Ebay is broken. And everyone knows it.

I have friends who won’t even use eBay because it sucks so bad in so many ways… shipping, payment, bidding, and my personal hatred… last minute bidders.

Why I’m Pissed:

All last week I had the highest bid on a lovely navy blue suit built perfectly to fit my smaller frame (hard to do) and with a conservative yet striking two button styling. Man, did I want this suit. My max bid was set at $40 and I planned to raise it as the bids (hypothetically) went up over the week. All week I sat at $19.99 and was highest bidder on this suit.

And as the week went on… nothing happened.

Nobody else came along and bid. It looked like I was in the clear. Even as the minutes wore down to 5, 4, 3… it seemed that I was the only guy that knew about this suit.

Until 30 seconds before the end of the auction. When two people started bidding and eventually outbid me with about 5 seconds to go. One of them eventually got the suit for $41.99 ($1.99 higher than my earliest max bid). But the thing is… if things had been slowed down a bit, I would have happily gone much, much higher than $41.99.

How Last-Minute Bidding Is Killing eBay:

First of all- I don’t blame the last-minute bidders. They are doing what they have to do in the ecosystem that eBay has created. But the fact that all the action happens in the last minute of a 7-10 day auction is just ignorant (at best) and intolerable (at worst).

Everyone gets screwed with last minute bidding. Let’s take a look at how:

Sellers: In the scenario above with my suit… I would have been willing to pay much more than the final price for that suit if I’d have had time to keep bidding. These higher sales prices go right to the seller.

Buyers: Normal people who can’t sit in front of the computer waiting to make a last-minute bid simply won’t do auctions because they know they won’t win. There is no point in bidding on anything that has more than 1 minute remaining, because you are just going to lose it. And early bidding means that you are upping the final price of the item. Smart people don’t bid until 30 seconds out, even if they’ve wanted the item all week.

eBay: Normal people don’t use ebay auctions… thats a huge lose of the market. And eBay calculates a good deal of their fees based on the Final Ending Price of the auctions. Higher ending price, more fees to eBay. (And happier sellers.)

How To Fix eBay:

Easy. And a developer at ebay could do this in one day:
eBay implements a feature that extends the listing of the item for three hours with each bid. In other words, an auction will never close that has had a new bid in the last 3 hours.
See ya later last minute bidding.

So what happens in this mental experiment? How would this change everything if last minute bidding went buh-bye?

Sellers would get higher prices, because people would have time to keep bidding. People would have three hours to stew about how much they really want that suit and put in another bid on it.

Buyers would come back to auctions because it once again seems reasonable that they can honestly decide how much something is worth to them and bid on it in good time.

eBay would make more money on higher sales prices, and would actually make eBay a marketplace, versus a last-minute brawl for the highest bid of the bargain hunters with quick enough internet to faciliate their bullshit.

How Real Auctions Differ from eBay:

I came to this conclusion last night while watching a back episode of Lost. I was still pissed about losing the suit, when an auction scene came on the tele.

Now I don’t need to tell you how a real auction works. You know that. But try to imagine what an auction would look like a la eBay.

Auctioneer: “Well it’s 12:04 now, so whomever has the highest bid in 5 minutes at 12:09 wins”

Crowd: {Silence for 4 minutes 50 seconds}

Auctioneer: “Anyone?”

Crowd (with 4 seconds to go): “I’ll take it!!!” (everyone yelling and screaming at the same time).

Alright, so I’m no playwright, but you get the jist of how drastically different this scene is from a usual auction. It would be ludacris of an auction house to end the auction at a certain time, instead of giving all bidders a chacne to think, respond, and bid to their true maximum price.

With Every Good There is a Bad:

Adding this feature would of course have some consequences. But I suspect they’d be good for eBay overall.

You would lose last minute bidders. Their days of bullying and grabbing a deal at the last minute are over, and they’d have to move along to more creative ways to screw over the masses. (Sorry, I really wanted that suit!)

But you would gain all the average Joes (and Jonis) back. They’d feel safe and confident in bidding again because it isn’t a last-minute game anymore. It’s, like, a real auction.

Chime In:

Disagree? Got a better idea? Tell me about it in the comments below.