eBay drop Bid Assistant

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eBay.com have announced today that they are to drop the Bid Assistant tool as of 15th September. Introduced in May last year, Bid Assistant allowed buyers to specify a group of items of which they wanted to buy one: the system would then bid for them on each in turn, moving on to the next in the group if they failed to win the preceding one.

eBay’s announcement says that the feature had very little use, and sadly I think this was predictable: for buyers who are savvy enough to use such tools, there are plenty of third-party offerings with better features. Bid Assistant never offered the ability to “snipe”, or bid at the last minute so no rival bidder had the chance to go higher. Perhaps it’s understandable that eBay couldn’t offer this: the whole point of sniping, after all, is to keep auction prices as low as possible. But without this essential feature for buyers, Bid Assistant was never going to take off.

51 Responses

  1. I could have told them that after we dumped an easy half mil on buyingmanager.com as a pilot project for them. Part of our pilot provided them the data they wanted on bid groups. I told them it didn’t work without sniping.

    Doh. Freaking idiots. But what the F do I know? I’m the idiot that blew a lot of money on it. That was our first and last pilot project for eBay. They should call it a Screw you project.

  2. Sue
    Interesting Post.
    What you say is simply right.
    The bid assist is complicated to use, and unless your a bit savvy on the net, it’s just confusing & actually quite usless.

    With the likes of; https://www.bidnapper.com/error.php3?type=login
    who needs bid assist.

    A reasonablly experienced bidder will always try to leave it to the last safe point (10 seconds or less). It always amazes me, when you see people bidding up an item (assuming it’s not the seller or friend) that still has days & days to run.
    Just pushes up the price to no gain (accept to the seller)

    I use bidnapper when i can’t bid at the time.

  3. Another wonderous ebay feature that they were told wouldnt work but went ahead anyway

    Sometimes I wonder why they even bother asking

    Oh hang on, they dont!

  4. I told them it didn’t work without sniping

    Similar story to you Jeff – with PlaceOffer, I was one of the original developers in trialing of it, the snipe version works just great, but we are not allowed to use it, so just use it ‘out of the box’ – no ‘scheduled bids’ etc.

    Its strange that eBay tolerate snipe sites where users have to reveal thier user ID and password, yet will not allow a snipe function that uses PlaceOffer and a secure TPA ?

    NB: For the non eBay Developers reading this :

    PlaceOffer is an API call that allows a bid from a non eBay webpage, and is/was available to selected Developers only

    TPA = Third Party Authorisation, a secure log in token created by the user on an eBay page related to the Developers aplication.

  5. Well,

    Seeing as the seller pays all the fees round here (eBay) then the auctioneer (eBay) really should be acting in the sellers best interests? Yes!

    So simple!

    In a real, sorry live, auction the underbidder always has a chance to come back before the hammer falls.

    So why o why does not the auction end at the appointed time or, say, 30 seconds after the last bid??

    eBay could get more FVF, seller could get more dosh, bidders would not be disappointed! WINNER WINNER WINNER!!! (Sorry snipers possibly not winner.)

    Technology would have no diffuiculty – so why not?


  6. Oh,

    And it might bring just a little more excitement to the whole process.

    Now, eBay, surely that would be no bad thing?

  7. don’t like sniping, i always loose …lol agree with #5 extend the auction by X time after final bid.

  8. John–

    I as just thinking the same thing as I read through this and then reached your answer. This was something I was very much opposed to in the past, but with eBay’s stress on Fixed Price items maybe it is time to start extending the auctions. It would be a big change, but that’s what they’re all about right now anyway. Extending the bid would mean more money for sellers, more money for eBay. I wonder if the current management has had this idea on the table yet?


    Thanks for the post on this pretty useless tool. It’s so inferior to the current sniping sites that when it debuted I thought the only possible reason for its existence would be a ban on third-party sniping tools. As much as I’m in tune with the idea I share with John above, I would have been quite opposed to any such ban without a bid extender, as those snipes do provide some excitement in the final seconds…though not as much as they used too.

    Great topic, thanks,

  9. would extending the auction every time someone bid , do anything other than they can do now,
    an auction could go on for weeks lol

  10. and in the real world auctioneers do set a time limit, they start the bid and as the bidding slows or stops they ask for any more bids ,then warn the hammer is about to go down, if there are no more bids,
    which in effect is a finishing time, , if someone buggered them about by waiting till the last second to bid on every lot.they would be woke up by the auctioneer not waiting and knocking it down, before they bid

  11. So why o why does not the auction end at the appointed time or, say, 30 seconds after the last bid??

    I despise auctions like this. If eBay wants to kill auctions off this is the way to do it though. Imagine if someone were selling tickets but someone ran a sniping program that incrementally bid on them forever. Or what if I set up all my auctions to end just before I go on vacation, but the auctions don’t end until after I leave?

