Stealth bidding — also called bid sniping — is a common auction bidding tactic that frequently yields great bargains. A stealth bidder is someone who never bids on a product until the auction is a few seconds away from closing. The idea behind this is simple. If you bid too early in an online auction, people will continue to bid the price up, which drives up the final price for the item.
Almost all serious eBay buyers engage in stealth bidding, which is also called auction sniping or bid sniping. It is not unusual for an auction to see no increase in bids for the last full day of the auction, but in the final seconds of the auction 5 or 6 eBayers will bid. These are stealth bidders. If you are watching an auction, take notice of the number of bids before and after the auction closes. I have seen as many as 11 stealth bids in the final seconds. While other buyers sometimes complain to eBay about stealth bidders "stealing" an auction by outbidding them at the last moment, this very successful tactic is completely within the eBay rules and is a legitimate tactic.
A successful stealth bidder will know in advance of the auction close a maximum amount that they are willing to pay for an item and still feel that they are getting a bargain. Many stealth bidders will bid the maximum amount that they are willing to pay in the final seconds of an auction in order to beat other stealth bidders who bid only slightly more than the current bid for an item. As long as you never exceed the maximum amount you are willing to pay, it does not matter what you bid. The final price that you pay will only be the next increment (usually $0.50 or $1.00) higher than the next highest bidder, so you rarely pay the price that you are bidding. If the current bid is $10 and you bid $16, but another stealth bidder bids $12, you will only pay the next bid increment, which may only be $13.
How it works
You will need be available at the time of the auction closing and should have a clock with a second hand. As you near the close of the auction, occasionally refresh the browser display and take notice of the remaining minutes and seconds for the auction you are watching. Synchronize the remaining time with the clock so that you know exactly when the auction will end. When you get down to the last minute, enter your bid and click the Place Bid button. You will then have to confirm your bid by entering your password. Don’t click the button to confirm your bid until the auction is down to the final 10 or 15 seconds. The resulting screen will tell you if you are the current high bidder. That does not mean that you have won, because another bid could still slip in. However, the process is over in a few seconds and you will quickly know if you are the winner.
The process only works if you wait until the auction is near enough to the end so that other bidders do not have time to see the current bid and increase their bid over yours.
What do you do if you lose?
If you lose an auction, you have probably been outbid by another stealth bidder. If you lost, the price was probably bid up more than you were willing to pay, so just move on to the next auction. The winning bidder is now out of the game and thus you should look for another auction and use the stealth bidding process again. Over the long run, you will likely acquire some great bargains using this process. Plus, because stealth bidding is a bit of a guessing game where you are trying to out-wit other bidders, it is kind of fun!