eBay buyer asking to buy item immediately - what should I do?
April 23, 2012 6:11 AM   Subscribe

I keep getting emails from eBay buyers asking if they can buy the item immediately and what the price would be - what should I do?

I've started selling quite a few things on eBay, and I now frequently get messages from potential buyers like the following:

Im interested in purchasing this quickly for a buy it now?
If so what will the price be?


Am I allowed to do this under eBay regulations? If so, how do I go about doing it - is there a way to sell it immediately to him through eBay, or would I have to go outside eBay? Is it generally a bad idea to do this, even if he offered to pay a lot more than I thought I'd get with an auction?

Any views anyone?


posted by robintw to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They are trying to scam you. Just ignore the messages, they are most likely sent by a robot anyway. You are much less likely to be ripped off it you stay within the eBay system. If you talk to a real person and for some reason they don't want to participate in a auction style sale you can always end the auction and re-list as buy it now, but again all the messages you receive like the one you quoted are scams.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:16 AM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, if you have received even one bid, you'd be in breach of contract to end the auction.
posted by scruss at 6:19 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I got this on my last two auctions. I invited both to bid on the item just like anybody else. One person insisted that he needed to buy my watch for $__.00 because of some reason or another, and so I suggested he make that amount his final bid. Upon subsequent requesting, I gave an "I'm sorry that won't be possible."

Both items sold to people that weren't undercutters. Scam or no scam, it's rude eBay etiquette, and you shouldn't stand for it.

posted by oceanjesse at 6:20 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is one of those scenarios eBay specifically warns you about..... because it's usually a scam. As ChrisHartley says, if it's on the up and up then selling via 'Buy It Now' is what you want (assuming there are no bids on the auction as scruss points out). Look at what similar items sold for if you need help setting a price.
posted by tomboko at 6:20 AM on April 23, 2012

I get a lot of these, I'd presumed they were from real people. ebay/paypal offer pretty good guarantees, so I've never considered that the 10% I'd save by sidestepping their fees would be worth it. Report them.

Oh and if they're offering more I'd be very wary.
posted by devnull at 6:21 AM on April 23, 2012

If you want to do this in the future, you could set the "Buy it now" option so bidders could have the option to skip the bidding process. They won't get as good of a deal, but it could be win-win for your situation. (eg. good selling prices AND less of those e-mails)
posted by samsara at 6:22 AM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

No, no, it's not a scam! I have done this and here is why:

1. Sometimes if an item seems grossly overpriced to me and has been relisted multiple times (something normally sells for $50 when lightly used, seller has a lightly used one marked at $100 for no reason and obviously doesn't know the market) I think they might accept an offer just to stop relisting.

2. I really want the item! And am willing to pay extra to secure it, but don't want to make the first offer and tip my hand. So I ask what they would take for it and then bargain down if it seems impossible.

The key here is that people are asking you what you'd sell it for. For example, one time I really wanted this sweater. So I asked the seller whether he'd consider a buy-it-now and what price he'd take. He named a price about $25 above the initial bid amount, and I said sure, and I bought the sweater.

The advantage to him was that it sold and was paid quickly at a price he found acceptable (instead of taking the chance that it might not sell, or might sell at the minimum bid). The advantage to me is that I definitely got the sweater instead of dinking around with the auction.

If people are offering you silly prices, of course, it's rude and you should feel free to ignore them or send a frosty "no".
posted by Frowner at 6:29 AM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm getting these all the time at the moment. I think it's because I put my email address in the description section of the listing. I've never done that in the past and never had these types of emails. They're not coming through the eBay messaging system but straight to my email address. I've been reporting them as spam in the hope that gmail will eventually divert them straight to my spam folder. The clue is that they always refer to the thing you are selling as "it" or "your item". It will be a piece of software that someone has written to try and get you to engage with them. I've also noticed that the email subject is always an exact copy of the title of my eBay listing.

