How online auction works in Singapore

rani's picture

When I tried to sell my xda II online, I was surprised to find out that the logic of online auction is almost totally different in Singapore.

At first, I tried to sell my xda II in Singapore Pocket PC user group (PPCSG). However, I can say that, although PPCSG market place forum is a great place to buy stuff, it is not a great place to sell stuff. People from the forum would mercilessly bargain 40-50% from the initial price. Having been unable to sell my xda II with a good price in PPCSG, I looked for other alternatives.

Enter auctions sites, namely, Yahoo Auctions Singapore and ebay Singapore. And I was surprised to find out that... nobody bids on those auctions sites.

It was not long until I find out the unwritten rules of the online auction game in Singapore, which is totally different from my experience doing online auction in the US and UK:

  1. Put irrelevant names in the item name field so that people will be more likely to come across your item through search. Example: XDA II (NOT ipod, nano, microwave, toaster, cd)
  2. Put the opening price with the highest price. This high price is unlikely to be met by the winning buyer, so dont be shy to put high price here. But also, not too high as it will detract buyer to contact you.
  3. Remember, online auction in Singapore is actually reverse auction. Having set up the high price for your item, people will come and bargain (rather than bid) through the contact the seller mechanism.
  4. When you put your cellphone number in the listing, this definitely means that you want to deal fast and open for bargain.
  5. Usually people don't bother to put the actual item photos in the listing. They will just capture a nice looking photo of their item from the web and post it with the listing.

Perhaps ebay Singapore should open an alternative listing for reverse auction rather than having their system abused?

Nevertheless, I try to put my xda in ebay Singapore anyway, hoping to get a good price. I also put my cellphone number in the listing, and clearly stating thatpotential buyers can contact me to inquire about the item condition.

Well it turned out that putting my cellphone number is a bad decision. Nobody puts their bid in ebay, and instead, people would call me and bargain my xda cheaply.

My husband was concerned with me receiving so many phone calls. Finally he convinced me to not play according to the unwritten rule of online auction in Singapore. Indi suggested that I should just follow ebay rules as in the US and UK, also as an opportunity to educatepeople about the correct way of doing online auction. So we edited the ebay listing, put the photo of the real condition of my xda, and took out the cell phone number from the listing. Indi even suggested me to put in you are welcome to enquire about the condition of the item, but no negotiation will be entertainedto make it really clear that I wanted people to bid on the item rather than quick deal. We also revised the opening price lower in order to attract bidders.

As a courtesy, later I called Henry who earlier had contacted me about the xda, and notified him that I have revised the ebay listing, and ask him to register his bid in ebay. His subsequent responses went on like this:

But I dont want to bid.

Why not?

I want to buy the xda according to the price that you just revised.

Yes, I revised the price so that buyer would be interested with my xda. But please register your bid, and if youre lucky you may win the bid. We will later deal according to the winning price. Thats how it works.

But if I bid, then the price will be higher than what I want!

Err... isnt it what ebay is all about? I put my item in ebay because I want to see if people are interested with my xda. And it will help me register other peoples interest. At the end the winner and the sellers are both happy with the winning price. (and actually I dont really care if the price is higher than what you want.. its your problem, really. What was this guy thinking?)

Well, OK lah, I will bid. But how if other people outbid me, and I cant buy your xda?

(speechless....)well, I hope youll be the lucky winner...

Cmon lah, well deal tonight, I want to buy the xda with the revised price. Well close the deal at the soonest.

But I dont want to close the deal tonight. I want you to just register your bid in ebay, and wait 5 more days until the auction closed, OK? Again, if youre lucky, you may be the winner. I tell you what, why dont you just hold your bid until the last minute, so that the price would not jump so high?.... (Imagine, as a seller I am giving him a bidding tip so that the price wont be so high!)

So that was the end of the strange conversation that I had with Henry from Malaysia. Shortly after that, someone bid for my XDA. Perhaps its Henry, I dunno. I just pray that its not Russian or Nigerian scammers that bid for my xda.

BTW, it seems that yahoo auctions Singapore has a lot more scams than ebay Singapore. This is also why I decided to put my listing in ebay Singapore.

In the mean time, while my xda II listing is cooking in ebay, I found a secondhand xda Iii of my dream listed by Marcus in the PPCSG marketplace (as I said, PPCSG forum is a great place to buy things, but NOT for selling). I managed to get a good deal from him. He was kind enough to come to my place to settle the deal.

After settling the purchase, Marcus noticed my old xda II, and he really wanted to buy it. I noted his interest, and asked him to register his bid in ebay. And his response was...

Cmon.. nobody bids in ebay! Everybody is doing quick deals there...

