Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Tales From eBay

I'm planning a sort of Victorian Tea Christmas Party Thing, and I wanted to buy some actual pieces of Victorian Crap with which to decorate.  (Or give away to the folks who win the Parlour games.) 

I thought I'd find some Victorian Crap cheap on eBay, and eBay did not disappoint me on this count.  My one rule was that I wouldn't spend more than $5 for an item, and I managed to find all manner of Victorian spoons, mugs, photos, calling card trays and the like -- all for under $5.

(Well, OK, we do need to have a chat with some of these eBayers about when the Victorian era actually was.  Victoria reigned from 1839 to 1901.  So when your listing calls an item "Victorian" and then you say it was made in 1920, well, you might want to rethink that.)

So.  Lots of Victorian Crap.  And I kept getting outbid.  Not by those evil people who use eSnipe or other services to snag items by automated bidding during the last few seconds of an auction.  No, I was outbid by nice, honest people who were up front about outbidding me several hours before the auctions closed.

I lost fourteen auctions in a row.  Some I lost fair and square -- like to someone who wanted to pay $17 for something I would only go $5 for.  Others broke my heart -- like the spoon that went for $1.95 when I'd bid only $1.50.

And then, over the weekend, my luck changed.  I had about 12 auctions ending on Saturday, and I won nine of them.  All for $5 or less.  (One for 95 cents!)  As we speak, I have all sorts of Victorian Crap winging its way to me via every possible shipping method that exists.

And today there was ... the dress.

When I invited people to my Victorian Tea party, several of them asked if they should come in costume.  I hadn't thought about it at the time, but, y'know, when am I going to turn down an opportunity to dress up?  I went back to eBay to see if I could find Victorian clothes.

(Aside to eBay sellers:  No, you cannot claim your dress is Renaissance and Victorian.  Several hundred years apart.  Look it up.)

There are some genuine article real live left-in-the-attic-someplace Victorian dresses for sale on eBay.  After perusing a few of the ads, I quickly discarded the idea of purchasing one.  Reason:  corsets.  The damn things were made for a 19-inch waist.  Sorry, but no.

On the other hand, there are loads of reproductions.  For this, I can thank the Civil War re-enactors.  (Civil War:  1861-1865.  Conveniently located smack dab in the middle of Victoria's reign, although a few thousand miles away.  But fashions were remarkably similar.)  So, seamstresses all over the place make these lovely Victorian dresses and sell them to Civil War re-enactors and (and here's a term I just learned) members of the Single Action Shooting Society.

I found a dress.  The measurements appear to fit my measurements (no corset required).  It had a buy-it-now price of $175, which was ridiculous, but an opening bid of $40.  I checked what similar dresses were going for, and figured I had a good shot of getting it for under $100.  $80, if I was lucky.  And since I was really just buying this on a total lark, I was hoping for lucky.

The $40 bid had been placed by a new user (she had eBay feedback of zero).  Newbie.  I have nothing against newbies (we were all there once), but I did want this dress, and hoped I could predict a newbie's behavior enough to get it for my price.

Newbie had bid $40, and there were still a couple days left to the auction.  I wanted to put a bid in there for two reasons.  First, because I'm polite, and wanted newbie to know she actually had competition.  Second, because there was a reserve price on the dress, and newbie hadn't hit it yet.  I put in a bid of $60, to see if I could trip the reserve.

$60 did not meet the reserve, but it did reveal that newbie had actually bid $55.  (I assume here that we're all familiar with eBay's bidding system where you put in your maximum bid, and it bids the increments for you, up to your maximum, as necessary.)  So, newbie was willing to bid $55 for the dress, but didn't want to test the reserveany more than that.

Well, actually, I wasn't too happy about doing it either.  The auction still had a couple days to go.  If the seller had a $100 reserve, newbie could have the damn dress.

Reluctantly, I put in a bid of $65.  I was rewarded with a "Reserve Met."  And a good thing, too.  (Would've felt pretty stupid if I'd stopped at $60 and didn't get the dress because I wasn't willing to go another $5.)

So, now that I'd tripped the reserve, all that was left was to keep newbie out of it.

I woke up this morning to see newbie had bid $66.  Giving notice that she's still in it, I reckon.  I typed in $67 -- to find out if newbie had actually given eBay a higher maximum bid than that.  She hadn't.  I was high bidder at $67.

Bidding on the dress was set to end tonight around 9:45.  I made a point of being home and at my computer -- something I hadn't done for any of the other auctions.  I had a feeling newbie was going to put in a bid just a couple minutes before the auction was ending, and I wanted to outbid her.

Two minutes before the auction ended and I'm still high bidder at $67.  Was newbie really letting it go for a buck more than her last bid?  My screen said yes, but my mind said no.  With less than two minutes to go, I told eBay I was going to up my maximum bid.

And it made me log in again.  Damn!  I was timing this kinda close and I thought I'd already been logged in.  I threw my password at it and got the bid screen.

And wouldn't you know it?  In the time it took me to log in, newbie had gotten in there, as the bid screen was now telling me that the high bid on the dress was $68.

How high do I go?  I mean, you could always type in something that you know will outbid the other person (like $500), but what if she's done that too?  Someone will end up WAY overpaying for the item, and it could be you.  You've got to go high enough to outbid them, but never more than you're actually willing to pay.

I've probably only got time for one bid, so I have to get it right.  I hesitate over the keyboard.  She's new, so has probably put in a max bid at a nice round number.  $70 is too low, since we were at $67 all day.  I bet she's gone $75, so I go slightly higher.

eBay rewards me with a message that I'm the high bidder at $76.  There's actually 45 seconds left in which newbie can outbid me if she wants to, but she does not -- either she didn't want to go any higher, or she couldn't figure out how high she had to go within the remaining time.

Dress is mine for $76.  Hee.

The funny thing is ... after my party's over, I might just put the dress back up on eBay.  :)


aliceslade08 said...

I dont mean to insult your intellegents as you seem rather knowledgable of ebay and what not.. but that story as it very well could have been a nice honest real bidder.. it really sounded to me like shill bidding. I would have guessed that that other person bid on his/her own auction as we all know that bids attract bids. then he was shill bidding you up to see if he could get you closer to that buy it now price. It happens all the time and I find it sick.

nzforme said...

Interesting thought.  I didn't think she was a shill, though, since I'd been comparison shopping the dresses on eBay.  Besides, I paid only $11 over reserve.  If the seller had wanted that extra money THAT BADLY, she could've easily set a $75 reserve.  I think this was legitimate.