If you do want to email them back, invite them to bid what they think is a fair price. I'm 95% sure that these emails are coming from scammers though.
posted by lizabeth at 6:31 AM on April 23, 2012

(Oh, and this is always within the Ebay system - the seller adds a "buy-it-now" option and then I buy it now. It has nothing to do with scamming eBay or skipping sellers' fees.

I actually did this for a couple of people as a seller before I started asking - I never had any problems. If it's an item where I know it will sell and I know it will go high, I don't do buy-it-nows, but if it's, like, a random sweater or a pair of shoes in a weird size and style, I certainly will because I may have found the one person on earth who wants the darn thing, and I frankly am trying to move years and years of collected vintage and thrift finds, and I am far more interested in getting rid of my sweaters at a reasonable profit than I am at holding out for $2 more after relisting again.

The moral of the story is - if you feel like it's a good offer from a person with a good history, accept it. If it's a low offer or from a person with a dodgy history, decline.
posted by Frowner at 6:32 AM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sorry, I didn't make it clear at the start of my answer - these definitely sound like spam emails to me.
posted by lizabeth at 6:33 AM on April 23, 2012

Hm, I have emailed sellers asking if they'd be willing to add a "buy it now" option, and in the two or three instances I did this, the sellers were willing. I made the request because I needed the item(s) immediately instead of in a week or whenever the auction ended.

I wouldn't assume the asker is attempting a scam just because he or she asks for a buy-it-now... although perhaps that particular wording is known to be typical of a scammer; I wouldn't know about that.
posted by torticat at 6:34 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've done this myself, usually "can I have this item for £xx if I pick it up tomorrow and pay cash?". I'm doing it because I want the thing tomorrow, not when your auction ends, and I wonder if it's worth it to you to get rid of it quickly.

I've had people ask me for a buy now price also - sometimes I've said yes, usually no, depending on what they offer. If I don't want offers, I'll say so on the auction (not that it stops people).

One other reason that this may happen is that you've unwittingly listed something much more valuable than you think, and your correspondent wants it off the market and in their hands before you and/or other bidders get wind of it. Worth some investigation if that might be the case for you.
posted by emilyw at 6:49 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

From the other end of the equation, I am a snipe bidder (I use a computer program that bids within the last 10 seconds of the auction). I put in the highest price I'm willing to pay (which is often quite high, if I absolutely need to have something), but I don't want to bid early and trigger a bidding war with someone else who also really wants the item but is trying to lowball the seller. Most of the time I win the auction, and most of the times that I don't win, it's because someone else wanted it more (or were willing to spend more, anyhow), who are often also last-second bidders.

But every now and then I want something, have my bid entered in the program (but not placed), and the item suddenly vanishes, listed as "no longer available." So I know there are actual buyers out there gaming the system, and I don't know what they're paying to get the item. But I do know that it's unfair to offer something and then take it away from prospective buyers when they're working within whatever time frame the seller set up. And I suspect that when this happens, the seller ends up with LESS money, because if I were unscrupulous enough to take advantage of a seller who hasn't gotten any bids yet and might be afraid the item won't sell, even for the low opening bid, I would still offer a lowball "high" price, because when there's suddenly no competition, why not? That's how the "make an offer" button works. And I'm often shocked by how low an offer will get accepted sometimes, when I've put it out there as a haggling point to start from.

So while it might not be a scam, it's not in your best interests to accept it. If it's a real person, they'll still want it enough to bid. And their number might not be anywhere near market price.
posted by Mchelly at 6:52 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

It is bad manners if the item is listed as an auction and not a buy-it-now, for the reasons Mchelly mentions. If buyers keep finding auctions and keep finding they can't actually bid as planned on them...they are not going to be buyers for much longer.

If your whatnot is listed with a buy-it-now price and you want to accept a lower offer, sure; adjust your listing accordingly and tell them to go ahead. But taking offers on auctions already underway isn't good practice.

One caveat: I have really limited interaction now with these sorts even via BIN listings because I went through a tonne of "can you lower the price to X and set it up so it's such-and-such shipping method to whatever wee country and I'll buy it" and you go through the work of editing the listing, and then just never hear back from the person. I get a bit of "Can I buy just one thing out of this lot you've listed" and so many of those sorts have not gone through with it that the answer to that is always: no, sorry; feel free to swipe my pix and re-sell what you don't want.

