eBay off-auction sales entrapment/enticement paranoia...

Just recently, immediately following the end of (multi-item Buy-It-Now) listings, I’ve received an email like this one:

This has happened several times now and the wording is almost identical each time, even though it is a different user. Furthermore, the users have never yet made good on their requests to buy additional items from the relisted auctions.

It strikes me that this could be one of several things:
[ol][li]Meaningless coincidence - the users have set a ‘watch’ on the item and are acting in response to the end of auction notice[/li][li]An attempt to encourage me to relist an item when I might not have bothered doing so (so I incur more fees)[/li][li]An attempt to catch me in the act of off-site sales (which I know eBay frowns on and I wouldn’t do), but what on earth would be their motive?[/ol][/li]
Of course options 2 and 3 would sort of require the users in question to be working for (or with) eBay.

Probably just paranoia on my part, but the very close similarity of the messages plus the pattern of interest/non-purchase is just enough to make me doubt…

well, if you don’t break the rules you do not have to worry about getting caught. My advice is to ignore them. Don’t even answer them.

Off-site sales are not protected by eBay, as I’m sure you know. None of the built-in protection factors (“Safe Harbor”, the threat of giving bad feedback, and possible reimbursement via eBay) are there. Even if eBay frowned on the practice, I wouldn’t want to do it, and no doubt you feel the same way.

Re-listing an auction at least still offers you the protection of eBay, but as you point out, you’ll pay additional fees. I guess you’d have to decide if these emails are sincere. From the sounds of it, I don’t think so. I smell bullshit.

Argh. I always preview, except this time. It should be: “Even if eBay did not frown on the practice…”

As it happens, these are items of which I still have stock and fully intended to relist anyway, so I just replied and provided a link to my store - it may just be that the similarity of the messages is coincidence (there are only so many ways to skin a cat) and the non-follow-through is because the user was hoping I would offer a discount for a no-fee sale…

It was suggested somewhere (cnet perhaps years ago) to do just that. This way you avoid bidding the price up.

Basically there is an item you would like but want to get it as cheap as possible.

Wait till the auction ends.

Contact the seller sayign that you just missed the auction and am willing to buy any extras for the winning bid price (or if the bidder backs out).

Then you ge the item (if available) without bidding and without raising the price.

THe downside is no feedback ability.

kanicbird, that is against the explicit rules of ebay (not to mention uunethical). When I get any such message I report it to ebay without second thought. Not to mention that I would not want to deal with people who want to get ahead by breaking the rules.

Does ebay merely “frown upon” the OP’s transaction or does it bar it explicitly? If it’s only “frowned upon” then screw eBay, they only “frown upon” it (or bar it) so you are required to list the item and generate revenue for eBay. I would never be the buyer in such a transaction but being the seller is pretty low-risk especially if the buyer pays by credit card or money order (which I would insist upon as the seller). If it’s not explicitly barred by eBay, go ahead and sell the item to the person making the inquiry.

From ebay:

Which is only common sense.

At any rate. What would be the GQ here? It is clear that ebay forbids this and I hope the GQ is not how to get around it. What is the GQ again?

I don’t see how they can actually police transactions that occur outside of the auction framework; suppose I list some items, selling one of them to user X, during the course of the communications necessary to transact the sale, I strike up a rapport with X and pleasant non-business emails are exchanged.

A month later, I have not relisted my residual stock of the item and X contacts me and asks if I have any left - surely it would be quite unreasonable for eBay to expect to have an ‘in’ on any transaction that now occurs between myself and X (this isn’t fee avoidance, it is a transaction between private individuals who happen to have met via eBay)?

My understanding is that the regulations regarding off-site sales are more targeted at fee avoidance on existing auctions by such tactics as closing/cancelling them early, but still selling to one of the existing bidders.

Anyway, the GQ is most definitely NOT how to circumvent eBay regulations, it is an enquiry as to whether these emails have any meaning deeper than their face value.

If you are not breaking the rules, why would you be concerned? I definitely report all these contacts to ebay and I few times I have watched ebayers who looked a bit suspicios on different grounds and have had the pleasure of seeing a couple of accounts cancelled. I assume many people do report such contacts, just as I do. And ebay may be doing their own thing but how could you know? They are obviously not going to tell so the best thing is to just play by the rules.

If you are asking what each of us thinks that may be, then I guess this is not a GQ at all but IMHO material.

How did they find your email address? Is that your user ID on ebay ?
Cause I know that ebay uses a form if you want to ask someone a question & they read them to see if you are doing an off site sale.

If you do an off site sale, you don’t have any of the buyer protection things they use…

sailor I know ebay doesn’t like it, it may be unethical but so is a lot of things that are posted on the web.

I’m not supperting it, not endorsing it, just stating what I’ve heard on it.

Also even though I didn’t use this method explicitly, during 3 auctions I have contacted the seller to see if he was able to sell me the items at the winning bidder price.

The 1st time, I ment to place a late bid (this BTW is the only way I will bid anymore), I forgot, next day contacted him, no dice, transaction w/ the winning bidder was underway.

