How to Buy Stuff on Ebay

From a guy with one day of experience.

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So as I mentioned the other day, I've been wanting to buy a new computer, specifically I've been wanting a Thinkpad t420, (no not because it says 420, the t420 is coincidentally considered one of the best Thinkpads among enthusiasts for other reasons) so where does one buy a laptop from before the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2020, Ebay of course.

Over the past several months I've looked at listings of various things on the site, but never really with the intent to buy anything, but today I finally used it to buy a t420, and I'd like to share the story.

Phase 1, Discovery

So for the past week or so I've been looking at various Thinkpad listings, I wasn't really planning to buy anything right then yet, but looking back I'm definitely glad that I did then so I was familiar with what was out there. Originally I was looking for a complete system, but I realized that I'd probably have to replace the battery and hard drive no matter what I got, and while getting a charger with the computer is nice I soon realized that beggers can't be chosers and a replacement charger is only $12 bucks anyways. I also realized that I would most likely need to upgrade the RAM since most of the t420s out there only had 4 gigs. I decided that I wanted something in the $100 to $150 price range. So imagine my excitement when I saw a t420 that was already missing all the stuff I was planning to replace, but that had a whole 16 gigs of RAM (more than I would have upgraded to) with a current highest bid of only $45.

Phase 2, Learning the System

The auction was ending in two hours, I saw the bids rise from 45 to 46 then 47. At one point I decided to up it by a dollar, just to see how bidding worked. The instant I put in a bid someone else outbid me by another dollar. I knew it was not likely for me to win like that, so I consulted YouTube on how to win Ebay auctions, and learned the art from the scalpers who flip things on Ebay for a living, I'd have to wait until the last second to strike.

Phase 3, The Winning Bid

Time went by, I don't know how exactly to explain the emotions I was feeling, adrenaline was pumping through my veins, but at the same time I was calm, I had the wisdom of the experts behind me. When there was about twenty minutes left the bids were in the 60s. When there was thirty seconds left the bids rose even quicker, 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 . . . I wasn't worried, I had my bid ready to submit and I started to look at the countdown, 10 9 8 7 6 5 4, right then I hit the place bid button I think the bid showing on the page was about $80 at that point. A dialogue box quickly appeared with a red color, like the ones I'd seen earlier after being outbid, but just as quickly as it appeared it was replaced by a green one, and a second later the whole page updated. I clapped and raised my hands in the air. I'd won the auction with a bid of $125.

The pros say that you should only ever bid at the last possible second and to bid the highest amount you are willing to pay. I hit place bid at the four second mark, the hardcore buyers would have said I did it too early since it only takes two seconds for the system to register your bid, bidding early (especially by days or even hours) will obviously only give others time to outbid you. But the practice of only bidding with the most you're willing to pay can seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense, trust me.

In most auctions, bidders only raise the bid by small amounts, on Ebay it is typically only a dollar. If a similar auction was taking place in a live auction house the auctioneer would be going, "I've got a $50, does anyone have $51? There's a 51, how about 52? There's 52 and 53, how about 54? There's 54, and there's 55. Anyone want to go 56? 56 anyone? 56? Alright, going once? Going twice? Sold to the man in the orange hat for fifty-five dollars!" It is quite possible that the man in the orange hat was willing to pay $75 for whatever he just bought, but since nobody else was willing to go over $54, $55 was all he had to pay. The Ebay developers realized this and incorporated that into their site. Before I hit the button the bids were going 80 81 82, then I suspect that somebody else was waiting for the last second just like I was with a $100 bid, and there was my $125 bid. In a real auction if the second highest bid was only $100 I'd really only need to pay just above that to win, so even though I bid $125, Ebay only charged me $102, a price much closer to what I would have at a real auction.

A week from now I should be receiving my new computer, along with parts from Amazon to complete it. I trust that everything will run smoothly, but if it doesn't Ebay's return and refund policies highly favor the buyer in the case of false advertizement. According to those who frequently uses Ebay, buying stuff from strangers on the internet is actually much safer than buying stuff online form businesses who have the resources to protect themselves from their customers' complaints. I look forward to getting my Thinkpad and starting my adventures in Arch Linux.