The importance of an eBay bid

An eBay bid is a contract!

NOTE:  Since this topic was written over the Christmas holiday weekend in 2005 many aspects of eBay policy have changed in regard to selling since then.


Over the Christmas holiday weekend in 2005 I had listed a 4-piece luggage set on eBay while I was in Valdosta.  A week later, on Sunday, 1 January 2006 bidding had ended for the item with a winning bidder who apparently bid at the last minute.  Unlike all other items I sold on eBay, unfortunately I was not paid for my item which resulted in it being relisted on eBay again.  Based on my recent experience with an eBay buyer who did not pay for an item won, I am going to explain the importance of a bid on eBay when you place it, either on items sold by me or by any other person.  With this in mind, this will be a web topic here at

First Things First:  The eBay User Agreement

When you signed up to become an eBay member to buy and/or sell you had to agree to live up to the provisions of eBay's User Agreement during the sign up process.  Part of the eBay User Agreement is that if you place a bid for an item you see, you are essentially entering into a contract with the seller of the item.  You are agreeing to purchase the item from the seller should you be the winning bidder of the seller's item.  So, once you place that bid there is no retracting the bid, unless you have a very good reason and buyer's remorse is not a valid reason.

This means that when you see something for sale at Edward Ringwald's Surplus Corner and it's something you want, once you place that bid you have entered into a contract with me to purchase the item if in the event you are the winning bidder.  This means no bid retractions unless you have a very good reason.

Did I mention bid retractions?  On any eBay item listed by me (EdRingwald1) if you place a bid and want to retract your bid, you better have a very good reason to do so.  For instance, if it's an honest mistake such as placing a decimal point wrong, then I will allow you to retract and place the correct bid.  On the other hand, if buyer's remorse is your reason, do NOT contact me for permission to retract your bid - I quickly delete emails in my eBay inbox from eBay members who ask to retract their bid for no valid reason such as buyer's remorse and this is grounds for being reported to eBay as well as being placed on my blocked bidders list.

The Item Description

Whenever you see an item on eBay that interests you, you are strongly encouraged to read the item description very carefully.  The item description gives you specifics about the item being offered by the seller including its features and what you need to know.

Further down the item description is something you will want to know very carefully and I am talking about the payment and shipping terms for the item should you be the winning bidder.  Pay close attention to the payment methods that the seller accepts; for example if a seller states that he or she accepts only PayPal you are expected to pay the seller through PayPal and no other method.

After the payment terms comes the shipping.  You should pay attention to the shipping methods that are offered by the seller; some sellers offer either a flat rate or a rate based on your shipping address.  Also pay attention to the choice of carriers (such as the United States Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx) the seller has to offer to ship your item to you.  Another shipping related item is that if your eBay address of record is that of a post office box and the choice of shipping carriers is not the United States Postal Service being offered by the seller, by all means contact the seller using their eBay Contact Member link before placing a bid.

Contacting the Seller with your Questions

Now that I mentioned contacting the seller in the previous paragraph, what if you have questions about the item being offered?  Perhaps it's about the item description or the payment and shipping terms.  Or, you may be one of those eBay members with some negative feedback that might send a red flag to the seller when you place a bid.

To contact the seller with your questions, look for the Contact Member button which can be found in the seller's feedback profile.  From there simply enter your question and when you are finished simply click on the Send Message button to send your question to the seller.  The seller should send you a reply to your question so that you can make an informed decision before you place a bid.


Paying for your Item you purchase on eBay


PayPal is highly recommended and is de facto required when you buy on eBay.  If you do not have a PayPal account no problem!  You will still be able to pay your seller with your credit card using the PayPal system - after all, it is safe and reliable.  Besides, if you want to get into the habit of selling on eBay then you will need a PayPal account.


Remember, most eBay sellers including me have a PayPal only policy.  There are payment methods which are prohibited by eBay policy and they include Western Union, E-Gold, and MoneyGram among other things.  If you happen to win an item I am selling on eBay and you email me asking to pay for your item by other than PayPal, that is grounds for being reported to eBay and possible inclusion on my blocked bidders list.  By the way, I do not answer emails from winning buyers asking to pay through other than PayPal.

