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Pipped at the Post

Posted by Dirck on 21 August, 2013

Yesterday saw some unusual drama, as I was saved from a terrible inconvenience by the action of a sniper.  Not a lot of drama, as it was an eBay sniper.  I had, in that uncomfortable period on Friday between becoming distorted in my reasoning and noticing that I was out of true, not only left some regrettable comments on various blogs but had a look in at the infamous auction site, spotted something, and put a bid in on it.  When I was recovered, I realized how far I was wandering.

A Pelikan M100 in living monotone.

A Pelikan M100 in living monotone.

Subjectivity, of course; some will find it beautiful.  I can’t image what possessed me.  Striking, sure and I don’t have a sub-Souverän Pelikan of this shape… but not for me.  I was therefore concerned to find that the penny-more-than-starting bid I’d placed remained the only bid, with five minutes left to run.  This would put me on the hook for $40, which is not vast sum, but when paying it out for something one doesn’t strictly want, it becomes an unwelcome fine for negligent behaviour– I should have know I wasn’t in my right wits, and kept a better watch on me.

At five seconds, I suddenly became the losing of two bidders, and celebration broke out, no doubt, at either end of the balance beam.  Someone, or more likely something given instructions by someone, had sniped me, and I couldn’t be happier.  I only wish they’d have acted sooner so I could get on with my day.

I have to admit that the whole notion of auction sniping eludes me.  One hears constant lamentation around the fora about people stealing pens in this manner, and I’m glad to find I’m not the only one that responds to the complaints with a confused, “No, they outbid you.”  I don’t quite understand the effort at ducking in at the last minute, but I also don’t quite understand Las Vegas or professional sports, and I suspect the competitive aspect of the bidding shares some cognitive architecture with those items.

The way I approach this sort of thing, when not raving with brain fever, is to consider the pictures and description of a given pen, work out to my own satisfaction what a decent price should be, and stick that amount in.  If I’m not willing to pay more than $X, it doesn’t matter a great deal if I do that four seconds or four days before the end of the bidding; if someone thinks $X+n is OK, then I won’t win.  The closest I get to these snipers is I may leave off putting in my bid until the morning before bids close; if I find a swarm of people hard at work elevating the price and it’s already $3X or even $X³, then I don’t need to bother.

I think what gets up people’s noses is the fact that however much the winner was willing to pay, eBay just pops the amount up by a set increment.  I bid $X, I find the winning bid is $X+1, and I rant at my own foolishness of not having bid that extra dollar and the injustice of not having time to do so, little thinking that the winner may well have decided to go as high as $X+175.  This is why I (rather than the fictional pronoun in the preceding sentence) am happy to shrug and walk away, content in the knowledge that $X was just right, and $X+n is foolish overspending.

I may not be getting some sedentary variation of the runner’s high out of my eBay activity, but the resulting calm is probably much healthier for my arteries.

Today’s pen, of which someone in the world may be thinking “If only I’d bid a little higher!”: Pelikan P488
Today’s ink: Kaweco blue-black

One Response to “Pipped at the Post”

  1. […] possibility, even likelihood,  that the nice person in question is the very same nice person who saved me from that white Pelikan a week earlier.  If that isn’t an award-winningly globe-spanning example of “small […]

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