AT Inbox: If eBay implements absolute bidder anonymity in the U.S., how will it affect bidder and buyer participation?

Antique Trader InboxHi Robyn –

As a writer/editor myself, I have a tight deadline today, but I just couldn’t resist giving you my two cents regarding the issue of “anonymity” in bidding.

I have been buying and selling on eBay for over ten years. I hate many of the changes that eBay has made over the past year or two. One subject (on a different topic) pertains to eBay’s new REQUIREMENT that new sellers offer PAYPAL. Before, PayPal was optional. Now it is a requirement – which is, in my opinion, extortion by eBay. But I digress!

From a BUYER’S point of view, knowing who you are bidding against is a good thing in the world of antiques, especially if your collector friends are interested in the same kinds of items that you like. (For me, it is old postcards.)

Until recently, eBay displayed the user names of bidders on an item.  This was helpful for several reasons:

1. If I knew that an opposing bidder was madly competitive, I might not waste any more time bidding.

2. If I knew that an opposing bidder was madly competitive, I might bid repeatedly just to force him/her to pay more.
3. If another bidder was a friend, I might not bid against him.

4. If another bidder was a competitor, or someone I disliked, I might bid repeatedly to force him/her to pay more.

Of course, for eBayers with “no life,”  it is still possible to determine who the other bidders are by charting user feedback numbers. This requires keeping a chart with numbers and names. I don’t have the time to do that, but I know others that do.

I must admit that I’ve discovered one benefit for bidders with this new system. If I really want an item, and I suspect that a friend is also bidding on it, I can bid with less guilt – claiming I didn’t know that my friend was also bidding!

I can’t imagine why eBay would want to increase anonymity even more. When bidding at an actual auction, you have the right to see who you are bidding against! People don’t put masks on!

From a seller’s viewpoint, I have less concern about who is bidding. My biggest complaint as a seller is that eBay will no longer let me leave negative feedback toward a poor buyer. This has resulted in a drop in completed sales. Bidders can screw around and not be held accountable for not paying if they win.

Gary Leveille
Great Barrington, Mass.


I recently found out the hard way that eBay keeps a close eye on what is going on in the bidding process. My husband and I both sell on eBay under different ID’s. We both take consignments and there are times when one or the other of us get’s a consignment that the other would love to have.

I have a weakness for antique ladies watches and back in April my husband was brought a beautiful platinum antique ladies watch. He listed it on eBay and with out thinking anything about it (because of course he didn’t OWN the watch) I bid on it and we left for a 4 day vacation.

Upon returning we both found that all of our eBay listings had been removed and that we were both implicated for shill bidding. There were no questions asked, no explanations… the listings for both of us were removed permanently, our powerseller status taken for 6 months and we could only list things in the fixed price category for 14 days.

 I finally found a phone number for eBay (no easy task) and found that even though my husband did not own the watch, because we lived in the same house it was a shill bid. We both learned a very valuable (and costly) lesson, NEVER bid on anything that even CLOSELY belongs to you or yours!

AND I didn’t get the darn watch!

So if I were you I would rest assured that although I’m sure a computer whiz out there some where has found a way, the normal everyday seller can not bid on his own items to run up the cost.

Shelly Avery
eBay ID: oldtimethingsnotforgotten

Dear Ms. Knapstein,

I have had an eBay apparel store for about 2 years now, and have recently been bitten by the antiques & collectibles “bug.” Boy have I been missing out on an exciting, and rewarding, area!!!

When I first saw a bidder’s with an ID such as “a****h,” it scared me a little. It made me feel uncomfortable to have to do business with any bidder that had an ID that looked like this. I said to myself, “Is this an honest person I am dealing with?” I do not like it.

I still shudder when I see these types of ID’s bidding on my precious antiques and collectibles. I do not know what is going through the minds of the decision makers at eBay.  It sure does seem that we as eBay store owners and sellers are becoming less important. Happy Hunting!!!


Disoungh Apparel


In addition to shillers, I’ve caught many sellers and bidders who were playing games with their items. When I’ve e-mailed sellers and asked about why bidders who had won the same item weeks before and now it was being resold with the same bidder as high.