What Happens if you are the Winning Bidder but you don't pay?

eBay sellers have their own policies when it comes to the small percentage of eBay members who place bids and win items but don't make payment (or offer excuses in an attempt not to pay).  As an eBay seller, please let me reiterate my policy regarding those that win an item at my Surplus Corner but don't pay:

I will expect payment for the item you win from me on eBay within seven (7) days of the close of the auction.  Once I receive payment your item will be on its way.  Positive eBay feedback given for complete transaction follow-through including on time payment!  On the other hand, failure to follow through on a transaction involving an item I have for sale on eBay may result in negative consequences such as notification to eBay of a non-paying bidder alert which may result in an unpaid item strike being given at the discretion of eBay.  According to eBay’s rules and regulations the accumulation of three unpaid item strikes may result in account suspension at eBay’s discretion.  Just to let you know!  (Sellers can no longer leave negative feedback; only buyers).

Simply put, let's say someone won an item from me on a Sunday and did not pay.  This would be a timeline of events leading up to the buyer getting an Unpaid Item Strike from eBay (this is just an example and it would be handled on a case by case basis):

Sunday:  Buyer wins the item.


Tuesday:  Buyer gets a gentle email reminder if payment is not received.


Thursday:  Buyer reminded that non-paying bidder alert will be filed if payment not received by Friday (eBay now requires a four day wait before the non-paying bidder alert is filed (previous eBay policy required a 7-day wait)).


Friday:  Non-paying bidder alert filed with eBay; buyer given a chance to follow through on the transaction.


Tuesday of the next week:  Buyer does not respond - eBay contacted to close the alert and award an Unpaid Item Strike against the buyer.  However, if the buyer responds within the four-day window and states flatly that the buyer will not pay for the item, then eBay can be contacted before the four-day window to close the alert and award an Unpaid Item Strike against the buyer as well.


Besides the Unpaid Item Strike, the buyer can be prohibited from bidding on any items I have for sale on eBay in the future.  Remember, according to eBay's rules and regulations the accumulation of three Unpaid Item Strikes may result in suspension of the buyer's eBay account; that means the buyer's eBay bidding and selling privileges are taken away.


The ability to award negative feedback to a buyer was removed as a part of policy change within eBay.  This was put in place to guard against feedback retaliation by a buyer.


Most other eBay sellers out there in the eBay community have policies similar to my own when it comes to buyers who win items and don't pay.  Remember, eBay has these policies in place to ensure a fair eBay trading community for all.


Reminders about eBay Bidding


A bid placed on eBay for an item offered by a seller is a contract.  Think carefully before you click on that "Place Bid" button.  If you can't afford it, don't bid on it!


If you are the winning bidder of an item on eBay, it is your responsibility to follow through on the transaction including paying the seller on time.


eBay members who win items but do not pay can be subjected to sanctions, such as a possible Unpaid Item Strike.


Three Unpaid Item Strikes equals suspension from eBay.


Links and Recommended Reading and Seminars


Web sites


The eBay web site


Edward Ringwald's Surplus Corner - view items I have presently for sale on eBay!


Marsha Collier's Cool eBay Tools site - a treasure trove of eBay tips and tricks plus useful articles.


Recommended Reading


The Official eBay Bible by Jim "Griff" Griffith.  I bought this book at an eBay University seminar and believe me, this is a must have on the shelf of any eBay user.  You can buy a copy through The eBay Shop, eBay's own online store for eBay memorabilia.


eBay for Dummies by Marsha Collier.  Everything you always wanted to know about eBay in an easy to read format.  A highly recommended book that should be on the shelf of any eBay user as well.


Recommended Seminars


eBay University:  This is highly recommended for first time eBayers and seasoned eBayers as well.  eBay University comes in three flavors:  Traditional in person seminar, online and on DVD through The eBay Shop.  I would strongly recommend the traditional in person seminar if there is one held near you; that way you can meet and network with fellow eBayers and have fun!


To find out more about eBay University including dates and locations for the traditional in person seminars, click on this link to go to the eBay University page at the eBay site.  Believe me, it's money well worth spent!




As for the buyer that won the luggage set as I mentioned earlier, I did everything to be accommodating including coming down on the shipping cost.  Sticking to the fact, as my buyer did not pay for what my buyer won an Unpaid Item Dispute was filed which unfortunately led into an Unpaid Item Strike being given to the buyer.  I don't like doing business this way but this is the rare instance it has to be.