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Consumer Reports Offers Tips On Bidding In Online Auctions

Posted June 6, 2001

— More than 35 million Americans have placed a bid online.

Consumer Reports

shows how to find what you are looking for, for the price you want to pay.

The online auction arena is growing by leaps and bounds. Dozens of different Web sites offer thousands of items for sale. It can be overwhelming, although there is a way to quickly zero in on what you want.

"Instead of clicking from site to site, search engines like Auctionwatch will track dozens of auctions at once and alert you to the items you're looking for. They're a real time saver," said Consumer Reports' Tod Marks.

Sotheby's and other real-world auctions typically have previews, allowing people to closely inspect what is being sold. However, you cannot do that with online auctions. Consumer Reports says that is why it is so important to closely scrutinize the written descriptions and always find out what something is really worth.

"Do your homework before bidding online. That way, you won't spend more money than you should, even in the heat of competition," Marks says.

Consult pricing guides for a quick reality check on what collectibles are selling for -- things like pewter, antique dolls and china. With everyday items, such as electronic equipment, you can comparison shop right online. Some sites to check --

comparenet.com

,

eCompare.com

and

mySimon.com

.

One more thing that can be a big help is a feature offered by most auction sites called proxy bidding.

"It's like getting someone to attend the auction in your place. You set the spending limit and the proxy keeps boosting the bid by the minimum amount needed to win," Marks said.

It is also important to remember that before you start bidding, you should check shipping and handling costs. Otherwise, what seems like a real bargain could end up being a bad deal.

On Thursday, we'll show you how to protect yourself when bidding online.

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