    Back when Yahoo had an auction site they were like this.

  12. I am all for extended (popcorn) bidding – though it may not suit every seller or type of item, and I personally think in the ‘collectables’ categories it would increase the final selling price!

    It is a well known fact that most bidding activety happens at auction end time – indicating buyers are sat there at that time participating in the bidding process – so why not give them a chance to place a higher bid IF they are outbid and they really want that item?

    Yes, I know a higher proxy placed initially will take them to their max automatically, but time after time we see comments from buyers who were ‘outbid’ often by a sniper, and wished they could place a higher bid!

    If it works for Bidz (a very BIG jewellery auction site) then it can also work on eBay.

  13. Like Eddie, I don’t think extended auctions would work in all areas – but then let’s face it, *auctions* don’t work in all areas, and eBay is about half BIN sales now.

    I do think ‘popcorn’ bidding might be made to work in some areas, like collectables, where auctions do still work. But it would need to be implemented in a controlled way so that the scenarios mentioned above – auctions running for weeks and weeks – didn’t happen. Personally I’d support something like, if there’s been a bid in the last half an hour, the auction is extended for another half an hour. No longer time period than that – but it might put a little bit of pep back into auctions, and that might be a good thing.

  14. dumping buy it now, and fixed price,

    then sending Amazon over to the Dark side, might pep up auctions no end too
    though off course why not give it a go it might work

  15. Sue and Norf :

    Bruce (ebay ID and website emovieposter.com) as we know moved OFF eBay to his own website, and auctions his collectable movie posters there – each auction with popcorn bidding funtionality!

    No reported drop in end prices and if anything higher end prices, so buyers must like it !

  16. I think it would be very interesting , an option to add extended bidding to your listings should be available, so the choice was yours,

    ebay could even charge a small fee for the option as they do for most things, so to make it interesting and worthwhile for them also,

  17. No reported drop in end prices and if anything higher end prices, so buyers must like it !

    But buyers don’t want to spend more money. The final price may be higher in a “popcorn” bidding situation if the internet isn’t perfectly reliable and everyone bids their true value. I did a 15 minute talk on this subject back in college.

  18. thats the point

    some buyers do want to spend more money, but their daft and cant work out how too.
    this may go some way to enable them

  19. I tend to use auctionsniper when buying, in about 70% of wins I get the item for lower than I my “maximum”, so putting my sellers hat on I would welcome this in that it would give the previous high bidder the chance to bid against the sniper

  20. ” I would welcome this in that it would give the previous high bidder the chance to bid against the sniper ”

    Hold on a moment, who said the last bid was from a sniped bid ?. This is all fluff, at the end of the day, all sellers have the opportunity to list their items for upto 10 days. If this is not enough, well maybe auctions are not for them.

    IF i want to bid on an item that I really want, I always try to be live myself to bid & bid in the last seconds AT THE MAX I want to pay. I would get real pi**ed off if just because someone says after an auction ‘I would have paid more for it’ there could be an extention to the auction end time. That’s their problem, they had the choice to bid their highest amount before the auction end and that’s it, they lost (assuming they did).
    We all bid on the assumption we know in our heads what we are prepared to pay & bid to that amount. If someone outbids you then ok, bid again, BUT online all you have to do is put in the MAX sum & if you loose, weel you lost fairly.

    Every live auction has options to allow someone to bid on your behalf, Auctioneers have ‘bids’ on the books & you can alway employ someone to man a phone at the auction, All of these are just ‘personnal sniping services’.

  21. Gerry007 you are making a great case for auctiosniper software.
    I too bid the max I am prepared to pay, but I do it days before knowing that the software will bid in the last 7 seconds, giving no opportunity for anyone to react.

    On the other hand, using your method, you may be prepared to pay say £100 and therefore bid to this amount, another bidder may be preared to pay £90 but when he sees your £100 in all likeliehood he will come back with £110 and you will lose. With the snipe his bid of £90 is beaten by your snipe and you win, without having the hassle of counting down the last few seconds of the auction

    Give it a try and see for yourself

  22. another thought,

    with so much listed on ebay how many can be bothered to piddle about bidding in the last few seconds then again ,then again, and maybe yet again

  23. #22

    I’m missing your point somwhere?.
    With a sniped bid, you take the gamble that when the bid is placed (usually in last 5-10 seconds) no other bidder or sniper has bid more than you. If you have that situation than the bidding system gets the same message back from ebay as you get if you are biddibg yourself, ie; please bid over a certain amount more etc’.