Yeah, but I am committed to the other ebay bidders there. How should I tell the winning bidder if I sell the item to you? I will get negative rating from him! So far, my rating has been positive, you know. I dont want to ruin my reputation.

Rating? Cmon! Nobody here (in Singapore) cares about ebay rating. You can easily make a new username. I was once banned by ebay, I dont know why, but I just couldnt access ebay anymore. I tell you what, I will just buy the thing from you according to the winning price now!

Thats really nice, but Id rather that you register your bid in ebay...

Finally Marcus gave up and asked to use my computer to register his bid through ebay before he went home. Its funny that he even forgot on how to put his bid, and I had to teach him step by step to do it. So, at that day, Marcus became the winning bidder.

In the mean time, ever since I removed my cell phone number from the listing, I received a lot of enquiries asking for a quick deal and bargaining for my xda through emails. Difficult it may be, but I persisted and refused quick deals.

A few days later, the bidding ended. Marcus came as the winner. He got the price that he wanted, and I got the selling price that I expected. So he happily came to my place to get the xda II and do the payment. Its so funny, if we knew that he would win the bid, we would just write a check with a lesser amount that already factors in his purchase. We closed the deal by writing positive ebay reviews for each other, and opened a new friendship. And BTW, I didnt hear from Henry anymore.

Only in Singapore, you can buy from and sell to a same person.



must teach them to follow rules. that's the key.

Even when taught rules,

Even when taught rules, people will choose to ignore, disregard, or abuse/disrespect them. We would have to do more to get people to follow them.

Sama tuch ran ama

Sama tuch ran ama pengalamanku waktu pasang di Y auction 'n ebay. Aneh emang, pada nelphone aja trus tawar menawar bukannya nge bid :(

Hear hear

I can really identify with you... I have used ebay US many many times and it's really different with yahoo auctions SG and ebay SG. It seems that many people want to "quick deal" here. What's the point of having an auction system if you don't want to bid or buy at the price I put down as a minimum price?

The worst bidders are those who meet up just to drive down the price or those who bid and then decide that they no longer want the item.

A crucial difference is that in ebay US, the bid is a binding agreement and is taken rather seriously. Over here, sigh.

I support you though, and will continue to try to sell things using the true auction style here.

true style auctions.

Here is a good site which is dedicated to true style auctions in singapore

thanks for sharing your

thanks for sharing your experience. Maybe they still don't know how does online auction works. The sellers also need to strictly stick to the rules, do not close the bid for private deal.

It's the way things work in

It's the way things work in Singapore. Ebay in Singapore does not work well for a simple reason: if it get too successful, it will start charging for its service.

in the end you managed to

thanks for the end you managed to procure a safe deal. i tried my hand at auctions once. wanted to bid for a creative zen micro 5GB. almost became the highest bidder to my horror cos i decided i didn't want to buy it at sucha silly price. in the end the person who outbidded me defaulted and even though i already told the seller if i won i wouldn't want the player, he still had the gall to email me and ask if i wanted it anyway -_-"


hmhm.. currently i am selling at sg yahoo auctions. met a few bad and dead buyers.. well, no choice, something wrong with my paypal. got to stick with the 'quick deals' mindset of buyers here.

i bid on items and wait for the auction to end. i dont sms/email the buyer for a cheaper or fast deal. but sadly and irrating to say most a lot of buyers here dont do this..

Auction Rules

Yes, I so totally agree with you. A couple of bad ratings I got from yahoo auctions came from people who bid the buy price of the item and then continue to bargain upon transaction. Sometimes, I find these people total disgusting. However, its about 50% chance, you meet such people, there's hope.

Loop holes

You shouldn't compare how deals are done in US and Asia ;)

The shrewd will try all means to get the best deal. Who knows, this Marcus could have auctioned off your Xda or have sold it for a better price? He definitely saw value in your old xda ii.

Be thankful that you were not hit by scams.

Singapore can never be First World like this

I've only used Yahoo! Auctions once, here, but the deal was made through the "reserved price". Bad me, but at least the seller at the other end was kind enough for a meet-up, exchanged money and merchandise, and we parted ways. Later, I gave the seller a positive review.

It's in the mentality of Singaporeans (perhaps South-east Asians?) to actually demand a bargain, like they can in real-life. Well, I have to concur with my subject title.

Can't compare US and Sg like

Can't compare US and Sg like that...u got see how low the startin bid in Ebay US is? can we do it here - and sell our expensive item for just less than 10% of price - if worse there are no other bidders???

