This is a brief guide to using Bidwatcher. It is assumed
that the program is properly installed and you have a valid
account with eBay. For information on installing Bidwatcher
refer to the INSTALL file that came with your distribution.
To get an idea of what Bidwatcher looks like, check out
these Screen Shots.
2. For the Impatient
Start the program and open the configuration window by
pressing the preferences icon ().
At a minimum you'll at least want to enter your eBay
username here. If you plan on using the bidding or email
lookup features you'll also need to provide your eBay
password. See the Configure Bidwatcher
section below for more on what to do here. Once this is
done, and you're connected to the Internet, you are ready to
roll. Bidwatcher will pull a list of all items you have
outstanding bids on and any auctions you have listed for
This list of "watched auctions" will be updated with varying
frequency depending on the time left in the auction
(auctions with less time remaining are updated more often).
Right-clicking an item on the list produces a pop-up menu of
operations you can perform. For a description of all the
programs functionality, read on.
The list at the bottom of the window are the auctions that
Bidwatcher is currently monitoring for you.
You can right click on one of the auctions, and a pop-up
menu of options will be displayed. From here, you can
set up bids, remove the auction from being monitored, and
view bidding logs.
By double clicking on an auction, bidwatcher will open a
browser window to that auction.
Across the top, you see these icons:
Configure your preferences for Bidwatcher.
Add an auction to the list that Bidwatcher monitors.
Synchronize clock with eBay.
Update all auction information from eBay
Stop updating auction information. (This not shown unless an update is happening.)
To the right of the icons is the status window. The time
displayed in this window is what Bidwatcher thinks that Ebay's
time is, make sure it matches the current time on the west
cost of the USA.
For Bidwatcher to do something beyond displaying the current
time in San Francisco, you need to configure it to do
something. Pressing the configuration button (the one that
looks like a drivers license) should produce the
configuration window with the following fields:
- Enter User ID:
- Your eBay username, this
field is required to do anything useful with Bidwatcher.
- Enter Password:
- Your eBay password. You only need to enter this if
you plan to use the bidding, sniping, or email lookup
facilities in Bidwatcher. Since this password is saved on
disk, paranoids might want to leave this field blank.
- Path to Web Browser:
- This is the path to your browser of choice (I use
'xterm -e lynx'), by default it is set to netscape.
- Path to Email Client:
- The path to your email client. By default it is set
to 'xterm -e pine'
- Track my eBay Listings:
- If this box is checked, Bidwatcher will automatically
track auctions that you have listed on eBay.
- Track current bids:
- If this is checked, Bidwatcher will track all active
auctions that you have bid on, whether or not you are the
current high bidder.
- Check auctions on startup:
- If this option is checked, Bidwatcher will updated your
current bids/listings and update all auctions immediately
when the program is started, otherwise it will begin
updates on it's regular cycle.
- Automatically delete ended auctions:
- Bidwatcher will delete ended auctions that have ended
over a day ago. Some people want to make sure they see
the results of the auction before it is deleted, so this
option is offered.
- Snipe Timer:
- The number of seconds before an auction ends that
your snipe bid will be executed.
Be aware that there will always be some network delays
and delays in processing on eBay's end. Even
slight problems with the network or problems with eBay
will make last second bids unreliable. Time
synchronization problems with eBay's clock can also
I strongly recommend not using anything less than 5
seconds, I personally use 10 seconds. The goal of
sniping is to keep other people from reacting to your
bid, and anything around 15 seconds will accomplish
Start out with the default of 15 seconds, and after
you have had a few successful snipes, check to see
when eBay registered your snipes in the bidding
history. This will give you a feel for the
typical lag. Then, you can crank it down, but
make sure you leave enough time to handle the unusual
lags. On a busy Sunday night, processing a bid
sometimes takes a couple of seconds, so bidwatcher
doesn't give up on the first snipe for 2-4 seconds.
It will then try again, but if you set the snipe timer
too short, there may be no time left.
On my machine, I see a typical lag of 1-2 seconds, and
I have seen unusual lags of up to 5-6 seconds.
