Question of the Week: Who’s bidding against me now?

Knapstein_Karen.jpgEBay. At the mere mention of the site, strong feelings tend to surface, and whether you love it, hate it or couldn’t care less, it is a powerful force in the cyber-marketplace for buyers and sellers. The changes made earlier this year haven’t seemed to cause much of a ripple in the number of listings, though it did “inspire” a few eBay sellers to venture out and start their own auction sites. ( is just one of these sites, and is picking up steam; when I last checked, they were up to 14.8 million items listed.)

I admit it: I am an eBay fan. I’ve been a registered user since 2000 and the great majority of my experiences have been positive. But, I’m only a buyer – I’ve never sold anything on eBay or any other online auction site. I’ve participated in enough eBay auctions to recognize certain “adversaries” who collect the same treasures as I do, and I’m fine with getting involved in an auction with these opponents because I bid what I’m willing to pay and no more (which, I believe, is one of the secrets of always being satisfied with any auction purchase, but I’ll save that for another time) and may the highest bidder win.

Recently, I’ve been reading discussions about one of the eBay changes that I believe affects buyers more than sellers: bidder anonymity. Keep in mind, though, I don’t have a seller’s perspective. (Perhaps some of you can help me out with that.)

In the U.S., eBay bidder IDs are kept “partially anonymous,” that is, you can always see the sellers’ IDs, and if you sign in, you can see your own ID. Everyone else’s is kept somewhat anonymous (“to enhance bidder privacy” and protect bidders from fake second chance offers) by asterisks filling in between two random characters from bidders’ User IDs. Only after an auction ends does the winning bidder’s full User ID show up in the bidding history.

There has been quite a bit of discussion on the “absolute anonymity” that eBay has implemented in Australia and the U.K., where bidder IDs are now kept completely anonymous. Think about that from a bidder’s perspective. The largest ramification that I can think of: What will keep a seller from logging in and shill bidding, that is, making phony bids to drive up the final sale price?

EBay has discouraged its sellers with its recent restructuring of seller fees and taking away the seller’s ability to leave negative feedback for buyers.

This week Antique Trader wants to know: If eBay implements absolute bidder anonymity in the U.S. – which some people think is imminent – what effect will it have on bidder, and thus, buyer, participation? How important is it to you that you know who you are bidding against?

What do you think? E-mail and tell her what you think, or post a reply here.

Karen Knapstein
Online Editor