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Sunday, November 9, 2008

eBay: Negotiating Price

Is it possible to negotiate price with eBay sellers? The answer generally is, "No", but it depends upon the seller.

Auction Items
For eBay auction items that sell, negotiating doesn't make sense because the auction process itself is the price negotiation. However, sometimes auction items don't sell because they receive no bids or the bids don't reach the seller's reserve price.

In situations like this, we have on occasion sent a message to the seller after the auction closed stating that we were interested in the item but not at the minimum bid or reserve established by the seller. An interested seller could re-list the item on eBay with lower price considerations in such a case. We have run across interested sellers and some have re-listed. However, we never have been successful with convincing a seller to re-list at a minimum bid or reserve price suitable to us.

Fixed-Price Items with "Make an Offer" Option
Fixed-price items are identified with a "Buy it Now" price. For items like this, the seller has the option of including a "Make an Offer" button in the listing. Most fixed-price items do not include this button but if the seller has activated it, a potential buyer is being invited to negotiate. The seller is more or less expecting to sell the item at a price less than what's posted.

When you click on "Make an Offer", eBay will ask that you confirm your offer price. Be aware that once you confirm, you are obligated to buy if the seller accepts your offer. If multiple pieces are offered in a single eBay listing, eBay will also ask you to state the number of pieces covered by your offer.

When you make an offer, eBay sends the seller a message with the details of your offer. The seller may:

  • Accept your offer, thereby obligating you to buy

  • Reject your offer outright

  • Reject your offer but propose a counteroffer

This back and forth process can go on for a maximum of three offers by a potential buyer for a given eBay item.We don't have a particular "rule of thumb" regarding how much your offer should be as a percentage of asking price. Offer what you think is a fair price. Some sellers get upset when someone submits a "low ball" offer. We don't get upset because we know the bidder only has three chances. However, you should keep in mind that a seller is looking for the best offer. An offer is allowed by eBay to be valid for 48 hours so a seller may accumulate more than one offer, then select the best one.

Fixed-Price Items without "Make an Offer" Option
Most fixed-price listings fall within this category. Generally speaking, the seller probably is not willing to negotiate. However, if you want to try, the only way to initiate the process is to send the seller a question. State your proposal and see how the seller responds. Some sellers seem to be bothered by this process. We are not bothered because we always look for opportunities to communicate with potential customers. We see it as an opportunity to convince you why our original price is reasonable!

If a seller agrees with your proposal, the eBay listing probably will need to be modified or a new one created. That's something to be worked out between the you and the seller. Keep in mind that an eBay listing is open to any qualified buyer, so if the seller creates a modified listing with a lower price, anyone can snap it up. Move quickly to buy once a modified listing is created for you.

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