Caught in the Web

 Auction Addicts Anonymous

Online Trading Communities Can Quickly Become Addictive


by Laura Emery, Field Editor 

You’re standing in line at the grocery store when your phone buzzes, alerting you that you’ve been outbid on eBay. You up your bid, hoping to win your wanted item.

Within moments, someone else outbids you again and there are only 45 seconds left in the auction. As the time ticks down, your competitive instinct kicks in. Numbers and strategic options dance through your head.

Auction-savvy individuals know it all comes down to the number — and if you choose the right number, you could win by a mere 5 cents. But now it’s getting down to the very last second and you have to decide how high you’re willing to go. Flustered, you make your final bid and hope for the best. You win the auction and you feel a little adrenaline rush.

If you’re beginning to squirm in your chair, it’s probably because you’re an online auction addict — and you recognize this scenario (or perhaps you’re in a state of denial?). In more severe cases, eBay addicts will wake up at strange hours just to be there for the last remaining minutes of an online auction. If you are addicted (and you know who you are), it’s okay. is immensely popular — perhaps the most widely known online trading community; sort of like the world’s largest virtual garage sale.

EBay combines the appeal of the grungy garage sale with the convenience of keyword searching — mixed in with the thrill of a great bargain and the heady passion of an auction. This, for some, is a lethal combination, especially for compulsive collectors, passionate packrats, and junkstore junkies. And, again, you know who you are.


While there are other online trading websites out there, the benefit to using eBay lies in the instant recognition of its name. With this brings some assurance of security in a World Wide Web teeming with scam artists and online thieves. The different safety precautions used vary with each auction website. On eBay, every user is covered by the eBay Fraud Protection Program. So, if you paid for an item and never received it, or if you received the item and it’s less than what was described, eBay will reimburse buyers up to a certain monetary amount.

EBay also has a point system, where sellers are ranked by the people with whom they’ve done business. There are more than 100 million active users globally in eBay’s online auction community. EBay lists everything from Beanie Babies to antique picture frames.

In 2011, the total value of goods sold on eBay was $68.6 billion — more than $2,100 every second.

Here are some great sites featuring tips and tricks when eBaying. If you want to sell or buy something on any online auction website, these sites might be worth a quick read:,, and

“As a user of eBay for the last four years, I am absolutely addicted to checking it three to four times a day. I currently sell mostly baby items and women’s dresses. I find I get more items sold on eBay than I do at consignment shops and make more money if advertised correctly. I also find a lot of bargains on baby clothing for my 15-month-old.  Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy her clothes on eBay than from a store,” explains Amy Frady of Northern Virginia. 

There are other auction websites out there besides eBay. There’s,,, and, to name a few. According to the Internet Auction List, there are more than 1,500 auction-related websites. Surplus Auction, for example, is big on brand-name hardware products, as well as on software. According to their site, they sell more than $1 million worth of items each weekend.

There’s also It’s pretty simple to use. First, you sign up and purchase bids (.60 each) to start participating in auctions. Then you pick a product you want (for example, an HDTV or a new laptop). When the clock starts ticking, the item is available at its starting price, and then the price starts dropping — and keeps dropping by a few dollars every 20 seconds or so. The point is to hold out for the lowest price on the product that you want until just before all the items are bought by bidders willing to pay slightly more. It’s fun to play and, most of the time, you’re getting a great deal.


Practically anything that can be legally purchased or acquired can be bought or sold through online auctions — from live cattle to goose-down comforters, from Elvis memorabilia to antique clocks. You name it, and it’s probably up for auction.

So if you haven’t been bitten by the online auction bug, then you’re in for a treat. It’s slowly becoming a healthy addiction for even the most non-seasoned computer user, both young and old. Simone de Beauvoir once said, “Buying is a profound pleasure,” and Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Everyone lives by selling something.”

These men couldn’t possibly have foreseen that one day we’d be able to do both — all from the comfort of our own home (or anywhere remotely through your smartphone).


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