The BetterThanTheBay FAQ

Getting Started
What is BetterThanTheBay?
Does it cost anything to use?
How do I get started?
Why the approval process?

Bidding
How does bidding work? (This one's important!)
How do I decide what my max bid amount should be?
Can I snipe auctions?
How do I cancel or change my bid?
Why is there no "Buy It Now" option?
I have a question about an item being auctioned.
Will I know who won the auction, if it wasn't me?

Shipping
Can you combine shipping if I win multiple items?
Can I pay for auction items and Shoppe items together?
Why is the shipping so much, especially for international?

Selling
How can I sell an item using BetterThanTheBay?

Miscellaneous
Is there feedback for auctions?
Can I have more than one BetterThanTheBay account?
Is Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe changing because of this?
Why go to all the trouble of building your own auction site?
I would imagine there are certain... advantages to running your own auction site, hmmm?
What's to stop me from reselling the items I win here on eBay?
These rules are stupid, and you are stupid too... Stupid!



Getting Started


Q:  What is BetterThanTheBay?
 
A:  Everything! No but seriously.

BetterThanTheBay is my attempt to create the ideal auction site for selling collectible games. I designed it specifically to get around the most annoying aspects of other online auction sites. It's minimalist, like the Shoppe itself. You don't have to click and scroll through six pages of extraneous features to create a listing, and you can relist an unsold auction with a single click or sell another of the same item with a quick confirmation. It's hands-off when it needs to be, letting the buyer and seller work things out with minimal hand-holding; but it's also transparent, so everyone involved in the auction knows exactly what is going on. Most importantly, it's run by someone who understands vintage game collecting and has been doing it since 1994.


Q:  Does it cost anything to use?
 
A:  No. Whether you are buying or selling, BetterThanTheBay is free. You don't pay any listing fees, or any percentage of the final bid amount. The only payment is from the winner to the seller, after the auction closes.


Q: How do I get started?
 
A: First, you need to be a registered user of Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe.

Once registered, you need to be signed in.

Then you need to request to join BetterThanTheBay.

That's it.


Q:  Why the approval process?
 
A:  Within the vintage software collecting community, there are certain... miscreants who need to be weeded out from participation. So requests to use BetterThanTheBay must be manually approved by the Shoppekeeper. It's a very quick process, but may take a day or two for me to get to, depending on how much computer access I have.

I'll try my best to be available all day if an auction is ending that day, but if there is an item you absolutely must have, please don't wait until the last minute to request a membership. No one else will know you're there unless you bid, and even then only after the auction ends.


Bidding


Q:  How does bidding work?
 
A:  Most other online auctions let you enter as many bids as you want. With BetterThanTheBay, you bid once. Except for the minimum starting price, all bids are hidden until the auction is over. You don't have to keep obsessively checking, and you won't have to worry about an individual bidder repeatedly chipping away at your maximum. It simplifies things.

From the auction page, simply click "Bid On This Auction" and enter the absolute maximum amount you would ever be willing to pay for the item. You will likely end up paying less. When someone else enters a bid, BetterThanTheBay increments the bidding just enough to leave one person the high bidder. If two people enter the same maximum amount, the high bidder is the person who placed their bid first.

Other auction sites use a similar proxy system, but you can end up being outbid by pennies, which is frustrating. BetterThanTheBay uses only whole dollar amounts, so that won't happen here.


Q:  How do I decide what my max bid amount should be?
 
A:  If you're having trouble, start by asking yourself: Would I pay $1000 for this item? $500? $250? Eventually you will get it down (or up) to the absolute maximum you would ever want to pay, ever. Consider the amount carefully, since you only get to bid once. BetterThanTheBay auctions run for up to 30 days, so you have plenty of time to research and decide.

Also remember that your bid amount does not include shipping costs. The seller's location and the item's packaged weight will be mentioned clearly in the auction description, so you can determine your postage costs in advance. Be sure to factor them in when determining your maximum amount. The same goes for any import tarriffs your country of residence may charge you.


