Retractions of Bids by Buyers

Q: "I put something up for sale on eBay last week. I've had several bidders, but the high bidder just e-mailed me and asked if he could retract his bid because he lost his job. Is this guy a crook? Should I agree to his request?"

A: Generally, your bidders cannot retract bids just because they feel like it. Only a few narrow exceptions to this rule are permitted, where:

• The bidder made a typographical error and entered the wrong bid amount. For instance, the bidder bid $99.50 instead of $9.95. If this occurs, the bidder must reenter the correct bid amount immediately after he or she retracts the bid. If the bidder does not place another bid, the retraction is in violation of eBay's policy and could result in the bidder's suspension.

• The description of an item bid on has changed significantly.

• The bidder can't reach the seller. This means that the bidder tried calling the seller but his or her phone number doesn't work, or the bidder has tried e-mailing a message to the seller and it comes back undeliverable.

Timing is critical when it comes to bid retractions. Generally, if a bidder retracts his or her bid more than twelve hours before an auction listing closes, all of his or her prior bids are wiped out. After that point, only the most recent bid is retracted—any lower bids will remain in effect. This rule is designed to discourage bid shielding, whereby a bidder drives the auction price up to an unreasonable level in an effort to discourage bidding, and then retracts all bids at the last minute in order to "steal" the item at a bargain price.

In this case, however, I might make an exception. Pick up the telephone, call the bidder, and listen to what he has to say. If you are convinced that this bidder has truly lost his job and is in dire economic straits, don't be unreasonable— allow him to withdraw the bid. If the person bids on your next listing, however, and tries to pass off the same sob story...

For eBay's complete policy on bid retractions, go to help/buy/bid-retract.html.

Q: "I just recently (last night) won a bid on an item. This item cost almost $2,000. The seller was selling an item for which he said he was an authorized dealer. I called the company that makes the item he sold to me and asked if he was an authorized dealer. His company name did not show up on their list. Also, I was told by this company that if I buy it through eBay, or pay through PayPal, the factory warranty is void; in essence, I will have paid $2,000 for this item and it will have absolutely no warranty with it at all. How do I deal with the seller without getting some kind of bad feedback? I don't want something new without a warranty."

A: The time to do research is prior to or instead of bidding, as eBay advises, not after you have won.

By bidding, you have entered into a legally binding contract with the seller. You can either:

1 . Beg the seller to accept a mutual agreement to cancel the transaction, which they are not obligated to do.

2. Pay for the item (this is the recommended course, since you were the one who made the bid).

3. Not pay for the item and risk receiving an unpaid item strike and negative feedback and possibly a small claims suit if the seller wishes to take it that far. The seller probably won't, but there is always that possibility.

Q: "I have a truck listed for auction. The high bidder has sent me an e-mail challenging me to prove that when we primered the truck, we didn't cover up rust, and if we have, then we're in violation of eBay policy, etc.—a whole paragraph of vitriol. A very unpleasant e-mail. I'm not sure how to respond to such a buyer."

A: He should have questioned you before bidding, not after. If your listing goes into detail about the truck being rust free, then you better be able to prove it to the winner, whoever that might be.

You have two choices. First, cancel his bid and block him as a bidder from your future auctions. Second, respond with a guarantee that if he is not satisfied when he comes to pick it up, you will not hold him to the sale.

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