Education & Training

After the Auction: Dealing With Deadbeat Bidders

People have probably told you that deadbeat bidding is a way of life on online auction sites. Well, in many respects, they're right. But that doesn't mean that deadbeats won't waste your time and money. For instance, it's no fun spending $99 on a front door featured auction listing, only to get burned and not be able to have that money credited to your account. Here are suggestions on what to do when you've been had by a deadbeat.

Make It Clear

Deadbeat bidders are yet another rationale for clearly stating your payment policies and expectations at the bottom of your auction's item description (see Writing Professional Descriptions) and for maintaining email correspondence with high bidders. If deadbeat bidders see your policies often enough, it's hard for them to plead ignorance and ignore your policies. Also, if frequent deadbeats see that you have a clear-cut policy, they might move on before they bid. Finally, in your end-of-auction emails, be sure to request the high bidder's name and shipping address. Most of the time, this sparks some sort of response.

Cutting to the Chase

Of course, it's better to find out sooner rather than later if you are dealing with a deadbeat. The most annoying type of deadbeat is the bidder who strings you along by promising payment over an extended period of time, which prevents you from relisting the item immediately or from contacting the second highest bidder, who might still be interested. If too much time passes while you deal with the hemming and hawing deadbeat, you'll be out of luck--and money.

Here is a strategy for quickly determining if a bidder intends to finish the transaction. The day the auction ends, send your end-of-auction notice with your address for payment (policies included) and request for the bidder's name and address. If there's no response after three days, send a second notification. If you don't hear anything after another four days, send a third courtesy notice. If two more days pass without word, notify the bidder that the sale will be nullified unless (1) you receive payment by a specific date, or (2) you are sent a payment status update the following day. In all, you'll wait only nine days.

The Reminder

If you prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, you might opt for a more gentle reminder system. You might state in your initial notice that if there is no response after two weeks, the item is subject to relist. After two weeks have passed, send out a reminder with the auction and payment information. If another week passes without reply, send a follow-up message and lay it on the line, explaining that you will relist and leave appropriate feedback if payment does not arrive in another week. By then, it will be close to 30 days after the end of the auction, at which point you can post negative feedback. The value of waiting this long to leave feedback is that you'll minimize the chances of receiving a retaliatory negative because the auction listing will soon be taken down.

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