Confirm bid - The ‘Confirm Bid’ screen appears after you have clicked the ‘Place Bid’ button. Check all the details carefully, including the postage costs and payment methods. Once you’ve checked carefully, click ‘Confirm Bid’ to do just that.

06: It’s a success! - We now see a screen informing us that our bid was successful and that we have achieved the position of highest bidder. If this was not the case then our maximum bid would have to be increased.

07: Confirmation - Check your Inbox for an email from eBay confirming that your bid is successful and informing you that you’re the current highest bidder. Should someone outbid you, then you’ll receive email confirmation of this also.

08: Rebidding - If you do get outbid then you can bid again, raising your maximum bid. However, avoid getting drawn into a bidding war – remember the ‘winner’ in an auction is the one who gets a bargain. If you win you’ll receive an email confirmation.

David Bradforth