So the major difference is : market. Ebay US got big market; Sg is a small market.

as it is...always got good and also bad buyers n sellers. I am considered a "good" Yahoo! seller (based on my ratings) and also try to be a good buyer if the price is good...


Thanks that was very interesting. It shows how we cannot assume that everyone will act the same because they are so-called 'netizens'. Our offline context dictates how we interact on the net. There must be a very useful lesson here for companies seeking to expand their business via the net.

"But how if other people outbid me, and I cant buy your xda?" --> LOL

Its the Asian mentality.Buy

Its the Asian mentality.

Buy low, sell high and don't trust the internet system. Meet the buyer/seller if possible for that safe trade.

And oh... being cheapassed. Kinda generalising, but hey, thats why we asians are in a rat race. Sad but true.


This is so sad! Ebay in the US is absolutely wonderful, has totally changed the way many people shop, and has saved zillions of useful articles from the landfill. When I first moved to Singapore, I thought the fact that it is such a small country had easily solved the one drawback to ebay in the US: shipping costs. Just exchange the article at a convenient MRT station.

But no, of course nothing can be easy here. Cripes.

Auctions in Malaysia

Malaysian in general are much better than Sporeans in that matter. The local auction site ( has much better reputation than Maybe thats because Lelong has been in biz since 1999(I was one of the first Verified members). Though I must admit that there are scammer,quick dealings,etc., most of the auctions in Lelong are quite genuine and yes they do wait for auctions to end.

My 2 sen.

Re: How online auction works in Singapore

Hey Rani,

thanks for pointing this out to me. Was just surfing on Ebay and Yahoo Auctions here and couldn't figure out why nobody is bidding. One more mystery solved.

Hasta luego,


get Singapore Government to regulate the participants

I would suggest Singapore government make it mandatory for Singaporean to submit their NRIC number before they are allowed to sell / buy in Yahoo! Auctions or eBay. I guarantee that the auction rules will be obeyed 100%

Experience with Yahoo! Auctions Singapore

While surfing for ebay Singapore on the internet I found your article. I regret not seeing it sooner. Thanks for sharing.
I'm a newbie of Yahoo! Auctions Singapore and newbie of others online auctions. Then I was eager bidding for my favorite item because I thought it worked as a normal auction system. I was the "lucky man" who won that auction! And what I got was an email from the seller informed that the item had been sold out already (at the same time with the winning notification from Yahoo!). So funny huh? After that I did a small research and could understand how the auction system works here. Never bid for an item but bargain!

Reverse auctions

Yes, in the US, when the price goes down we call that a reverse auction. There are not that many sites like that though.


Thank-you for this posting. It helps a lot in the understanding of eBay and Yahoo in SG. Yours is probably the only article on the web that give some good insights into the current SG ebay/yahoo situation. Hope that both will be more US-like in time to come.

Best wishes.

Just had a bad experience

I have been buying from ebay albeit not too frequently, most of my purchases were made from but from overseas sellers so my experience hasn't been that bad, i've even had sellers eager to help but i have never had a bad experience with sellers. when i found out about yahoo auctions recently i noticed that most of the items i see have exactly the same buy it now price AND starting bid, puzzled but it didn't bother me cos the prices were all right for me. But a few days ago i saw an item that was going for a good price albeit without a buy it now tag, i placed a bid and noticed it immediately outbid, knowing that i have competition i decided to wait till the bid is ending before deciding bidding again. wanting to know more information about the product i smsed the guy's number to ask about it, i got a reply saying that it has already been sold!!!!! when i came back and checked the page online, i realised that the bid now was $9999 but the auction was stil running!!!! this is the worst experience i had so far and after reading this article i now know what to expect.

How online auction works in Singapore

Very interesting topic you guys wrote about online auctions in Singapore.

My point of views for yahoo auctions, some sellers may have a very low starting bid but with a high reserve price. For instant one of them had a starting bid at SGD 10.00 but with a reserve price at SGD 70.00. And not only that, the seller has added a buy it now option at SGD 70.00. The seller could have just listed the item with the buy it now option at SGD 70.00.

About auctions, there will be hardly more then 1 bid on any items you list. had encourages sellers to sell worldwide but they are not assisting the sellers by having the postage and handling set up as those in It will only state ships to Singapore. Further more when items listed in, it cannot be found in search even with the same title in, & If you want your items to be notice by internationally, you will have to pay for those listings in What is the point of encouraging sellers to list items in a wedpage without having the notice from international buyers? I guess it is just a free service.

