Of course it isn't only sellers that may increasingly find auction format listings to be less desirable they once were. Buyers, too, are increasingly choosing fixed price over auction format listings on eBay.
Reasons for Buyers to Be Wary
- Less variety. With sellers finding themselves less and less enamored by the auction format and therefore less likely to use it, there's less to buy on auction at eBay than there used to be in relation to fixed price listings. Unless you're shopping for hand-made, one-of-a-kind, or rare collectible goods, there is likely to be a better selection selling at fixed prices. In many cases, there are no auction listings to be seen for a desired item amidst oceans of fixed-price listings, rendering the question moot.
- Problem outcomes and loosening enforcement. As an auction buyer, even when you're outbid you can't safely bid on another, similar item because the person that outbid you might retract their bid (or the seller might block/cancel it for whatever reason). When this happens, your status as the highest bidder is automatically restored, putting you back on the hook for the auction in question. If you've bid on another item in the meantime, you may win and be responsible for both of them.
- Long waits with uncertain results of dubious value. In theory the auction format provides the chance to find and buy an item for a fraction of its market value. In practice, however, you have to wait the duration of the auction listing to find out whether this will be the happy result, and it rarely is-there are enough people on eBay these days that very few, if any, items listed at auction are going to be sold for significantly below market value, meaning that the search for them is often a waste of time. Often, in fact, auction format listings sell for a premium over fixed price listings for the identical item(s), perhaps due to bidders' auction mentalities. In the meantime, any items that are clearly in high demand are simply listed by sellers at a fixed price, since the value(s) of the item in question is/are clearly known. As a result, the "good deal" quotient of the online auction has been severely reduced.
- Sellers backing out. Often the choice of auction rather than fixed price format to sell an item indicates that a seller is uncertain about the value of the item and their ultimate desire to sell it. Too often, would-be buyers place a bid on an item, wait a work week or longer as the auction winds down for a purchase they'd rather have made immediately, only to see the seller pull the auction after some time because bidding hadn't increased enough to satisfy the seller's price goals, or make claims at the item is "no longer available," "accidentally broken during packing," or "was sold just yesterday in my store (sorry!)" once the auction is over at a low pricemeaning that the buyer would have been better of simply paying a few dollars more for a similar fixed price listing in the first place, avoiding the wait and following frustration.
- Lower seller professionalism. While this suggestion is likely to make sellers bristle, it's true that many buyers choose one-off, used-item auction listings rather than from arrays of identical new-item fixed price listings in hopes of saving money. While these savings may or may not occur, as the items above suggest, the one-off, used-item, auction-format seller is more likely to be a private or low-volume seller than the multiple new-item fixed price seller. The result for many buyers is an increased likelihood of slow shipping, poor packaging, poor customer service, problems with condition ratings when buying using auction format, or important mistakes even in basic things like identifying the make and model of the item in question or including all original accessories. The result is buyers that gradually become more wary of buying from independent sellers over time.
Before sellers that prefer auction format listings pull out the tar, feathers, and pitchforks, it needs to be said that the points given above are by no means true in all cases or for all item categories. eBay is a large, complex trading environment and there are exceptions for every rule. Rather than a list of concrete facts, the items above are best seen as a series of trends evolving from month to month as the eBay marketplace continues to evolve away from the eBay heyday of the 1990s and early 2000s.