    I, do not bid,bid.bid on all & sundry, so I can afford to be present when I want to be bidding myself or something I really want. On these occasions YES I can see what the bidding is (in the main) and adjust my bidding accordingly at the last possible moment.
    As with all auctions, the next bid is only increased by the amount of the bid sections ie; 50p, £1, even £10 per bid, so I still end up paying less than my MAX, assuming there isn’t anyone that outbids my top amount.
    This is the same for personnal bidding or sniped bids.

    I recently bid on some stuff that I wanted to resell on ebay. I thought quickly adding the value in my head that I could sell for maybe £500, so being greedy I sniped it (only because I could NOT be at my PC for auction end) at £110. On checking when I returned I’d bought it for £20. Luck of the draw, and all that, but had I not been able to snipe it, it actually would not have had a bid, the seller sold it, maybe for less than they wanted, but it sold.

  24. #24
    So Gerry 007,

    I am a seller, I pay the fees around here.

    I am quite happy that you can snipe!!!!

    I only want another 30 seconds after the high bid before the auction end.

    I think that would be an ok deal, as a seller!!!

    Best for me (seller) best for eBay (fees) best for bidders (every chance to snipe cos time ending would still matter for snipes, and snipes would be good till bettered).

    Just think that this is the way to go.

    And no, all auctions should be like this not those with an extra fee, otherwise they are not true auctions, they are more like best offer.

    More debate please.

  25. I understand what Gerry007 is saying, and I’m speaking from the seat of a seller (and a collectibles seller at that), but with the live auction the bidding carries on until the auctioneer decides enough time has passed to drop his hammer and call the item sold. Any sort of bid extender would be more comparable to that live auction experience, no?

    I don’t think the auction should hang up for bid forever either, probably just extending 5 minutes per bid would do the trick…and tend to reward those sitting live at their computer more than those using sniping software, in other words those who are more personally involved with the process. It would likely drive auction prices higher, yes, but it’d also keep bidders from losing something they really wanted over a few cents or a single increment.

    Yes, I like to think my high bid is my high bid, but that’s part of the auction excitement, those few moments at the very end where you have to decide, should I bump it up one more increment or not. I feel like buyers would be rewarded with thoughts of “Did I win?” rather than “Did I lose?”

  26. best for bidders (every chance to snipe cos time ending would still matter for snipes, and snipes would be good till bettered).

    But it isn’t best for bidders. You are basically saying that it is good for a bidder to bid more for something than they think it is worth. It is great for the seller but not the buyer. From personal experience as a seller … when a buyer thinks they are paying too much they tend to not pay at all.

  27. Now, what would be good is if :

    Incremental bidding was done away with !

    An example would be – seller starts uction at £10

    Bidder 1 comes along and bids £10

    Bidder 2 comes along and bids £12.50

    …….so the winning bid is now £12.50

    Bidder 3 enters the auction and bids £16.50

    …so the winning bid is now £16.50 and if there is a bidder 4 they have to bid more than £16.50 and what ever they bid becomes the winning bid – in other words the seller gets exactly the amount of the bid entered, and not as at present where the winning bid is increased by the bid increment only.

  28. eddie I dont leave bids with B&M auction houses that begin auctions at the amount I leave
    I may bid a few hundred on the book, though I do hope to get it cheaper than the bid I leave with them

  29. In other words I dont want to buy something at auction.
    at the price I am prepared to pay. I want to buy it at just a little more than someone else is prepared to pay ,within in my price bracket

  30. @ #31

    I was working under the assumption that the bidders had already bid their true values of the item in the auction and at the last second decided whether or not to bid again. I forgot to account for the fact that changing that rule would also change the optimal strategy which would be to incrementally bid as little as possible until the auction finally ends.

    So if everyone is going according to optimal strategy then there is no difference in how much the person would finally bid. But I know from personal experience on other sites that this kind of auction usually ends up with irrational bidding behavior.

  31. #25

    I am a seller, I pay the fees around here. I am quite happy that you can snipe!!!!