Q:  Can I snipe auctions?
 
A:  You can, but there's really no advantage to it. Because everyone bids only once, another bidder can't chip away at your maximum using repeated bids, like they can with (*ahem*) other auction sites.

Hiding the bid amounts also prevents someone from having their maximum amount influenced by another bidder's activity ("Oh no, this other person is willing to pay $300! I'd better up my maximum to $400 to be safe!") And because bidder IDs are hidden until the auction ends, there are no revenge bids ("That jerk outbid me on the Personal Software Zork! So I'm going to make him pay more for the Mount Drash!")

Whoever bids the highest will automatically win the auction, so it really doesn't matter when you place your bid versus when they place theirs. Unless two people bid the same amount, in which case the earliest bid wins, so it may actually be to your advantage to bid sooner.

If you're still planning to snipe, be aware that YOIS is on a server using Central European Time, so be sure to account for any time zone difference.


Q:  How do I cancel or change my bid?
 
A:  You can't. You are given an opportunity to check your bid amount before placing it. After that, all bids are final. If you win an auction but for whatever reason choose not to pay your winning amount, you may be blocked from future use of BetterThanTheBay.


Q:  Why is there no "Buy It Now" option?
 
A:  BetterThanTheBay is intended for rare and possibly high-end items that are difficult to put an exact value on. More common items are more easily priced, and are relegated to the Shoppe section of the website. When I list an item on BTTB, it is because I am honestly not sure what it may go for, so I'm letting everyone else decide.

I have always felt that people who email a seller mid-auction and ask them to add a "Buy It Now" do so because they know the maximum they are willing to pay is not high enough to win the auction legitimately. So they offer what they hope sounds like a good price to the seller, when in actuality the item would have gone for so much higher if the auction were simply left alone. It's another form of the backdoor bidding I despise so much, albeit somewhat less insidious, since everyone still has a short chance to grab the item at its "Buy It Now" price, not just the person who made the suggestion. The seller still ends up getting shorted, though.


Q:  I have a question about an item being auctioned.
 
A:  Please use the "Ask Seller a Question" link on the individual auction page to submit your inquiry. Questions about auctioned items will not be answered via private email. Note that all other BetterThanTheBay users will be able to see your question, and the seller's response.

Public disclosure of all activity is the best way to keep everybody honest. Any attempts to circumvent the auction process may get you blocked from future use of BetterThanTheBay, and possibly Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe itself.


Q:  Will I know who won the auction, if it wasn't me?
 
A:  The YOIS ID of the seller and all bidders will be displayed at the end of the auction, along with the entire bidding history, including the winner's true maximum. Once both parties have left feedback and the transaction is complete, email addresses will be displayed as well. This information will remain up indefinitely, but is visible only to BetterThanTheBay users who actually participated in the auction. Everyone else will be able to see the bid amounts, but not the participants' identities.

Please do not pester winners with offers to buy the items they have won. You had your chance. Complaints about this may result in your being blocked from using BetterThanTheBay.


Shipping


Q:  Can you combine shipping if I win multiple items?
 
A:  To encourage prompt payment and keep the process streamlined, combined shipping is only available for auctions ending on the same day. Otherwise, everything will need to be paid for and shipped individually, within 10 days. (See the "Feedback" section for more information.)


Q:  Can I pay for auction items and Shoppe items together?
 
A:  Yes, you can combine fixed-price purchases from Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe with BetterThanTheBay items. Just let me know and I will package everything together and send you a combined invoice. However, this will need to be done within 10 days of the auction's closing. (See the "Feedback" section for more information.)


Q:  Why is the shipping so much, especially for international?
 
A:  Priority Mail is the U.S. Postal Service's only international shipping option that allows for insurance. I feel that these items are too rare to risk losing in the mail, so I will not ship them uninsured. Using Priority Mail for both domestic and international mailing ensures a standard box size, saving me the trouble of hunting for the perfect one. Please take the shipping amount into account when placing your bids. Combined shipping is also an option. (See the two questions above.)