The 2nd time, I found the item under ‘completed items’ search, contacted the seller and he sold me one fo the high bidder price.

The 3rd time, I had the screen up, about 5 minutes to go till the end, I had my bid entered, got down to about 20 seconds, entered my bid but ebay locked me out (system wide outage reported next day). I contacted the seller, he cancled the sale and relisted it, it went above the price I was willing to pay.

Again not saying it’s right but it is done by people who want to buy the item.

**Same reason that I ask any other question; I’m interested to hear the answer, regardless of how serious, illusory or otherwise is the real situation.

Not really, it is a question of factual nature. (is there any reason to suspect that these emails are instigated by eBay?)

Are these instigated by eBay? I doubt it; why would they bother setting traps for people when it’s hard enough to get them to take action on actual transgressions?

Is selling to someone who contacts you in violation of eBay policy? Not according to my reading of the information at the above link. You are not offering to sell the item to anyone. Someone is offering to buy it from you and you may or may not accept the offer. I see nothing in eBay’s regulations barring you from accepting an offer made outside the auction setting. It is a violation of eBay’s policy to make the offer but eBay is silent on accepting the offer.

kanicbird, the fact that unethical and/or illegal things are done does not mean we should provide the information here. If I was in another website and I saw a discussion about how it would be possible to break the rules at the SDMB (for example fooling the mods about having a sock puppet) I would not post any information I might have even if the OP might be asking out of curiosity because other people will use that information for bad ends. If you need any information on what is acceptable in ebay, then ebay is the place to ask. Obviously they are not going to tell you how they do their policing or if they set up stings. My feeling is that they may well send such sting emails to someone they have reason to suspect but that is just my hunch and I do not think there is any way to get a GQ definitive answer here unless the owners of ebay decide to post here.

I may be missing something here, but this doesn’t sound like a crime to me.

I was once looking for a very specific manual on eBay that was not currently listed but HAD been listed about a week before under the ‘completed items’ on an auction that had no bidders. I contacted the seller and we did an off-eBay transaction. Seems silly for him to have to re-list it and pay more fees when clearly I was the only buyer for something this esoteric.

Obviously my situation was a little unusal, but if it is a ‘Buy-it-now’ auction, the seller has extras, the (late) buyer wants to buy them, and the seller agrees, I don’t see that being a huge problem. Ebay may get screwed out of some fees, but that hardly seems enforceable on their end or reasonable for them to expect this would never happen. Besides, I see it as the buyer being the one taking all the risk. They have to pay first and they have no protection if they get screwed since it is an off-eBay transaction. So no complaining, no leaving bad feedback, etc. The seller decides if he wants to go through with it, so if he feels he could get a higher price by relisting it ‘legally’ then he is free to do so…

I don’t understand all the drama with ‘reporting people’ for the activity the OP describes.

>> I don’t understand all the drama with ‘reporting people’ for the activity the OP describes

Let me try again: when you sign up with ebay or with the SDMB or with a credit card or with anything, you agree to certain rules. If you do not like the rules you are free to not sign up but if you do sign up it is not up to you to decide which rules are important and should be followed and which ones are not. You may think the rule about no sock puppets in the SDMB is really stupid and why would they care anyway, but the fact is you agreed to that and you should respect it. When you sign up with ebay you agree to certain rules and you should respect them just as you should respect them here. ebay asks me to report people who don’t abide by the rules and I am happy to do it.

>> Ebay may get screwed out of some fees, but that hardly seems enforceable on their end or reasonable for them to expect this would never happen

I guess expecting people to be honest is to much to expect and you obviously do not care if ebay gets screwed. OTOH, I am an honest person and I would not try to cheat ebay under any circumstances but, it irks me that others would. ebay gives me a good service but they need to make money to stay in business so they can continue to provide that service. They have been losing millions and, frankly, people who think it is ok to cheat do not have my sympathy. I play by the rules and I report those who don’t just like I would report anyone cheating in this board.

As far as discussing the issue here I see no benefit to disseminate information which allows people to cheat, especially when many are already saying it is ok to cheat. If I asked about the chances of getting caught breaking the law, even though I might have no intention of doing it, the information would be useful to those who would do it and the thread would be closed and rightly so. Threads about how to get around the rules of the SDMB would also be closed.

There are also sellers on ebay who will have a friend put in a huge bid at the last moment to see what the highest bid was. Then they contact you and offer to sell it at your HIGHEST price, saying the highest bidder didn’t go through with the sale.

I call this “Flushing.” As in flushing out the bidder’s highest price and a practice that should be flushed down the toilet.

I do occasionally contact seller’s of CDRs to ask for a copy. I get one for cheap and don’t report it to ebay.

Annie-Xmas, can the friend of the flusher retract the bid at the last second, thus ensuring that the highest bid is uncovered?

I ask because of in all my 5 winning bids, my maximum price was reached at the end… (I usually put in a maximum price as my first bid way before the end of the auction). Should I alter my bidding ways?