They would say that they did not know this and take the bidder off. Now you have no idea what is going on and you certainly can’t rely on E-bay to police their sellers. After all, who is making them their money. Without sellers there would be no buyers.

If I go to an auction house, I look to see who is bidding and for patterns and trends. Some auctioneers pull bids from the walls and clocks with no hands going up. You learn and stay away from them. You can’t do that with E-bay. You can see the winner after the auction but that’s about all.

Just some thoughts.



I think EBay is slowly but surely self destructing. By hiding the bidders ID, I no longer know who I am bidding against. Before I used to bid on items and I would sometimes recognize some of the other bidders IDs and would have somewhat of an idea that I may have to bid higher for something I really wanted knowing how that other person would bid. I also have no idea, if some friend of that seller could be running up the bid.

So with that in mind, I usually wait till the last minute to bid and if I am doing something else I find that am not bidding on half the items I used to. I am sure this is hurting the selling price on most items.

I also think the new policy on feedback is a poor decision.

I also think it is sad that you can no longer sell on eBay with out a Pay-Pal account. My wife used to sell once in a while and just never sold very much. Now she can’t list anything unless she opens a Pay-Pal account. Its just not worth it for a few items now and then.

I guess they just don’t want the little guy anymore. They have already forgot the people that made them so big.

Brad C.

Hi Robyn,

In most “brick and mortar” auctions you do not know who you are bidding against. There are left bids, phone bids, and bidders in the room that only the most observant would even know are bidding. After the lot is hammered down, no one announces who the buyer is!

Dishonest determined consignors/sellers who intend to run their items up can do so in the bricks and mortar auction venue as well as Ebay. Of course, there is always the risk of bidding “one too many” and getting stuck.

In any event, I think it is imperative that all Ebay auctions go private ASAP, and once that is done, of course eliminate all searching of bidders/buyers.

There is a certain limit that I will go to for any item I am bidding on, and beyond that I stop. Sometimes I buy very low, and other times hit near the top. There will always be instances where a seller is somehow bidding on their items. There is no sure way to stop that, but fortunately most people are not doing that.

Making everything private will eliminate 99.99% of Ebay fraud. I think too that Ebay should slightly alter all bidding handles once privacy goes into effect, to prevent the crooks from contacting users whose Ebay names they already know. That will shut out the fraud as much as is possible.

George Arnold


You have posed an interesting question that allows readers to continually revisit the on-going saga of buying and selling on eBay. As a longtime seller on eBay, I find the inability to leave appropriate feedback for buyers to be unrealistic. Fortunately, to date, I have a 100% feedback rating that I’m sure will disappear very soon, if for no other reason than some buyer will delight in spoiling my perfect record!  Sound cynical? Perhaps, but eBay has long made it clear that buyers are more important than sellers.  Such thinking astounds me in that once all the sellers leave eBay, there will be no buyers! 

If eBay implements the practice of not identifying bidders in the U.S., I believe that seller’s who participate in shill bidding will do so with more confidence. Do I need to know who’s bidding against me? Not really, as I rarely buy on eBay and when I do, it’s something that I really want or need and will bid until I have exhausted my limit. Shill bidding has contributed to the unhealthy reputation of eBay sellers and the current practice just allows that to continue. 

What I find most unacceptable is the ability to do the “last second” bidding, be it legitimate or shill bidding. As a seller, I have lost valuable items at the last moment because of the current practice to wait until the very last seconds of the auction to try to steal the item. I now protect my items with a reserve bid (and pay the additional fees that are no longer refunded if the item sells at the reserve price) or I sell junk, as do many other eBay sellers. Seller with quality items need to either protect their items (shill bidding for some), pay additional fees or find a different venue in which to sell.

With the lastest news from France ordering eBay to pay $61 million because of their inability to protect their site from fake items, will eBay’s be our problem much longer?  The handwriting is on the wall and I think it’s only a matter of time before eBay’s selfish and unfriendly consumer practices lead to their demise!

Thanks for the interesting topic, once again!

M. Kellow


I absolutely agree with you. If Ebay has some security measures to detect when a seller is bidding or any other improper bid is made, then it should be publicized. If they don’t have a way to detect improper bids,   bad guys are going to see an opportunity.