eBay has tried to become the center of the sports card collecting universe. Due to its importance as a marketplace, sellers often use any edge available to get attention for their listings. One means that some collectors use are eBay viewer and watcher bots.
When we check out an eBay item, we can see how many people are watching it. That gives us an idea of the level of interest in the item and what we will need to bid to purchase it.
However, like everything else online, you can’t always trust the figures. According to some estimates, over half of the activity on the internet is automated. There are various ways to drive up the numbers and create an artificial buzz around the item.
If you spend enough time in the collecting community, you will hear many things blamed on bots. You will hear this a lot when an item goes out of stock immediately online. But what are they?
Bots are short for ‘robots.’ And no, we are not talking about the cool R2-D2 type of robot. Instead, these so-called bots are just software applications programmed to perform tasks. They are most commonly used to simulate human behavior and do so repeatedly. Bots are often able to replicate human behavior at very high speeds.
This means that a bot can do anything you do online in simple English, but automatically. It can also do it as many times, and at any speed, it is programmed to do so.
Some bots are helpful. For example, some bots can give you medical knowledge or help to order takeout quickly and with a minim of effort. Bots can also be incredibly annoying. You know all those random emails you get about funds trapped in an account in Madagascar that go straight into your spam folder? Those are bots.
Bots can also be downright malicious. Some bots infect a computer and install a virus or steal information.
eBay Viewer and Watcher Bots occupy a position somewhere in between. They don’t cause any direct harm. However, they do distort information and try to manipulate buyers and eBay’s algorithm.
eBay Viewer and Watcher Bots are very simple. They are scripts given instructions to view a listing on eBay as many times as the user ordered. This action drives up the visible ‘watch’ counter on that item.
Programmers advertise these bots as a form of SEO (search engine optimization) for eBay listings.
Some eBay users purchase and utilize eBay viewer and watcher bots to increase the visibility of their items on the platform.
It is not clear if this works. The algorithms eBay uses are mysterious. If companies released the details of their algorithms, users would do their best to manipulate and game the system. Therefore, algorithms remain secret. In addition, the big companies alter them regularly.
It is not clear if views influence the placing of the listing. Some eBay users believe it is a significant component, while others think it is not a factor or at least a relatively peripheral element.
These are the elements that experts believe are an essential component of the algorithm:
If so, the amount of views does not seem to impact the visibility of the item significantly. It may or may not be a component in calculating the popularity of the item. However, eBay would likely not weigh this factor heavily.
After all, if it were a critical component, sellers would view their own item repeatedly and drive up the searchability. It does not make much sense.
The eBay Viewer and Watcher bot eBay-watcher promises the following:
“Script that adds to the “Watch” counter of a specified eBay listing in an attempt to make the listing more popular, increasing the number of real visitors that see the listing, which in turn helps the listing appear higher in search results and also makes the product appear as though it’s in high-demand since it has a lot of ‘Watchers.'”
We cannot rule out the theory that views are part of the algorithm, determining how visible an item is. However, there is no clear evidence that it does. It is probably better to invest in proven strategies to increase listing visibility, such as improving listings and gaining a solid reputation on the platform. You can check out our guide to selling on eBay.
But that does not mean that eBay viewer and watcher bots are useless. The psychology of bidding is familiar from other fields of life. When we believe that we face competition for an item, we value it higher.
For example, not all of us collect NBA Prizm cards. But if we see any in the wild, we will almost certainly snap it up anyway. That is because we know if we don’t, someone else will.
The same logic works for items listed on eBay. Watching bots simulate competition and can influence the final bids by making items in two ways:
Therefore, while an eBay viewer and watcher bot are unlikely to expose your listing to a more significant number of potential bidders. It will make individuals already interested more engaged and encourage them to make higher bids than they would otherwise.
In a word: no. The eBay user agreement, effective as of April 2, 2021, is pretty explicit on the matter.
Clause 3 reads: “In connection with using or accessing our Services, you agree to comply with this User Agreement, our policies, our terms, and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, and you will not:… use any robot, spider, scraper, data mining tools, data gathering, and extraction tools, or other automated means to access our Services for any purpose, except with the prior express permission of eBay.”
I am not a lawyer, but that seems pretty straightforward. I mean, you could try contacting eBay to see if they will allow you to use the bot. Somehow, I doubt you will get a good response.
Another clause also seems to forbid it. eBay prohibits users from trying to “manipulate the price of any item or interfere with any other user’s listings.”
Having said that, we doubt you will get kicked off the site or banned for using this relatively harmless bot. Nonetheless, there is evidence that eBay considers these applications to be a problem.
Six months ago, the ebay-watcher app developer posted an update that read: “this project is no longer supported. eBay has upgraded their security, and this script no longer works and should be used only for educational purposes.”
While we are unsure what educational purposes this bot may have, it sounds like eBay shut him down and may have threatened a lawsuit.
eBay also sought out and received an injunction in Federal Court against scarper and auction aggregator Bidders Edge. eBay claimed that by using their data, it slowed down the site.
The court agreed, and U.S District Court Judge Ronald Whyte noted, “Even if (Bidders Edge’s) searches use only a small amount of eBay’s computer system capacity, Bidders Edge has nonetheless deprived eBay of the ability to use that portion of its personal property for its own purposes. The law recognizes no such right to use another’s personal property.”
It appears that a viewer or watcher bot would also fall under this ruling.
Viewer and watcher bots are effective in creating a fake buzz around an item. However, they do not seem to have a notable influence on the algorithm.
Using these bots is a violation of the user agreement. Also, eBay has shown vigilance against these applications in the past. Therefore, we simply recommend you avoid these tools.