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My eBay experience April 24, 2009

Posted by CK in Miscellaneous, Personal.
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Recently I decided to move from my beloved point-and-shoot camera to an entry-point dSLR. The friend whose photos urged me to try this upgrade, suggested that I go for a cheap second-hand but well-appreciated camera, such as the Canon EOS 400D. It’s a camera which changed the game when announced in 2006, and still carries a good name although old by now. In the process, I looked at a number of other cameras, somewhat newer too, such as EOS 450D, EOS 1000D, Nikon D60 (I peeked at Canon EOS 40D and Nikon D90 but I resisted the geek’s temptation to have the latest and greatest).

Ok enough about the cameras, this post is about eBay. I had never used it before, and thought this is a good opportunity. These days are too busy, so I had to make the best out of my time searching, monitoring and bidding auctions. Well, it proved to be mission impossible. I used two free tools for the purpose, GarageBuy (a native Mac OS X tool, beautiful and convenient but somewhat unstable and also you can’t snipe with it unless you script the functionality), and JBidWatcher (a Java tool which, in general, does the trick). I used GarageBuy for its great search functionality and monitoring auctions before their final round, JBidWatcher to do the bids, and I before I bid I was cross-checking prices for new cameras with Amazon.de. This is a report of the results and my impression as a first-time, non-professional, eBay user.

  • If you don’t snipe, you don’t stand much chance: Although there are some indications that sniping does not result in significantly lower purchase cost, my understanding from the auctions I monitored is that snipers *did* usually win the auction. My estimation however, is that snipers are simply more determined, and that also affects their highest bid. Otherwise, I do not see much reason why someone would pay 90% of the original (new) price, to get a second-hand article — especially when you don’t really know the seller.
  • Eventually, this can be very time consuming. I estimate that I spent in total more than 1h per day doing only that: searching for (seemingly) opportunities, monitoring them, waiting to bid at the last minutes/seconds. My principle was that I would not pay more than 80-85% of the price I could get if I bought it as new. Needless to say, I never won. Admittedly though, I was extremely picky over the articles I went for, and my total was something like 5-6 auctions in one week. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one wanting those items, so it might be that I went for auctions which were more difficult to win anyway.

Eventually, I bought a used 450D from Amazon’s returns depot. I got it for just 20 euros more than the cheapest (final price) of the auctions I monitored, it is fully guaranteed, and my guess is that it was never really used. The price was 90% of the original price (for a new item), which is reasonably ok. So I don’t think eBay will see me again anytime soon.

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