About yahoo and ebay auction for our local market, everyone is hoping to have a good deal out from it. And not many will be willing to pay for shipping or handling fees. I had Singaporeans won my auctions in and my shipping charges clearly stated worldwide at USD 9.99 (Isn't Singapore worldwide?). When they won my auction, they expected me to give them a discount or suggested meeting up to save cost for them. As a seller, we will have our cost too and shipping and handling are just a part of my revenue income.

Currently all my listings stated very clearly with local and overseas market and with my shipping and handling charges but still many will try to negotiate again and again with the handling charges. I have one buyer hoping to win on my item at SGD 3.50 and expected free handling and delivery! I'm a driver and I'm not willing to travel 30 kms for a meet up. In Singapore, it is all about cost and who is going to pay for my petrol then?

Perhaps it is really kiasu Singapore, our own style.

The above just 2 cents worth.
Thank You & Best Regards.
Eugene Tan.


According to Eugene Tan, what i think is if singapore to singapore delivery, then it will not consider to be worldwide delivery (if yes, then i go out for food also consider worldwide travel...seller fault for not to state it clearly at 1st). And for the $3.50 thing, i think the buyer should go to your place to get it from you... that your rights to do it if the buyer want to buy.

Thank you for confirming

Thank you for confirming something I had long held suspicions about. In fact, today I was comparing ebay's around the world and realised something was strange about ebay singapore. This perplexed me to the point that I went to google and did the following search "why ebay does not work in singapore". This was how I found your article. Thank you again.

Net Behavior reflects Real World Behavior

One thing to keep in mind is that people behave on the internet almost along the same lines of their real world behavior! In the US there is most certainly discipline and order in most aspect of conducting trade and therefore the internet auctions are realistic replicas. In Eastern and Asian countries trade is many times about getting bargains and good deals. Given this I am not surprised that the same behavior spills into cyberspace. Maybe auctions and other transaction services should try and replicate real life situations online. Internet Life is after all is mainly to facilitate convenience in Real Life.

My 2 cents.

Buying patterns of Asians

After reading your article regarding Yahoo auctions and ebay i Singapore, I have the exact same sentiment.
I recall having a buyer calling me in advance to close a deal which I am totally uncomfortable with, that means to say I am selling a Sony Ericsson used bluetooth handsfree for SGD35 whereas a new one would cost you a mininum SGD90. Since its only used for 2 months and I have decided to upgrade to a new handsfree, I reckon I don't need the kit anymore.
This buyer told me to deal at SGD25 and expect me to send the kit to him, which after much consideration, I told him that SGD25 is ok for me but he'll have to come down and collect it. Still refusing to abide by my terms, I told him that if anyone comes along and collect it himself, I would have to sell the kit to the other person.
This bugger got the cheek to click the buy it now price at SGD35. Here comes the juicy part, another buyer willingly came down to my location and paid SGD35 for it and out of courtesy, I inform the earlier buyer that it's been sold. I don't know what's got into him, he called me up and hurled excessive abuse at me and spammed all the rest of my auctions with negative comments after clicking the Buy It Now button.
It's no wonder being said that starting a business in Singapore is tough, it's even true doing it online. Thanks to these dirty players who'll stop at nothing to squeeze you off the price and even threaten to kill you off the trade if you don't succumb to them.

i am from Singapore and

i am from Singapore and after reading your post which is almost 2 yrs old, I have to point out what you have said is not all correct.

1) The fact that xda is not a popular phone in Singapore and placing it in ebay Singapore which is rubbish and yahoo auction will not get you the correct buyers. Most of the people are selling phones in and you can get reasonable price there.

2) Putting irrelevant names WILL NOT be effective at all. These irrelevant names are also used by Ebay itself, not only in Singapore. As mention in (1), xda is not a popular phone in Singapore.

3) Put the opening price with the highest price WILL NOT get you any deals. I do not know how you did your research but putting a high price (near retail price) will not get you to the right person. If you are selling a Nokia or Sony Ericsson, you will definately get the best price. XDA are just not for everyone.

4) i somehow agree the way Singapore people deal with auctions are different. Why is this so? The US way of auction is to wait till the auction ends and they will sell to the highest bidder.

Because of the size of Singapore, you can travel North To South, West to East in less than 1 hour. People will want to meet you on the same day or the very next day to deal with you with CASH. 99% will never send to you the money in advance on mobile phones. They call you to offer their price, if it is too low, you can counter-offer them, otherwise reject them. There is no obligation at all to sell to them.

If what they offer you is the price you are looking for, then sell it to them. What is the point of following the auction rules when you already have difficulties attracting people to buy your phone? After all, the auction sites in Singapore are all free and you can close them anytime.

Overall, i believe Singapore is one of the easiest place to sell your used products especially mobile phones.

