Don’t Believe The Hype: The Two-Minute Rule Plays on Bidder’s Emotions and Fears

Mar 2021 | Auction Observations, Under The Hood

“Sniping” is a technique bidders use on eBay to win a desired item by placing the highest bid during the very last few seconds of an auction other bidders cannot respond to. When Bring a Trailer (“BaT”) launched their collector car auction format in 2014, they elected to use a classic “English” auction format, where each bidder enters a single bid and the process progresses higher until no one is willing to go any further.  As a way to combat the perceived Sniping problem with eBay auctions, rather than use a fixed ending time for their events, BaT established a two-minute “Going, Going, Gone” rule whereby any bid submitting during the last two minutes of an auction automatically adds another two minutes to the clock.  The process continues until no one submits any bids.  All other online collector car auction newcomers to this point trying to model BaT’s success followed suit with a similar format.

Here’s the thing:  despite eBay being around now for over 25 years (can you believe that?!), the vast majority of consumers falsely assume eBay works in a similar fashion.  The reality is eBay provides what’s known as proxy bidding which effectively makes their website a modified second-price, or Vickrey, auction.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a true Vickrey auction is a type of sealed-bid auction.  Bidders submit written bids without knowing the bids of the other people in the auction. The highest bidder wins but the price paid is the second-highest bid. This type of auction is strategically similar to an English auction, yet incentivizes bidders to bid their true value. While Columbia Professor William Vickrey first described this style of auction academically in 1961 (and won the Nobel Prize for Economics that year),  stamp collectors have been using this method dating back to 1893.

eBay developed a modified version of the Vickey auction by implementing proxy bidding to mimic the sealed bid aspect.  What is proxy bidding?  Unlike BaT and all of the other current collector car auctions, to bid on eBay, you don’t have to sit in on an auction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, manually upping your bid every time someone bids against you. You can make your high bid by proxy in an eBay auction. By proxy means that eBay’s automatic-bid feature stands in for you so that your bid rises incrementally in response to other bidders’ bids.

GuysWithRides.com is the only Curated Collector Car Auction Site to feature proxy bidding.  It’s called Max Bidding

When you enter a proxy bid on eBay or a Max Bid Guys With Rides, each system actually makes several small bids — again and again — until the bidding reaches the maximum amount you specified, but only up to the amount needed.  If bidding on a collector car starts at $1,000, for example, and you put in a maximum of $15,000, both eBay’s and Guys With Rides systems enter bids automatically on your behalf to increase incrementally so that you stay ahead of the competition, at least until someone else’s maximum bid exceeds yours (at that point, both systems gives you the option to enter a new proxy bid). To mimic the sealed bid aspect, both eBay and Guys With Rides hide the maximum proxy bids entered, so no one else knows for sure whether you’re bidding automatically or your maximum bid and vice-versa.
 
Here’s a simple example of two bidders.  Like most eBay users, Sam makes one bid at a time in response to other bidders while Rudy enters one proxy bid of $15,000, i.e. the most he is willing to pay for the car. Sam starts the bidding at $1,000 and the minimum increment in this example is $1,000.
 
 
 

In this example, Sam decides to bow out at $7,000.  Consequently, even though Rudy placed a maximum bid of $15,000, he only ends paying one increment above the second-highest bid, or $8,000.

Now let’s look at how two bidders who leverage Max Bidding on Guys With Rides might play out.  In this example, the minimum increment is $1,000 and Sam enters a proxy of $7,000, the most he is willing to pay for the car:

In this example, since both Rudy and Sam leveraged the Max Bid feature, each person ended up entering only one bid and Guys With Rides’ system handled the rest.  So, if understood properly and used effectively, savvy eBay and Guys With Rides bidders can use a high proxy/max bid in the final minutes of the auction as a way to stave off any Snipers.

Our Max Bid feature provides you the flexibility to enter the maximum you are willing to bid ahead of time. Just set it and forget it!

When they launched their auctions, Bring a Trailer convinced everyone their two-minute rule is a great way to prevent sniping.  We disagree and believe Max (proxy) bidding is superior for four key reasons:

  1. Max Bidding Is An Effective Anti-Sniping Tool –  bidders who whine about being sniped simply do not understand how proxy bidding works. By placing the true value of what you are willing to pay for an item, even automated sniping software cannot keep up at the last minute generating repeat bids.  If your maximum value ends up being less than someone else’s, then so be it.  It’s better to lose an auction than to walk away with the “winner’s curse”, i.e., yes, you may have won the auction but you paid way too much for a classic car you might not likely get back the value of any time soon.
  2. Max Bidding Is An Effective Dealer-Prevention Tool – let’s face it, collector car dealers and brokers are out to make money.  They do that by trying to buy low and sell high.  We believe in free-market capitalism and understand their efforts to try and make a profit.  However, these value bidders are allowed on BaT, other online sites, and traditional live venues to bid alongside regular hobbyists even though their valuations are often higher as they ultimately try to resell a vehicle at retail.  By not being sure how many proxy bids are in place or for what value, dealers will be scared off from bidding because there’s a high probability they will end up buying a collector car at too high a price to be able to turn a profit.
  3. Just Set It And Forget It – Unfortunately, with all the other one-bid-at-a-time collector car auctions, you’re forced to put your life on hold in order to place yourself in front of your computer screen so that you can be sure you can enter your one-at-at-time counter bids. Who on earth has time for that?  With our Max bid system, simply set the maximum price you are willing to pay for a collector car and Guys With Rides’ system will do the rest.
  4. It Tends To Keep Prices In Check hardly a week goes by these days where someone is writing about a record price paid for a collector car on Bring a Trailer.  We’re convinced that much of this irrational behavior is due to the two-minute rule playing on the human nature of people not wanting to lose in the heat of battle. This is known as the Endowment Effect and it is often the cause of otherwise rational people making irrational pricing decisions in the pressure of time-extended auctions.  Guys With Rides’ Max Bid feature allows people to honestly enter the maximum amount they are willing to pay well before the end of the auction.
  5. It’s Just As Exciting – the other collector car auctions tend to draw non-bidders who like to watch the auctions during the final few minutes as the clock keeps resetting as people enter final bids.  Depending on the amount of Max- and one-time bids entered near the very end of our Guys With Rides Reserved Parking auctions, it can as just exciting to watch with the added benefit of knowing that the end time stated through an auction is indeed the final time.

With eBay’s proven system reliably in place now for 25 years, they must be onto something. That combined with the advantages stated above over time-extended auctions is why Guys With Rides offers the Max Bid functionality on every auction we offer.

Do you agree with us?  Comment below and let us know!

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