A lot of folks search for items on eBay and include the search phrase "no reserve" hoping to find an item for sale for whatever it may bring. eBay does not really understand the what a real no reserve auction is. So when one does include that search term in their search it will also include items which really do have a reserve.
Why is this? I can only assume that eBay fears it may lose revenue somehow if it where to enforce an item be sold for no reserve if the seller listed it this way. Or perhaps no one at eBay has ever really been to a real auction where items are sold beginning at a no reserve price.
What is a "No Reserve" auction in real life outside of the world of eBay? In the United States auctions are held throughout the country and some are advertised as a "No Reserve" auction. Often a bankruptcy auction will be handled this way. Items which are really sold beginning at a no reserve price may begin at the lowest possible currency amount, which in the U.S. is one cent ($0.01.) So if for example you are the only person to bid on an item advertised at no reserve the very first and final bid would be one cent, unless you chose to bid a higher amount to start with.
Ebay does not really enforce sellers to actually sell an item for no reserve even if advertised in the auction that way. Ebay allows the seller to set a reserve by allowing the seller to set the beginning price anywhere they wish. A seller may advertise an item as no reserve but then set the opening bid at anything, say $50,000.00 if they wish. So in real life there is a reserve of $50,000.00.
This makes no sense to me what so ever. It does a disservice to eBay bidders. It's false advertisement. It wastes bidders time when searching because it throws items into the search which do not meet the criteria or even the actual definition of a true "no reserve" auction. In the real world an auction company must actually accept the first bid what ever the amount may be if the item was listed as a "no reserve" auction or risk being held liable. I once went to and participated in a bankruptcy sale of all the inventory of a large office furniture supply which was advertised in the news paper as a no reserve auction. The very first item up for bid was a roll around swivel office desk chair. I bid $ 0.25 cents as the first and opening bid. The auctioneer ignored me for a couple of times looking for a higher bid from the audience. I kept yelling me bid until finally he looked at me madly and proclaimed he would not be wasting his time on such low bids during this auction. I turned and reached behind me and grabbed a large poster in the front window advertising the auction. I tore it down, held it up, and held my finger under the phrase "no reserve" and yelled my bid of twenty five cents again loudly. I held the poster high and turned it around and around showing it to the crowd of people standing to bid. Reluctantly the auctioneer accepted my bid. And it made such a huge impression on the crowd that no one else bid against me. I bought the chair for twenty five cents. It's not a great chair, but it is well made and was a very expensive brand. And I have kept it for years to remind me of how easy it was to change the attitude of that cocky auctioneer. He knew he could be sued if he didn't comply with what was advertised. At auction that day I probably bought fifty thousand dollars worth of Steel Case brand office furniture and enclosures. And I spent only $1,800.00. This was a true "no reserve" auction.
If I list an item as no reserve I start my auction for the lowest amount ebay allows, a dollar or a cent. Otherwise I don't list something as no reserve. That would be a lie.
If you are an ebay seller please consider joining me in this practice. Please don't list something for no reserve unless you really are willing to sell it for a penny or a dollar. Please don't embrace eBay's misguided policy about these auctions.
This is just my opinion and I could be wrong. But I have been to hundreds of real life auctions and this is what I have always understood to be the correct way to conduct an auction.
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September 13, 2008
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