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eBay Hacks, 2nd Edition by David A. Karp

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Make Changes to Running Auctions

Keep your auctions looking and performing their best with post-listing revisions.

We all misspell words from time to time, but where auction titles and descriptions are concerned, innocent typos can adversely affect sales. eBay allows you to modify your auctions once they’ve been started, but certain revisions may not be allowed, depending on when you submit them and whether the item has received any bids.

For example, eBay understandably doesn’t let you change the description once someone has bid on your auction, even if you cancel the member’s bid [Hack #68] . But eBay does allow you to submit additions to the end of your listing description, accompanied by a date and timestamp, making it clear to your bidders exactly what you added and when. And since eBay doesn’t allow bidders to retract their bids [Hack #32] within the last 12 hours of an auction, normal revisions otherwise available to sellers are prohibited during that time. Thus the policies governing revisions to running auctions can be rather confusing.

Table 4-4 shows possible revisions to a running auction; a checkmark indicates when each revision is allowed.

Table 4-9. When the components and features of alisting can be changed

Revision

Before first bid

After first bid

Last 12 hours

Completed items

Best Offer (fixed-price listings only)

   

Bold

(nonrefundable if removed)

(nonrefundable if removed)

 

Buy It Now

Vehicles with a reserve price only

 

Only using secondchance offer

Calculated shipping

  

Change in invoice only

Cancel bids

 

 

Categories

(add second category only)

  

Counter

 

Description

Add to only

Add to only, unless it has also received a bid

 

Duration

Only by ending early

  

End listing

  

Featured

(nonrefundable if removed)

(nonrefundable if removed)

 

Gallery

(nonrefundable if removed)

(nonrefundable if removed)

 

Gallery photo

 

Gift services

(nonrefundable if removed)

(nonrefundable if removed)

 

Highlight

(nonrefundable if removed)

(nonrefundable if removed)

 

Item location

   

Listing format (auction vs. fixed-price)

Auctions only, using Buy It Now

   

Item Specifics

   

Payment details

Add to only

 

Change in invoice only

Payment instructions

  

Change in invoice only

PayPal email address

   

Pictures (if hosting on eBay)

Add to description only

  

Pictures (if hosting yourself)

Private auction

   

Quantity

   

Reserve price

Vehicles only, can be removed or lowered once

 

Vehicles only, use secondchance offer

Shipping details

Add to shipping destinations only

 

Change in invoice only

Starting price

   

Subtitle

   

Title

   

Most revisions can be made by clicking the “Revise your item” link at the top of the auction page, or by going to Site Map Revise my item and entering the auction number. There are a few exceptions, such as “Fix my gallery image,” all of which appear in the “Manage My Items for Sale” section of the eBay site map.

If you find that a revision you need to make is prohibited by eBay policy, your final resort is to go to Site Map End My Listing, cancel all bids, end the auction early, and relist the item. eBay will refund your listing fees (minus any listing upgrade fees) from the first auction if the relisted auction sells, so it should ultimately cost you nothing but time.

Sneaking in Changes

There are a few legitimate ways to sneak around eBay’s auction revision policies, of course, as long as you don’t do anything egregious like changing what the auction is for after the high bidder has bid:

Photos

If you host your own photos [Hack #76] , you can change them at any time, even after the auction has ended. All you need to do is make sure you don’t change the photo filenames.

Text.

This restriction is probably the most aggravating for sellers; if you don’t notice a particularly serious mistake in your listing until after it receives a bid, you have to end the listing and create a new one [Hack #43] to fix the problem. About the only way to change the description once a listing has started is to create one or more images containing text, and then reference them [Hack #52] using HTML. Since they’re stored on your own server [Hack #76] , you can change them at any time. But unless you limit this practice to things like payment or shipping terms, it usually isn’t worth it because the graphical text won’t get picked up in searches.

About Me.

Your About Me page [Hack #62] is separate from your auctions and can be modified at any time, regardless of the status of your auctions. This makes it ideal for your payment and shipping terms, contact information, and details about your business.

Answer questions.

If a bidder contacts you through eBay’s “Ask seller a question” link, you’ll have the opportunity to add both the question and your reply [Hack #67] to the end of your listing description.

And that’s about it. Obviously, it pays to review your listings before you start them. One of the best ways to do this is by using an off-site listing tool, such as Turbo Lister [Hack #93] that allows you to view full previews of your listings, and even edit them in place.

Ending Your Listing in the Last 12 Hours

eBay has instigated a new, rather draconian rule with respect to ending listings early. Just as most types of changes are disallowed in the last 12 hours of a listing’s lifespan (provided it has received bids), eBay now prohibits sellers from ending their listings in these final hours. This is unfortunate, as the “End my listing” feature (Site Map End my listing) has been the last bastion for any seller who didn’t want to be forced to let a doomed auction run its course.

If you lose or break an item, or merely discover that it’s been miscategorized, misspelled, or misrepresented, you should be allowed to cancel the listing at any time. Of course, eBay doesn’t want sellers canceling their listings simply because they aren’t getting bid up high enough, but that should be your prerogative as well. (Many people use a Reserve Price [Hack #45] for this purpose, but this isn’t always a good choice.)

Now, there is still a way out, but eBay doesn’t make it easy. If there are fewer than 12 hours left in your listing, you can still manually cancel any bids it has received. Go to Site Map Cancel Bids on My Item, enter the item number, the member ID whose bids you wish to cancel, and a reason for cancellation. (If you don’t know what reason to use, you can always type a generic message like “bid cancelled.”) The catch is that you have to do this manually—one at a time—for each bidder who has bid on your item; if 8 people placed a total of 12 bids, you’ll have to fill out the cumbersome “Cancel Bids on My Item” form 8 times.

Tip

Obviously, you won’t have time to cancel 8 bids if you wait until the last 30 seconds, which is something you might be tempted to try if you wanted to allow last-minute snipers [Hack #26] to give your listing’s current price the boost it needs. Thus, be sure to allow several minutes to cancel bids and assess your remaining options. If you have a lot of bids to cancel, use your browser’s Back button to reuse the data in the “Cancel bids on my item” form without having to start from scratch each time.

With no bids remaining, you might expect to be able to end your listing, but eBay will have none of it. What’s worse is that with all revisions still prohibited at this point, there’s very little you can do to prevent new visitors from bidding on it.

About the only thing you can do is take down all your pictures for the listing, which will be possible only if you’re hosting your own photos [Hack #76] . Better yet, replace your images with rasterized text [Hack #75] that clearly instructs visitors not to bid.

Of course, this won’t stop bidders who’ve set up automatic snipe bids [Hack #27] ahead of time, and thus may not revisit your listing before placing their bids. You can try to cancel those bids as they come in, but it’ll be difficult to cancel a bid placed seven seconds before the end of the listing. If any bids do make it through, and you end up with a high bidder despite your best efforts, your only recourse is to do a little damage control [Hack #88] and explain to the bidder that you’ve lost the item. Put on your best diplomacy hat, because the high bidder will be within his rights to leave you negative feedback if he feels like you’re trying to cheat him out of a legitimate win.

To lessen the risk of losing money to this policy, you may want to place a disclaimer in all your listings—ahead of time—that says something to this effect:

Seller isn’t responsible for mistakes in this listing. Listing will be considered null and void if any problems are discovered after the point that it can no longer be cancelled.

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