I think lizabeth's experiences with direct-to-e-mail things are not related to this sort of inquiry via the eBay messaging system.
posted by kmennie at 7:16 AM on April 23, 2012

I think quite a lot of this is a "know your market and yourself" issue.

How much does this item usually go for? Use the advanced search function to search past sales. Does it usually sell quickly, or have a lot of auctions closed without bids, requiring at least one relisting? Is it common or rare? Does it have a known brand or style name? (For instance, I just scored a really nice pair of shoes from an obscure maker - no one else bid.)

What kind of seller are you? Are you looking to move a lot of stuff quickly? Are you looking to make the highest possible profit even if it takes a while? (As when you have small, high-value things to sell.) Do you like selling or do you hate dealing with the packing, etc and want to get done as quickly as possible?

It's really not "gaming the system" to end an auction early when there are no bids, nor does an ended auction mean that someone "got away with something", as sad as this might be for bid-snipers. (I've actually ended an auction early when I realized that there was something wrong with the item, for example!) There are a number of possible buyers out there for most things; finding one whose price you like is a good thing, but it necessarily means that the others will be disappointed.

(As far as bid-sniping goes - I had always assumed that the trade off was that you got the opportunity to put in a high last minute bid, "tricking" other unwary bidders, but you lost the guarantee that was provided by putting in an early low bid. All these Ebay methods are attempts to get advantage in the system. We have a set of basic rules that cover ethical conduct between strangers - describe honestly, pay promptly, ship promptly, bids are contracts - and that's pretty much it. Everyone tries to work that particular system, and that's part of what makes it attractive. Now I have occasionally thrown in an extra ten or twenty dollars when I've gotten something at a really low price due to seller ignorance/bad listing*, but I'm still out for a bargain.)
posted by Frowner at 7:20 AM on April 23, 2012

Just piping up to say I have done this several times, for the same reasons Frowner describes. When I do it, it's because it's an item that's been overpriced (and because I have saved searches for many of the types of things I buy, and thus know what they generally go for, I can show the seller the recent sales for similar items to prove that) and/or listed multiple times without a sale (and I just want to get the thing and be done already). In these cases, the seller either adds a Buy it Now or, if the item didn't sell and hasn't yet been relisted, the seller relists it as a Buy it Now for me. As a courtesy, when I suggest a price for something that didn't sell and hasn't been relisted, I generally throw in a couple extra dollars to cover the additional fees. It seems like the nice thing to do.
posted by jocelmeow at 7:20 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I work for a website which operates in a very similar way to eBay, and I can tell you that this smells terribly like a scam. Our members forward me mails like this (same wording) every day, at which point I check out the account and, oh yep, it's a scammer all right. I advise them to ignore, and would advise you to do the same.
posted by guessthis at 7:22 AM on April 23, 2012

Scam. An ex fell for this several years ago -- he was low on cash and he received an off-system offer that was too tempting. (It was computer equipment and the buyer said it wasn't available in his city -- this around the time of the Powerbook Prank, which he hadn't heard about.) So yeah: he agreed, cancelled the auction, received the paypal payment from off-system bidder, packed up the item with love and care and sent the item off on its merry way (to somewhere in Europe, I think). A week or two later, paypal emails him notification that the funds he received came from a hacked account. Paypal then reversed the payment and sucked the money right out of his own account. Whoosh. He had zero recourse. He lost a couple thousand dollars and shipping.
posted by mochapickle at 7:46 AM on April 23, 2012

Going with mochapickle's scam incident, if you do change the listing, change it to Buy it Now, don't just take it off ebay and do a private sale. That's asking for trouble.

That being said. I have lowered my BIN for people on occasion. It's better than it not selling, for me. But we have always had a conversation, and because I sell an unusual item, I can pretty much tell right of the bat if the person is being relatively straight up with me. Any generic, non-specific emails just get ignored.
posted by Vaike at 8:38 AM on April 23, 2012

It depends.