Please note that, as with the Shoppe (and unlike eBay scalpers), I am not making any money from shipping. I charge only what the U.S. Postal Service charges, and if it turns out I have overcharged you, I will refund the difference.


Selling


Q:  How can I sell an item using BetterThanTheBay?
 
A:  Currently only the YOIS Shoppekeeper can use BetterThanTheBay as a seller, but this functionality will be added for other users in the near future. More information will be posted once this is ready, so please check back.


Miscellaneous


Q:  Is there feedback for auctions?
 
A:  Yes, and unlike certain other auction sites, both the winner and the seller are allowed to leave feedback, even if it is negative. Once the auction is over, a link to leave feedback will appear on the winner's and seller's summary pages, and the listing itself. Feedback is visible to all registered BetterThanTheBay users, so please do not post the other party's contact information. Three lifetime negative feedback ratings or a total feedback score of -2 will block you from any further bidding or selling.

Note that if you leave negative feedback, you will not be able to bid or leave feedback on any more of that user's auctions. This is designed to prevent feedback bombing and continued harassment. If two people have a bad experience with each other, they each get to leave one negative comment, and that's it.

One other thing. You need to leave feedback within 10 days, or you will not be able to bid or sell again until you do. This ensures that everybody gets their feedback.


Q:  Can I have more than one BetterThanTheBay account?
 
A:  Absolutely not. That's another reason for the personal approval process. There will never be any valid reason for someone to need more than one BTTB account. Any attempt at shill bidding will result in a permanent ban and being publicly outed on the site.


Q:  Is Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe changing because of this?
 
A:  The normal browsing and buying functionality is not changing at all. The only differences to the Shoppe are a couple of links on the main page and the for-sale page which point to BetterThanTheBay, and the search feature now includes active auctions in the results. Auctioned items are completely separate from items on the sale/trade list.


Q:  Why go to all the trouble of building your own auction site?
 
A:  I needed an auction site to sell rare items that I have never seen listed before, and which are difficult to put an exact price on. But to this day I still refuse to use eBay after all the needless aggravation they put me through. I looked around at other online auction sites, but there just aren't any that get the same level of traffic. Then I realized my own site already gets plenty of the type of traffic I need (vintage software collectors), so why not just code the thing myself and have complete control over it? It took some time but was not that difficult, and was actually a fun programming exercise.


Q:  I would imagine there are certain... advantages to running your own auction site, hmmm?
 
A:  As a user on BetterThanTheBay, I am bound by the same rules and restrictions as you. Having access to the inner workings of the database does allow me to peek at people's contact information and their max bids, and even alter things if I wanted to. But any abuse of this would certainly get noticed, and would make me an A-Number-One World Class Certified Organic Grade A Hypocrite, considering how often and how vocally I've spoken out against backdoor dealings on other auction sites.


Q:  What's to stop me from reselling the items I win here on eBay?
 
A:  When you sign up with BetterThanTheBay, one of the terms of use is agreeing not to do this.

The original intent with BetterThanTheBay was to get these rare items into the hands of fellow collectors who would appreciate them, without having to use a site that I personally despise. It was not to make myself a cheap source for rare items that people could turn around and sell at a huge personal profit. When I bought this lot of promotional Infocom items, I made a promise to my source (who is someone who used to work at Infocom) that, should any of them end up going for an insanely high price, I would share some of that windfall with her. Flipping items on eBay at a huge markup will rob her of that. It is not just about me or you. Out of respect for my source, I'm asking everyone not to do this.

If I do catch anyone flipping these items on eBay, I will switch the remainder of them over to a new system that will permanently replace BetterThanTheBay. The BTTB page will then feature the full contact information of whoever is responsible, which will remain up indefinitely. (This is the warning. There will not be another.)


Q: These rules are stupid, and you are stupid too... Stupid!
 
A: If you don't agree with the terms of BetterThanTheBay, then don't use it. Simple enough.


You are free to browse auctions, but you must be registered and signed in to Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe before you can use BetterThanTheBay.

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