Bidder names

If you have bid on eBay in the last six months, depending on the value of that bid, you may have noticed you were bidding against “bidder 3.” What happened to seeing the names of your competition – dirtyoldsocks240 outbids southernsupplyhunter79. Those crazy, personalized names are now hidden by eBay, making it less personal and interesting, and less friendly.

EBay is now concealing bidder identity in auctions of more than $200. This is to protect the bidders from fake “Second Chance Offers.” Says eBay. Months ago we discussed this fad in another article. All these hackers needed was the name of the second highest bidder, and the item they were trying to obtain, and a fake email was sent in an effort to obtain personal information by disguising it as a “second chance offer.”

Even with the change these second chance offers are still occurring. Who at eBay that decided an item selling for $195 wasn’t worth being hidden? It’s interesting that a number was put on this security. Bidders who never bid on anything more than $200 still suffer at the hands of scammers and spammers. Just because $200 isn’t a lot of money to the folks at eBay, to Mom & Pop Antiques in Arkansas, it might be too high a price to pay for security.

It’s most likely another way for eBay to make money. The company knows a lot of deals are conducted offline; I’ve heard of people having an item identical to one being sold on eBay, then emailing the current high bidder directly and trying to sell them their item for a less price. This doesn’t get eBay its fees, or its percentage.

This policy bothers me because eBay is supposed to be a “community.” In a real-life friendly community, or at my local weekly live auction, I don’t want to bid against my friends. On eBay I look for my friends in the city, my father up North, or even other bidders who bid on my items; as a seller I don’t want to bid against them, either. Concealing the bidder names invites a lot of unfriendly bidding wars.

In one instance my father and I bid against each other. We like similar things, so we search for the similar things, sometimes resulting in a loss. In this auction, my father outbid, which cost me an additional $125. Instead of being scammed by a second chance offer, I lost money from my own father not being able to see my identity.

Another possible situation: Christmas time. Husband and wife Dave and Deanna have separate eBay user IDs. They agree not to peek at each others bidding list during the holidays. They have talked of finding a matching wall sconce to match the rest of their living room fixtures. One comes up on eBay just in time for the holidays and each of them want to buy the sconce for the other. They each bid and the husband ends up outbidding his wife. Without seeing the username, they cost their own family a lot of money by bidding the item up all week.

In a way, this brings the eBay community into the real live auction world. At a real live auction, event each person must be a registered bidder in order to receive a number. At these auctions most of us, at one time, have said, “Let them have it.” Live auctioneer often say, “There are no friends at an auction.” EBay definitely agrees with that.

EBay is taking all of the personality out of the “community.” Are they trying to make it a society of robotic bidders? With the use of sniping software, bidders are already not even doing their own bidding. Next we won’t even have user names; maybe just bar codes.

Last, but not least, this hidden identity change has created an uproar with already suspicious eBay members. Many already think that sellers use friends, neighbors, their son’s girlfriend, or even another one of their own eBay identities to bid on their own items. If these fake bids win an auction, the two partners would not end up completing the transaction. This is referred to as shill bidding. Shill bidding is not allowed by eBay, but it’s done on a daily basis.

I know of one eBay seller who had a secondary seller name, which he used to bid on his own items to raise prices. This is a way around paying a reserve; have your “shill” bidder bid up to that much. The seller in question only bid with his secondary ID on items that his first ID had for sale. Eventually he got a warning from eBay, but no suspension or disciplinary action. It took eBay years to even figure it out.

Before names were hidden, if you kept bidding on stuff from the same seller, you might pick up on a common bidder name often outbidding you. Now, however, it’s all up to eBay to keep shills from happening. The concealing of the bidders’ identities makes it all but impossible for us to look at the other community members and see if there are clues that they are shilling.

At first I was very disappointed with this change; it seems that most every change eBay makes doesn’t really help much. There are still fake emails being sent out as you read this article. EBay can’t realize it made a bad decision and change the rule back; that would be admitting it was wrong. All it has done, for me, is to make me lose a few bucks here and there, and cause some interesting conversations amongst friends after we unintentionally bid against each other.