    I think the problem with this debate is that everyone seems to consider the last bid in the last few seconds is a sniped bid. And because it’s a ‘sniped’ bid , those sitting at their PC’s who were taken aback by the last minute bid should be given the oppurtunity to reconsider what they want to pay & bid again.
    Well from my point, whoever is the highest & last bid before the auction ends should be the winner. If a 30 second extention is allowed, then quite often the last bidder has bid enough to still come out as the top bidder, but now has paid say, £1-20 more than when they ‘ won ‘ 30 seconds before.
    Obviously sellers would be delighted at the extra the item sold for, but the buyer has been conned into paying more, because the underbidder decided aftr the auction end that they would pay more.
    This is think is unfair & probaly would not bid on such an auction. You do see this at live auctions where the suctioneer is about todrop the hammer, somone comes in with a tenner more the then underbidder comes back with atenner more, the new bidder then says no more, so the original highest bidder has paid £20 more.

    As a seller I want the best price I can get & will be happy with. I also have the option to put a reserve on the price, that way I will not sell at a price I am not happy with.

    As a buyer I want the hammer to fall at the specified time (online auvtions of course) and if Im the winner or looser, thats the gamble I take. As Ive said before every bidder has plenty of time (1 to10 days on ebay) while the auction is running to bid as much as they want.

    Sniped or in person is irrelevant, the higest bidder should win at the auction end.

  32. Apparently ‘ebid’ do allow this…..lifted this from a recent email;

    Use “Auto Extend” to allow your auction to extend if a bidding war is going on.

  33. I once bid on an auto extend auction and never again.

    The item had 10 seconds to go when I bid, and I thought I’d won it, but the auto extend brought abother bid in, so I bid again, but got fed up after the third bid and left it.

    Ok, The seller got a bit more money, but the site lost a customer becaue I won’t be going back again.

  34. Is it likely Ebay will now introduce a sniping service OR buy a sniping URL and rebrand it, after all they are making money, when ebay, could be doing it itself.
    Then they would ban all other snipers from their site……watch this space !!!!!!

  35. @ # 39

    The problem with sniping is that new buyers don’t like it. I doubt eBay will ever do anything to promote sniping or engage in it themselves. Instead it will always be left to an unsafe environment where you have to share your username and password with a third party which probably has less security than eBay itself. I remember getting quite a bit of hate mail from under bidders when I first started sniping.

  36. # 40

    Time will tell.

    To be honest, I was very wary of giving my user ID & password to a 3rd party, but having done so over 18 month’s ago, I have had no problems what so ever.
    I log in via a secure connection, as here;


    Ive sid this before, but how does any other ebayer know if you are using a sniping service. Just because the bid is made in the last 3-10 seconds it could (and sometimes is!!) simply me bidding in person.
    I bought a VHS machine on ebay, about 3 years ago, and the under bidder wrote some pretty nasty emails to myself & the seller, all about I’d nicked his item etc, etc. BUT tghe bottom line was, I’d been ditting bidding (non snipe) & he hadn’t, so tuff luck…………….

  37. I think this is an interesting debate, and something eBay should consider. Here are a few cons to the idea that haven’t been mentioned:

    1) For buyers who bid on many items, it would be a huge frustration to have to stay with each auction for an undetermined extra amount of time before knowing if you won.

    2) If you are bidding on multiple of the same item, wanting to win only one, how would you know which auction to bid on? One auction that was originally ending before another may be extended beyond the second auction’s end time, forcing you to decide whether to bid on the second auction and potentially win two of the same item. This is a big plus to fixed end times: knowing for sure whether you won the item or lost and need to move on to another auction.

    3) This is the worst of any con I can think of, yet no one has mentioned it: Extending auctions would vastly help shill bidders. Bid sniping is actually a huge weapon against shill bidders, because they don’t have time to respond to your bid. Extending an auction would allow shill bidders to bid up the auction to your maximum bid price. It would also encourage shill bidders to outbid buyers they perceive as overeager in an attempt to artificially create a bidding war. I would see this as a field day for shill bidders.

    Ultimately, I think a lot of buyers would lose confidence in the system in light of the above flaws. The main advantage to such a system is that it would allow fickle buyers who don’t initially place their absolute highest bid to continue bidding past the end time. This may provide sellers more money, but on the other hand, in my experience, those fickle buyers tend to bid up an auction price long before the end time anyway. And with the number of buyers lost due to lack of confidence in the system, would the seller actually get more in the end? The more bidders you get involved, the higher the end price, in my experience, so losing disillusioned bidders could be a major negative.

    Some examples were given above of sellers who have used this system outside of eBay on personal websites and had success. The problem with this comparison is that those sellers have already established a committed, trusting following on eBay, so there is very little risk of losing bidders over trust issues. By nature, if a bidder is willing to bid through a personal website, they must trust the seller somewhat, whereas a huge reason many bidders choose eBay is because they trust the system, not the seller. By changing the system in a way that could cause those buyers to lose confidence in the system they trust, you are undermining a huge component to the success of eBay auctions.

