Non-binding bid on US eBay leaves Washington State Ferry winner empty handed

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You may have heard about the retired Washington State Ferry going up for sale on eBay, Nathan Altman the man with the winning bid of $205,100 was left empty handed after the ferry owner shipped it away for a sale elsewhere.

Due to the complexities of selling Motors, listings in this category are non-binding meaning sellers can sell their goods elsewhere even if an item has been bid on and won. This is also the case for properties.

“For items listed in Property and eBay Motors classified listings, bids are considered non-binding. When you bid on an item in these categories, you’re expressing a strong interest in buying the seller’s item, but no formal purchase contract is created if you’re the winning bidder. For more details on non-binding bids, please see our full policy guidelines below.”

Make sure you follow these guidelines. If you don’t, you may be subject to a range of other actions, including limits of your buying and selling privileges and suspension of your account.
Non-binding bid policy, eBay

Non-binding bids can also work the other way around, where a buyer can suddenly decide they no longer want whatever they bid on and won. As the bid was non-binding it also means the seller cannot request a final value fee credit.

In 2018 we wrote about a seller who accepted a bid and then tried to cancel the sale and another where a buyer made a £180,000 bid and immediately changed his mind. In both cases a legally binding contract was formed through the binding bid which ended up costing the affected parties mind boggling sums of money. Unfortunately, in the case of the Washington State Ferry, Altman will have to find another way to live his floating art studio dream. Luckily for the seller as this was a classified listing Altman wont even be able to leave negative feedback.

Bear in mind that bids are normally binding, yet sellers will usually avoid sueing their customers because it’s not very good for their business reputation.

3 Responses

  1. Even when it is supposedly a binding bid Ebay refuses to even try and make buyers pay for the items they have won but dont want. After a buyer recently won a cycle frame on auction he not only didnt pay , he also refused to contact me (even to cancel) and after looking at his feedback it seems he had done this at least 7 times in a 12 month period. When asked what the policy was on these types of timewasters customer services said that are quite happy to let these muppets carry on with their accounts and cant do anything about it!!!! Scumbag is still on Ebay and still doing the same thing. Good old Ebay (always very helpful to the sellers that make them their money…….)


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