Once Bidwatcher is properly configured, it more or less runs
on 'autopilot', updating bid information on your auction
list and executing any snipes you may have set up. If you
have Bidwatcher configured to auto-deleted auctions and the
auction ended over a day ago, it will be deleted from the
Bidwatcher will periodically check the status of the
auctions. The closer the auction is to ending, the more
often it will be updated. Bidwatcher will use these
updates to judge how quickly eBay and the Internet are
responding, and it will adjust things like your snipe time
On startup, and once every two hours there after,
bidwatcher will check what time eBay thinks it is to
insure accurate ending times. At the same time, it also
checks to see if you have bid on anything outside of
bidwatcher and will also monitor those auctions. Likewise,
it checks to see if you have listed anything new for sale.
On the list of "watched auctions" that Bidwatcher
displays, the color of the line indicates when the auction
ends. A green line says that
the auction will end more than 4 hours from now. A red line says that the auction
hasn't ended yet, but will end within the next 4 hours. A
blue line means that the
auction has ended.
Each line contains the following information, from left to
- The Bid status icon is a small colored dot that
indicates the bid status of the auction
||You have never bid on this item, you are just
||You are currently the high bidder of this
||You have bid on this auction, but you are not the
high bidder. If a snipe fails for any reason, you
will get a blue dot. Check the
logs for errors.
||You have selected to snipe this auction.
||You are the the seller of this auction
The eBay auction number.
The current bid value with the number of bids in
parentheses. If the number of bids ends with an 'R', it
means that the reserve has not been met. If it ends with
a 'D' it means that this is a Dutch auction.
The amount of time left before the auction ends.
The auction title.
Right clicking an item on the auction list and choosing
'bid / set up snipe' opens the bid
window. From here you can set up a snipe (a bid that is
executed a prescribed number of seconds before the auction
ends), or bid on the item immediately. The window shows
some information on the auction, and a countdown timer that
shows the time remaining in real time.
WARNING - placing a bid here is the same as
pressing the 'confirm bid' button at eBay, and you are
entering a binding commitment per their rules. I've made
every effort to make sure this works reliably - but if you
are worried that Bidwatcher will handle this incorrectly by
all means don't use it!
A few words on bidding
Before you place a bid on something, it is very important
for you to think about how much you should pay for an item.
Check out past auctions for similar items. Do a web search
to find similar items in retail outlets. Search for similar
items that are still out there. It is very rare for
anything to show up only once on eBay, usually another
similar item comes along in just a few days (if not hours).
After you have figured out how much an item is worth to
you, put that amount in as your proxy bid or your
snipe amount. Ask yourself, "if this item sold to someone
else for a dollar more, would I be upset?" If the answer
is yes, then you haven't bid your true maximum. The item
always goes to the person who said they wanted it the most
(by them entering a larger bid amount). Too many people
make the mistake of bidding what they want to pay
for something rather than what they are willing to
pay. After they lose the auction, they say "but I would
have been willing bid a little more", to which you should
reply "well, why didn't you?".
Bidding the absolute maximum that you are willing
to pay is critical if you want to snipe since you have
only one chance to bid. Likewise bidding your true
maximum critical to protect yourself from snipers, since
you won't have a second chance to bid against a sniper.
Some people feel they need to know what other
people are willing to pay for something in order to
determine how much they are willing to pay. This
is a very dangerous attitude. Some sellers will "shill"
an auction up by placing bids with a second eBay account
to goad the sucker into continuing to bid on the item.
(Sometimes they use several eBay accounts.) People are
often willing to pay "just a little more", but if they
haven't thought about what their real maximum bid is, then
they can be tricked into paying much more than they
Many people also bid round numbers such as $10.00. In
the case of a tie, the first bidder wins. To prevent this
from happening, always throw in a few extra cents, or even
a few extra dollars. If you think something is worth $150
to you, bid $153.78, or some such random number.
Of course, you should also check the sellers feedback
carefully. A lot can be learned by even some of the
positive feedbacks. Check to see if the seller is
primarily a buyer or not. It is much easier to get
positive feedback as a buyer than as a seller.
Read the description carefully and note what the shipping
charges will be. Some sellers hide a lot of their profit
in large "handling fees". Note that if the seller has
selected "Actual Shipping" for the shipping cost, eBay
will allow them to add in anything the seller want for a
"handling fee", including packing material, labor costs,
gas to go to the post office, rent for storage of the item
until your check clears, etc.
It is all too common for, say, a baseball card seller, to
charge $3.00 "handling fee" for each card, and so if you
win 10 cards, you will be charged $30 in "handling fees",
plus whatever your bids were.
Ask questions, and if you don't get an answer, or
something just looks wrong about the auction, don't bid.
