Originally posted on January 17th, 2017.
Alright, if you’ve been keeping up with me, you should know that I made an amazing find at Target a couple of weeks ago, and that this amazing find was the Luke Skywalker & Rancor Star Wars Character Car 2-Pack (yeah!), and that I was lucky enough to find 2 of them. They ran me $6.99 plus tax each. Actually that’s not true. See, one of the packs was normal. The other had a weird red sticker on the front, like when an opened item is returned and taped up and put back on the shelf or something. However, the package was completely normal and untampered with. Still, it has this red sticker on it with a barcode that says “AS-IS – WAS: 10.99 – NOW: 7.06″ and the barcode on the actual package was covered with a white sticker. I have no idea what any of that means; 2-packs have never been $10.99, and although the $7.06 was close, I don’t understand why it didn’t read “$6.99.”
If you want to skip ahead to the meat and potatoes, just find the next blue divider and pick up from there!
All this added together got me worried. Since I frequent lots of stores and generally find a good deal of new stuff, it isn’t always in the store’s system yet, so the cashier often has to key it in manually and trust me to give them the right price. I was at Target, and Target has always been pretty good about just being like, “do you remember how much this was?” whenever an item doesn’t pop up in the system. However, I’ve encountered some very rude, or maybe stupid, or maybe just fucking lazy asses at Walmart (several times) and TRU (at least once) and when an item came up as not part of their system, they flat out refused to sell it to me and basically confiscated it. This is bullshit, because it implies that some asshat walked in with this item and hung it on the shelf, rather than the 1000% more plausible explanation that it’s brand-freakin’-new and some glassy-eyed, undertrained, skidmark of an employee simply forgot to enter it into their system before stocking it.
Now despite Target’s great track record in such a situation, there was an older guy manning the self-checkout area, and you never know about those old folks. Some of them are very amicable and willing to help and adhere to basic customer service principles. Others are over-zealous nutballs who probably fear getting fired over bending the slightest of rules. Of all the things not to be able to buy, that was not happening to me there, on that day, with this fucking Luke / Rancor duo. So I did the smart thing: I scanned the little red sticker, it run my item up as $7.06, and then I slipped the other package in the bag. Then I scanned the red sticker again, put that in the bag, and life was good. Not sure what would’ve happened if I’d scanned the regular barcode, but having to overpay by $0.14 was worth not having to find out!
So…technically these fellas cost me $7.06 plus tax. But that’s ok.
For about a week there I relished having 2 of them, and I also periodically checked eBay to see if any others were selling. Then I saw that Bossk pop up and I hoped the guy would be willing to trade (he’d be getting the better end of the deal honestly) but he declined. So I bit the bullet and bought Bossk for a whopping $30. I figured I could put the Luke / Rancor set up for sale and make my money back and all would be good.
So a few days ago, I took some photos, typed up a nice description, and put it up for sale. If you know anything about eBay, you know that the way to handle super new, super rare shit is to put it up for auction; this is because there’s no real established value yet. Also, if you used eBay, say, 10 or 15 years ago, you’d put in your max bid whenever, maybe update it, and keep your fingers crossed. Internet connections and web-design was such that “sniping” (swooping in and taking the high bid at the last second, thereby not giving anyone the chance to outbid you before the auction ends) was somewhat rare and relegated only to hardcore nuts and super high-demand items.
Nowadays, auctions on eBay are a bit different. It’s not uncommon for an item to sit there and receive zero bids, and then during the last 12 to even 2 or 1 hours see the bids rapidly increase. This is all due to a new strategy that’s developed in light of mobile devices and instant notifications. In the old days, you got up for the day, say 8am, put in your max bid, and crossed your fingers that you’d be the winner 2 hours later when the auction ended and you were at work. Now there’s no need for that. Now you can get an alert as soon as you’re outbid and increase your bid instantly without anyone being the wiser – no need to be at a computer with internet access at a certain time.
This ability to stay in the game in real time changed bidding forever. Let’s say Bob and I are after the same item, which has a starting bid of $1 and a 7-day duration. Assuming there’s going to be a bidding war between the 2 of us at some point, it’s actually advantageous to both of us to keep that bidding war as short as possible. Here’s how it works: let’s say he kicks things off with a $1 bid on Day 1. I come in on Day 2 and increase it to $2. Day 3, Bob bumps it up to $5, then Day 4 I take it $7, Day 5 sees Bob bring it to $10, Day 6 comes and I bid $15, and then on Day 7 we go back and forth furiously and after several heated exchanges I win the item for $30. If we could truncate that timeline, we’d have less exchanges, which will therefore result in less bids, thereby resulting in a lower price.
Throw in immediate access and real-time alerts, and suddenly these lengthy exchanges become less necessary. Bob and I are at it again, another 7-day auction, and another starting price of $1. This time though, we’re armed with mobile devices whereby we can check the status virtually anytime, anywhere, bid in real time, and receive alerts immediately when we’ve been outbid. Knowing this, we can both lie in wait, both of us realizing that an early bidding war will make whoever wins pay more.
