Can I win an eBay auction if the original winner pulled out?
June 5, 2012 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Can I enforce an eBay seller to sell to me if I came 2nd in an auction, but the winner obviously pulled out?

The unmistakeably exact same item is now listed again, a few days after I came 2nd in an auction. Can I enforce a right to "win" the first auction (eg at the highest bid placed that wasn't in competition with the defaulting "winner")?

Or, more generally, what is my best course of action here? Contact the seller directly? Contact eBay? Other?

As an aside, any thoughts on the possibility that the defaulting "buyer" was a shill just trying to force the price up, but it didn't work so the seller just tried to do it all again? (tinfoil hat theory)

I wasn't able to find any clear answer for this kind of situation in the eBay rules & policies.
posted by UbuRoivas to Shopping (17 answers total)
File a complaint with eBay but don't deal with this seller.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:20 AM on June 5, 2012

posted by txmon at 7:24 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

What txmon said. No, you can't. You have no "action" here.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:25 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You cannot force this.
posted by michaelh at 7:25 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the way eBay is setup the sale would have to either be paid by the winner or they would have to mutually agree to cancel the transaction. If neither happened, then the seller could file a claim with eBay to have the transaction cancelled. But, as others have said, any losing bidders have no stake at all in the process.

There's really no harm in contacting the seller to see if they will agree to your last bid. If you're ready to pay now they may not want to bother with the hassle of waiting for the auction to finish and the winner to pay up.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:29 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ruthless Bunny: when you say "File a complaint with eBay but don't deal with this seller", do you mean:

(a) don't take it up with them; or
(b) don't bid again on the new auction?

For more context, the seller has around a dozen sales with 100% OK rating, and the item was re-listed with a message like "needs to be removed from wall". It's a physical part of a house; let's say a window frame for the sake of argument. The original winner may have legitimately thought they could just show up & take it, when in reality they would've had to physically uninstall it. (This is a process I have done before...I know how to pull apart this kind of "window frame")
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:33 AM on June 5, 2012

From my experience eBay doesn't work that way. As a seller if the auction winner does not complete the transaction you have the option but not the obligation to offer the item to runners-up for their original bid. If the original winner's bid was substantially higher than yours then I'd assume the seller is hoping to do better than your offer. I believe they were not obligated to offer the item to you by eBay's policies.
posted by nanojath at 7:39 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it's unlikely that the original buyer was a shill -- in that case, tthe seller would have allowed "second chance offers" which they apparently did not. Unless they re-listed it near the end of auction price, this would just be a waste of time. Your update makes it sound like the clarifying detail is what killed the sale.

Do you want the item? Bid on it. If the seller didn't allow for "second chance offers" and doesn't have a Buy It Now listed, you can't force them to sell it to you. Seller's can't switch between a fixed price listing and an online auction with a Buy It Now price. However, in some situations, they can add a BIN and hopefully you click it before someone else does.
posted by sm1tten at 7:40 AM on June 5, 2012

Report it to ebay - ebay keeps track of such things and sellers who do this too often. But it could be that the seller doesn't know about the "Second Chance" offer through ebay, or how to do it.
posted by caclwmr4 at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2012

Can I enforce a right to "win" the first auction [...] ?

You cannot; you have no such right.
posted by mhoye at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2012

Given your update your explanation sounds likely to me - someone didn't read the auction properly and found out they couldn't actually complete it. I think it would make sense to re-bid. I wouldn't try to "work around" the existing auction (not that you're saying you'd do this): eBay policies are such that if the seller reported you contacting them trying to get the item outside the auction context, they could shut down your account.

If you ended up being a runner up again, though, I think it would be perfectly fine to contact the seller to say something to the effect of "if you have a problem with completing this transaction with the auction winner due to the issue of removing the item, I understand and have experience with the process of removal and hope you'll consider accepting my bid with a Second Chance offer, and provide the link to the Second Chance explanation just in case they don't realize they can do this.

any thoughts on the possibility that the defaulting "buyer" was a shill

Always possible but you can't really do anything about it.
posted by nanojath at 7:51 AM on June 5, 2012

I once had to relist an item in this manner (and may be looking at doing it again today - in each case, due to my error in not clarifying an important detail. I just straight-up relisted. It had nothing to do with dishonesty and far more to do with the fact that once the clarification had happened, I had no idea if any of the original bidders would want the item under the new conditions. I actually felt bad that I had accidentally misled bidders.

If you want the item, contact the seller and ask politely about the Second Chance thing, or offer to do a buy-it-now based on your past highest offer. I don't think you have any rights in this situation, though, and it's likely that the seller isn't trying to do anything dodgy. It's just one of those things where there's inconvenience all around, unfortunately.
posted by Frowner at 8:00 AM on June 5, 2012

One question (though this is definitely shading into beanplate territory) - does the new auction make an attempt to better clarify that the item needs to be physically removed from the property by the buyer? If it does than that explanation is almost certainly the correct one.
posted by nanojath at 8:07 AM on June 5, 2012

Thanks, all. I think I'll close this up as resolved now (although always interested in any further answers).

Here's my precis of the situation / take-home findings:

1. 2nd to Nth place getters have no rights if the winner defaults.

2. Reporting to eBay can help prevent repeat offenders from re-listing too often (probably not the case in this situation).

3. Don't try to organise a sale by contacting the seller directly as this violates eBay rules, although alerting them to "Buy it now" or "Second Chance" offers could be OK.

- - -
On preview:

Frowner: yes, I could imagine a seller being a bit upset if a buyer showed up & complained that the item was not properly described. The removal takes around an hour of work, which if you hired a tradesman to do it would be at least an hour + an hour each way for travel, so maybe 3 hours at say $50 (min) to $100 an hour, so not insubstantial.

nanojath: yes, the "item must be removed from wall" was added to the description for the second auction. I think this suggests strongly what played out on the weekend.

End result: I'll think about contacting the seller directly for a Second Chance or Buy it Now, but it would probably be better to just sit out the second auction, as the winning bidder went hundreds higher than anybody else, so there's a good chance of winning at a much lower price, especially with the "removal" aspect highlighted now.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:17 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Burhanistan only gets a favourite instead of a best answer, because of ambiguity around "There's really no harm in contacting the seller to see if they will agree to your last bid" - as I understand it from other answers & what I've found of eBay policies, there IS potential harm if I try to negotiate a 'private' sale outside the auction process, although if I alert them to Second Chance or Buy it Now, that might be OK.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:23 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

as the winning bidder went hundreds higher than anybody else

Well as I say there's no harm in getting into this auction and setting a max bid of what you'd think reasonable to pay - "hundreds" is not actually all that crazy of an amount to chalk up to a misunderstanding between "you have to come pick this up" versus "you have to come do a complicated de-install in my house", so chances are your offer is more in the reasonable ballpark.

And if you don't win you're still in position to contact saying "I'd welcome a second chance offer if it comes to that". A naive seller might not necessarily understand the option... this person might have gotten attached to false hope from the failed winning bid of last time though, it's hard to let go of the idea that you can make extra hundreds on your item.
posted by nanojath at 9:36 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

UPDATE: WE WON, second time around.

Got the thing for ~$1200, whereas the previous auction had ended at almost $1700.

Now, to celebrate with some seafood laksa.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:36 PM on June 14, 2012

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