There will almost always be another, better described item
being sold by a better seller sometime in the near future.
Finally, many people feel like when they put a bid in on
an auction and become the high bidder, they have somehow
become the "mental owner" of that item, or have put a
"down payment" on it. They haven't. The bidding is not
over until you see the "auction ended" on the web
page. I've been the high bidder when the web page said
"0 sec left", but ended up not being the high
bidder. Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
A few words on sniping
A snipe is a bid set up to execute a few moments before the
end of an auction. Sniping has several advantages, namely:
There are also some disadvantages to sniping:
Many adults act like 4 year old kids and want whatever
it is that other people have. If you bid early, you
will attract attention to the auction and there will be
some people who will bid just because you bid. This
causes the price to go up.
Some people when they are out bid will feel "hurt" or feel
like they are "losing" and will let their emotions get
away from them. (See above about high bidders thinking
they have "mental ownership", when they don't.)
They will then bid up an auction past what they would
rationally pay for the item if they would relax and
think about it. By sniping, you prevent yourself from
being drawn into a bidding war, and you do not give the
other bidders a chance to start a bidding war.
Bidding is not a game, with winners and losers. You
should Bid on something in order to get what you want,
when you want it, and for a price that you think is
reasonable. If someone else is desperate and is willing
to pay more than you, let them have it. Another one
will come along.
When you place a snipe using Bidwatcher, you can easily
change your mind about how much you want to bid, or even
if you want to bid at all. If you bid early, then you
would have to retract your bid if you change your mind.
Too many bid retractions can get you kicked off of eBay.
If the item you are looking at gets bid up too high, you
can cancel your snipe and go onto the next item. If you
had actually placed your bid, it is possible that the
people who had outbid you could retract their bids, or
have their bids cancelled by the seller or eBay. At
that point, you would then be held to your bid again.
Yes, this actually happens every once and a while.
Likewise, if you learn more about the item you are
bidding on or about the seller, you can easily cancel
your snipe and not risk anything.
If you bid early, you run the risk of becoming a "free
finder and appraisal service" for other people. If you
are knowledgeable about the stuff you are bidding on,
never over bid, and only bid on "good stuff", other
people will notice and will watch what you are bidding
on. If you bid early, you tell everyone that this is a
good item, and if they outbid you, they know that they
haven't over paid for the item, or at least not by very
By sniping, you reduce the ability of the seller to shill
up your bid up.
If anything bad happens, a snipe might not be placed and
you could lose the item. This includes network
problems, problems with eBay (they are known for
crashing or become very slow), problems with
synchronizing the time with eBay, or bugs in bidwatcher.
If you really, absolutely, positively, HAVE to have
something, don't snipe.
If you are the first person to bid, or are the current
high bidder, then other people will look at the auction
and realize that they will have to outbid you to get the
If you can easily get an item for $15, and the
current bid is $14, then it probably isn't worth bidding
because you can't outbid the current bidder without
overpaying. This gives a very slight advantage to being
the first bidder.
Bidwatcher creates two different log files about the
auctions that you have watched.
To view these logs, right click on the an auction, and
select the "view completed snipes" or "view completed
auctions" options. These logs can also be found in a
directory called "~/.bidwatcher" in your home directory.
The month and the year are attached as part of the file
name to keep the logs a manageable size.
The first set of logs, the "completed snipes", contains
information about your snipes. Besides the eBay auction number
and the auction title, it also contains what your maximum
bid was set to (not just the final price was),
and also a description of how the snipe went.
The second set of logs, the "completed auctions", contains
a list of every auction you have asked bidwatcher to
monitor. Besides the eBay auction number and the auction
title, it also contains the name of the high bidder and
what the final price was.
If you are having problems with snipes failing, it is a
good idea to look in the snipe log file and see what the
error message says.
8. Bugs and Problems
Because Bidwatcher depends on how the folks at eBay have
their website set up, bugs can and do pop up without
warning. Things can be working one minute, but not the
If you encounter a problem, first read this documentation
carefully to see if the is an answer here. (Yes, I know,
since you have read this far, you have probably read the
rest, but it needs to be said anyway.)
Next, check to see if there is anything in the
logs that might explain the errors.
If the logs don't help, you should probably check to see
if there is a new version of Bidwatcher available. The
Bidwatcher home page is at:
Finally, if all else fails, try contacting me at
I may or may not be able to help, but it is worth a shot.