At this point I wait day after day without bidding. Four hours before the auction ends, Bob puts in an opening bid of $1. Now I wait until 30 minutes before close – I have to come up to $10 to beat Bob, since this shortened timeline will probably result in higher maximum bids. Bob waits until 5 minutes are left and gets it up to $12. I wait until 30 seconds are left; I bid $15 but Bob’s maximum bid has gotten me beat, he raises his maximum bid to $18 when he sees that I’ve bid again but I jump in one last time with a bid of $25 and bam, it goes up to $19 and the auction ends. Those exchanges in the final seconds can get tense, especially if more than 2 bidders are involved. It can also be troublesome to overcome someone’s max bid unless you’re sort of willing to throw your crazy price out there, and even then, they may come back with something higher. The point is this can go back and forth – give yourself time to bid again if you need to and you also give the other person time to bid again. Wait until the absolute last second so that there’s no way they can put in another bid and you risk not bidding high enough and leaving yourself with no second chance.
See, the bidding war still happens, but it becomes this whole race against the clock with most parties trying to wait out the clock and achieve the aforementioned delicate balance.
A big part of me thinks this is total bullshit, though I can’t say I have a better solution. An auction should really be about who’s willing to pay the most money for the object in question. Although that still applies on eBay to an extent, it also becomes this whole clock game that I’ve been describing. This gives people with more free time, faster devices, and faster connections the upper hand, and that really isn’t very fair. C’est la vie.
Realistically this only happens with the most highly desired of items, though I have been sniped over some pretty small things that I wouldn’t expect. The point of all of this is to say that, the way the system is currently set up, it really doesn’t do any good to bid early, which is why I am so freaking shocked over what’s happened with my lil’ $7.06 2-pack of cars.
I listed it as a 7-day auction (even if all the bidding doesn’t take place until the final few hours, it’s still good to list it for 7-days – longer listing means more exposure; people can’t bid on what they don’t know exists) with a starting price of $20 and a “Buy It Now” of $30, again, to essentially recoup what I thought was a hefty price for Bossk.
To be 100% honest, I thought there was a 50/50 chance that some astute collector would swoop in and buy it for $30 within a few hours. Alternatively I figured it’d sit there for 2 or 3 days, accumulate a few “watches,” and get the attention of one or two bidding novices who’d bump it up to maybe $22 or $23. From there, I figured either nothing would happen or maybe it’d creep up a few more bucks, but I was fully prepared to wait until 12 hours or less before the end of the auction for anything exciting to happen. Once we get that far though, I pretty much put my predictions on hold. When something is that new and as iconic as Luke and the Rancor, it’s tough to gauge whether it will garner a ton of interest and have people falling all over each other, raising the bid $30 in 30 seconds, or whether it’s so damn new that people aren’t even aware of it enough to care yet. That’s what I thought would happen….
Right now we’ve got 3 days and 15 hours of the auction left and man, my mind has been blown. I thought I was lucky last year when I was offloading those $5 Kylo Ren PlaySkool figures for as much as $27…but this…
Almost immediately the set is bid on ($20). Over the next day it crept up to, I think, $21.50. And then it just sat there for about 24 hours, steadily gaining page views and “watches” but no more bids. This actually wasn’t too far off from what I’d expect in those first 2 or 3 days. Then early yesterday I glanced at my little column of statistics on my eBay page and noticed that the number of bids had jumped from something like 3 all the way up to 11. Wow! So I glance over at the listing and my head damn near exploded; I thought it might’ve been pushed up to the $35 mark or so, but no, it was sittin’ pretty at $51.00. Damn. Day-um. And so it remained for the better part of yesterday.
I took a nap, watched some TV, went out for a bit (had my fingers crossed I’d run across another Luke & Rancor…), ate some dinner, and several hours later glanced at my stats and saw that the number of bids had shot up to 21. Crazy…just crazy. As hell. As some sort of weird delayed gratification thing I slowly scrolled to see what the total was up to, and I seriously could’ve maybe fainted…$91.00. WTF91DOLLARSWTF!!!!! Is that not amazing? That’s 1200% profit! I mean I’ll probably never top my profit margin from selling that ‘17 Ford GT Treasure Hunt (2100% – it cost me a dollar and sold for $22) but damn damn wow damn! I knew people were going to want this – assuming they even found the listing – but I had no idea they’d want it so badly! I wonder if anyone who is or was in the bidding race regretted not going ahead and shelling out $30!? Seriously though, I’m not trying to be mean or greedy or even shrewd; God knows I’ve paid through the nose for my fair share of plastic and metal, so I don’t feel too guilty making light of it.
Back when it was at $51 and I realized it still had 3 – 4 days to go I was thinking, “wow, this could get up to like, $100 during that last frantic hour!” I never thought it’d be up almost that high by the next time I checked. Now my mind is just mush thinking about what might happen near the end. I mean it ain’t unusual to see the price double or triple during the last hour or two. At the same time, there’s only so much people are going to pay for 2 cars and only so many people will be willing to pay it. That number definitely shrinks with every bid, though the biggest variable remains – all the potential lurkers / watchers not currently involved in bidding who are waiting until the end to strike…
I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, have you ever run across any “eBay gold”? Give me the details: how much did you want? How much did you expect? How much did you get!?