Offers to informally "buy it now" have a higher chance of being scams, but it does not absolutely mean that every offer of this sorty IS guaranteed to be a scam.

I've been on both sides of the situation, as a buyer offering an "off ebay sale" and as a seller receiving the offers. Some times it makes sense for both parties as explained by others above.

From the seller's perspective, I now handle these offers in one of two ways:

1 - If I'm interested in entertaining an "off ebay" sale, the buyer has to pick the item up in person and pay cash. I will not ship or accept paypal payments in this situation.

2 - If I'm not interested in selling "off ebay", I reply with a "Thank you for your interest but I will not end the auction early. I encourage you to bid on the item at your offer price and wish you luck."
posted by de void at 8:59 AM on April 23, 2012

I just ignore them. If I had wanted to do a "Buy It Now" option, I would have included a "Buy It Now" auction. I have a boilerplate similar to de void's that I send back.

I don't care if it is a scam or just someone who wants not to do the auction process, they can put in their bid just like everyone else.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:20 AM on April 23, 2012

You can use the Buy It Now (BIN) option, or have a canned response of "I'd prefer to continue with my planned auction; I hope you participate & win!" I've certainly messaged sellers if an item was not getting bids or did not sell.
posted by theora55 at 9:39 AM on April 23, 2012

As a seller, it annoys me when someone writes me and asks what my BIN price is if I didn't set one. If I know the item will end in a sniper battle, I'll patiently wait for that to happen. :)
posted by luckynerd at 10:15 AM on April 23, 2012

I get these all the time. Some percentage are probably attempting to scam you, but the vast majority aren't. They're mostly just people trying to wrangle a deal or, in my specific case, people who really want something but can't afford it. Personally, it's never been worth it for me to go with their deal, so i just tell them that the starting price is the best I can do. But, no, most aren't scamming, and I can see how ti could make sense on both sides to do this. Send them a second chance offer if it seems like a good idea.
posted by cmoj at 11:07 AM on April 23, 2012

I've asked 2 sellers if they were willing to do this because I was in a hurry to get the items. One said "No, just bid on the auction if you want the item." The other either re-listed with a Buy it Now feature, or changed the listing to include BIN. An honest buyer won't insist on a side deal.
posted by wryly at 2:34 PM on April 23, 2012

ChrisHartley: "They are trying to scam you. Just ignore the messages, they are most likely sent by a robot anyway. You are much less likely to be ripped off it you stay within the eBay system. If you talk to a real person and for some reason they don't want to participate in a auction style sale you can always end the auction and re-list as buy it now, but again all the messages you receive like the one you quoted are scams"

This is certainly not always true. While you're within your rights to say "sorry, I want to wait until the auction ends", I've gone for this option as both buyer and seller. I've never been scammed as I still go through ebay. As a seller there are also times I wish I'd taken this option after my item sells for a pittance.

People asking to do this on eBay are almost never scammers - usually it's just people hoping for a bargain or needing an item urgently. If they insist on an off-site deal you have a reason to be wary.
posted by turkeyphant at 2:45 PM on April 23, 2012

If you're happy to sell it at the price they're offering, then end the auction and relist it with a buy-it-now at that price. If you get it -- from them or anyone else -- then you'll be happy, and if they flaked, you're still listing it.
posted by davejay at 2:56 PM on April 23, 2012

People asking to do this on eBay are almost never scammers

That isn't my experience as a seller. I would say that 1/3 of people who try this are scammers, 1/3 think I'm stupid and don't know the value of my item, and 1/3 are just people who really want the item and don't want to deal with the auction process and hope that it will be worth the convenience to me to sell it to them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:11 PM on April 23, 2012

There is a Make Offer feature that displays under the price and that enables a buyer to offer a price without surprising you or being too unfair to the other possible buyers. When they see Make Offer, they know the item may be scooped.

Oh, and create a separate newer e-mail account for your eBay and paypal messages, so you know that any other e-mail messages to your other addresses are fake.
posted by bad grammar at 4:41 PM on April 23, 2012

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