Clarify something if you please

Why is i that Ebay auction sites differ according to country. It should be an open market open to all equally right? I feel something is about to change and I feel it is about time.

Major issues...

With auction sites is that once they get BIG they tend to lose that "Auction" feel to them, they all start off great but once things start growing at a rapid pace then you will see the likes of auctions fading away and the "Buy now" stores taking over.

eBay is more of an online shopping mall then an auction site, all good things come to an end sadly.

Fighting back against ebay & yahoo

correct me if i'm wrong, but didn't ebay buy yahoo...or yahoo buy ebay.. or something like that...
ebay/yahoo don't really care about anyone, they make billions from advertising and thats it.

I too got fed up of the state of auction sites in Singapore, which is why a friend and me worked on this. , we have just launched this in version 1, and will be releasing version 2 in a one-two weeks, followed by reverse auctions in version three.
We decided not to display any of the users contact details and keep things really simple and easy.

Please do give it a go.

Brilliant and nice piece of

Brilliant and nice piece of articles. This article is really informatice. Keep it up.

An Alternative

Yes, agreed that in Singapore, perceptions of auctions are quite different from in the states.
People tend to be more familiar with simpler concepts of quick deal of a classifieds rather than wait for bids to come in for auctions;
Nevertheless, that may change with time as more people become familiar with each type of buying and selling.

In that light.. we are beta-ing a new site that combines Classifieds and Auctions and Directory listings...
so people can use the formats that best suite them...

Here's it, humbly:


No wrong for quick deal as

No wrong for quick deal as long as the buyer and seller reach agreement with each other. But the buyer should be the item legitimate buyer on the auction site(I emphasize that i want the seller to open bid and wait until it end), in other word, place stupidly high bid to outbid everyone(even though they already traded b4 the auction end) or just push buy it now button. NO WRONG FOR THOSE ACTION. However, it is totally wrong that the highest bidder is the other person and been told by the seller that the item been sold. Fair? Just see whether you are quick enough to action, I did this in US ebay, reach mutual agreement, and i ensure the seller i will be the highest bidder by placing price that even higher than retail price( it will only show minimum bid of yours compare to others, IT WILL ONLY WORK WHEN THE SELLER AND BUYER LIVE CLOSE TO EACH OTHER IN US) and wait to the auction end most of the time. So that I am the proper winner of the item as shown from the auction even though the price i paid might be lower. But important thing is, it easier for seller to send thing to you or COD(that why the seller willing to ignore other real higher bid than mine cause of convenient). 'Real' highest bidder(the one who outbided by me) should be the one win the thing? it not exactly work in my experience of US AU or even UK ebay. Singapore is just the worst of all.
I just dont like the seller and buyer close the auction out of nothing just because they make a quick deal, and worst of all is the seller tell the highest bidder the item already sold off (they should have do something like seller or seller tell buyer to put super duper highest bid).

Experience being an ebay seller n buyer in US

dunno bout Sg but in

dunno bout Sg but in Malaysia is a Great Auction site

Bad System or Poor Mannered?

I am a Singaporean myself and I would admit that South East Asian tends to bargain on deal which are right in their eyes. The problem is, we still tend to buy it even if an agreement cannot be agreed upon on.

I saw someone mentioned about Singapore is not as a 1st world country, maybe that is true to some extend. Singapore is a small country whereas meeting up for delivery is quite convenient and common among buyers and seller.

One guy mentioned about including NRIC no. so that people will obey the rules, one thing which I thought was really a good idea to implement.

I think the only possibility that online auction can work in Singapore;

1. Change the current auction system. (Maybe reverse auction)
2. Change the attitude of the buyers & sellers.

Which one do you think would be easier ?

EBay options

Actually eBay now provides the option for 'Best Offer' as well as 'Buy it now'. I think the auction could work if you had a low starting price. I get lots of stuff from eBay UK and a lot of their items might start at £0.99 or something like that!


have never used to be fond of online shops before, but now decided to try it. just read a lot on the topic at different blogs I found with the help of engine or heard the experience of my friends. interesting how this service differs in different countries! was surprised to read about Sg. remember once I visited my friend in Germany. ebay is so popular there! as for myself, looks pretty easy to buy things online, still it requires much preparation and time, so I prefer it live:)

Hahahahaha where are you

Hahahahaha where are you from? its the way things work here sister. that's all i can say. Americans want quick deals too, thats the reason they use BUY-IT-NOW for my products. Come'on, not having the item you desire is already very stressful already, why make shopping for it even more stressful??? Haha. but thanks for an entertaining post.

Seriously, i miss yahoo auctions. its one of the MOST effective ways to sell electronics in sg!

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