Canceled bids: Honest mistake or hidden agenda?

“A previously entered bid on your item has been retracted or cancelled.”

This is the message you receive from eBay when a bidder backs out of one of your auctions. Why does this happen so much? Why is it so easy for bidders to retract their bids?

There are many different reasons for these cancellations. One is the “administrative cancellation,” when eBay cancels a lapsed member’s bid. When the administration cancels a bid, you have to be thankful and assume they are protecting you from defunct bidders.

Any bidder may cancel their bid. They have up until 12 hours left in the auction to do so. There are several steps to perform in order to place a bid on eBay, including typing your bid, then clicking the “place bid” button. This advances you to a new page where you are asked to “confirm bid.” Yet people still cancel their bids on a regular basis.

Over the last nine years, I have never retracted a bid. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that mistakes happen and there must be a way to back out. If your 6-year-old son bids on Yankees season tickets, you should be able to cancel that bid. Ninety percent of the time the excuse is “entered wrong amount.” If the wrong amount was entered, however, the bidder should be obligated to re-enter a new bid.

Canceling a bid after the reserve is met is the one I really hate. There are some bidders out there who use this to their advantage. Essentially they are like a dirty card player. They get you to show your hand while the game is still going.

I have had a bid placed on a reserved item of mine and the one bid met the hidden reserve. The first time this happened, I was pretty excited. I thought if the reserve was met so quickly, this item must be hot, and my dreams of a final value were escalating.

Then all week there were no other bidders. What happened? To my disappointment, five days later the one bidder in the auction canceled their bid. Now I was upset. With one day left I had no bids on a great item. I started to think maybe this wasn’t an accidental cancellation but a deliberate plan to reveal the reserve and scare off other bidders.

I decided to investigate and went to the bidder’s page. It revealed that this bidder had 16 bid cancellations in the last 6 months. How can eBay let this happen?

I called eBay to complain about this deadbeat bidder, but they did nothing. They told me they would “warn” the bidder, but I am sure it didn’t stop this person from canceling other bids.

I then checked out all this bidder’s activity. They were also winning bids amongst the cancellations. This bidder was actually buying some expensive collectibles. I can’t believe that some bidder who cancels 16 bids in six months can be allowed on eBay. Do you really think that any bidder could make this many mistakes in six months? I don’t think so!

Another feature to prevent erroneous bids is what I call a “bid max amount.” This would be a setting within your “My eBay” preferences to set an amount you can’t bid over. A warning would pop up when the bid being placed is above a your personal set amount.

The auction-listing program I use warns me when the eBay listing fees go over a certain amount. I have mine set at $20. If I accidentally click the “featured auction” button and the listing fee will be $24.45, a warning comes up that won’t allow me to advance until I click “continue.”

Next month I will discuss another way in which eBay can improve its system.