    That said, I do think this idea could work in certain categories, such as collectibles. But I definitely think, if it were ever implemented, that it should be the seller’s choice which option to use. EBay would also have to become even more diligent at monitoring for potential shill bidding, something which may not be cost-effective for them.

    When you look at the current system, there really are very few scenarios in which an automatic extension of an auction’s end time would be preferable to any of the current selling options. The Best Offer feature allows sellers to try to negotiate with prospective buyers to the maximum price anyone is willing to pay, so sellers who fear an auction would undersell can choose this option. The only scenario I can think of that would benefit from an extended auction format is rare collectibles that are difficult to appraise, making it difficult to establish the ballpark price range needed to use Best Offer. So, it seems unlikely that eBay would establish a major new feature for such a small segment of its community.

    Ultimately, I’m not sure this change would be beneficial to the eBay marketplace. It would provide only moderate advantages at the cost of potentially disastrous pitfalls. While it may add excitement to some casual bidders, it would undermine many other buyers’ confidence in the process and perhaps worst of all, introduce inconveniences that would annoy many more.

  38. #40
    I have had bids that have been sniped where I get a confirmation email that tells me that the bid has been sniped.

    I haven’t had one for a while, so perhaps the snipe site has stopped doing that?

    I would love people to bid earlier, if only so that I get a buzz too out of watching to see if it will go up. But in the end, if it sells that is all that counts. I don’t do 99p auctions, I set my prices at a level that I will be happy to get, so it is down to the market to decide how much they want to pay above that.

  39. @ # 41

    Back in 2003 I had signed up for one of the sniping services as a backup in case my computer wasn’t running at the time of an auction ending. That service got hacked to the point that the hackers had my name and email address (no telling what else). I received an email with a virus attached addressed to me by name claiming to be from the sniping service. It does happen and that is the risk that eBay has forced on all of us that want to use these kinds of services.

  40. # 42

    1/ That one reason for NOT extending Auctions to a bid war!.

    2/ Agreed, but a sniping service will not offer a ‘bid till won’ service.

    3/ Thankful, even a sniping bid & highest bid, does not show the amount a buyer is prepared to bid to. I will agree this extention idea is agold mine for shill bidders.

    # 43

    To my knowledge of the sniping service I use, I have used this service for about 3 years (as above) & they do not send any emails confirming the bid was a sniped bid. & never received or sent an email. Matter of fact, can they send an email to the sellers as they would not know thier email address, unless it’s via the ebay messaging system.

    Slowly as people get used to bidding, they learn to bid late, just before the auction ends. More & more I see very last (30 seconds) bids & an item can take off.

    # 44

    Fingers crossed not happened to me ‘yet’, but like anything on the www. it inly needs a clever sod to find a way in, and all personnal stuff gets thrwon everywhere. Ebay’s system gets hacked all the time, well their members ID & passwords do, we are contantly using ‘report spam’ to ebay & paypal, although it does seem not so much lately (fingers crossed again).

  41. I suggested to eBay about 12 months ago about putting a timer on auctions, if there is a bid in the last 2 minutes it would extend the auction by 2 minutes and keep doing it until the item was won…….

    The time could bet set to what they want, but the principle is the same….

    This would give them more money and it would stop bid snipping and everyone has a fair chance of winning, plus the seller would benifit….

    It might also mean that bids will go on quicker and not left to the last minute, most auctions nowadays dont seem to get bids until the last 5 minutes or so………

    They could not even be bothered to answer my email………

    Big Fred

  42. # 48

    This would give them more money and it would stop bid snipping and everyone has a fair chance of winning, plus the seller would benifit….

    AGAIN…..Why does everyone thing that the bid placed in the last 10 seconds or so is a sniped bid???????????…I bid this way all the time.
    Sensible bidders look on and see what is happening during a auction bid time & when the lower bidders drop out decide to join or not.Thants
    human nature….Hopefully.

    Everyone already has a fair chance of winning .AUCTIONS run for days & days & days & days

  43. Worries about losing out at auctions may drive participants to pay over the odds


    No such issues with Auctionsniper, you set your limit, you either win it or you lose it, if you win it there is a higher chance than you win it at a lower price than had you entered into a bidding war

  44. re 48 They already have this 2 minute technology. I go to another auction site that uses ‘ebay technology’ and that is what they do.



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