Vigilantes on eBay and Bid Rigging

Q: "There's a seller on eBay who's clearly offering bogus merchandise and is making those of us who sell the same legitimate merchandise look bad. We've reported him to eBay several times, but nothing happens. What if several of us banded together and bid aggressively on his items until his prices were so high that no legitimate bidder would consider buying from him? Of course, we wouldn't pay for the items—we'll use new user IDs so the negative feedback won't affect our selling accounts. Sooner or later, he would have to stop selling on eBay. Can we get into trouble doing this?"

A: Possibly. There's a name for people like you and your friends: vigilantes. In the Old West, vigilantes would take the law into their own hands and string up anyone they thought was guilty of a crime. The trouble is, they were wrong in a lot of cases and ended up lynching the wrong guy.

If you think someone on eBay is selling bogus merchandise, eBay wants you to report it to them and let them deal with the seller. By taking the law into your own hands, not only do you risk negative feedback from this seller, you might also be engaging in an illegal bidding ring and could be thrown off eBay for engaging in illegal auction practices.

Remember, what is bogus is often in the eyes of the beholder. The best advice here comes from the Bible: "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

Copying Other Sellers' Listings, Photos, and Item Descriptions

Q: "It's such a hassle to have to write new item descriptions and take photos for each item I sell on eBay. Is it okay to copy descriptions from other people's listings and cut and paste photos if I'm reasonably sure they're of the exact same make and model I'm selling?"

A: No—eBay members are not allowed to use another eBay user's pictures or descriptions in their listings or About Me pages without the owner's permission. To see eBay's policy on this, go to

People who sell on eBay need to do everything possible to minimize the amount of time it takes to list items so they're not reinventing the wheel every time they put up a new listing (discussed in Chapter 6). Also, there are only so many ways you can describe certain merchandise, such as a particular make and model of laptop computer—put ten monkeys in a room with this item and they will all write the same description, pretty much word for word.

Common sense should rule here. You absolutely should not use someone else's description if the item you're selling is not 100 percent identical to the other item. I also strongly discourage your using anybody else's description word for word unless you are selling generic merchandise that can be described only one way. On the other hand, using several other sellers' descriptions of similar merchandise as templates or guidelines for drafting your own unique item description shouldn't get you into too much trouble on eBay. But if a particular seller is well known on eBay for using certain idiosyncrasies of grammar or syntax in his or her item descriptions, avoid copying them in your own because, although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, plagiarism can get you kicked off eBay.

Selling Off of eBay and Communicating with Buyers

Q: "I recently closed an auction listing on eBay, but the buyer never paid for the item. Instead of relisting the item, can I e-mail the underbidders in the auction and offer the item directly to them?"

A: Yes, but only if you use eBay's Second Chance Offer feature. For details, go to Otherwise, if you send e-mails directly to bidders in other auctions, you are violating eBay's spam policy, which can be found at rfe-spam-ov.html.

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