How Does the eBay BEST OFFER Option Really Work?

Posted on July 23, 2008. Filed under: eBay | Tags: , , |

The eBay “BEST OFFER” option is supposed to allow the eBay buyer and seller to negotiate a lower price.  The negotiation begins with the seller choosing to use the BEST OFFER option on a fixed price or store inventory listing.  Then the buyer makes an offer to the seller using the formal BEST OFFER system rather than simply exchanging emails and conducting a transaction outside of eBay.  The seller can accept the offer, can reject the offer, can make a counter-offer, or simply ignore the offer.  The offer and/or counter-offer is good for 48 hours unless the auction ends sooner.  Below is information I copied directly from the eBay website:


Making a Best Offer – Information from the eBay site for Buyers


Best Offer is an option available for Buy it Now items that allows you to make an offer to buy the item at a price that you select. The seller can accept, decline or counteroffer your Best Offer. A seller chooses to receive Best Offers when creating a listing for an item. If you see the Make Offer button in the listing below the Buy it Now price, the seller has decided to consider Best Offers from buyers.

Important: If the MakeOffer button does not appear on the listing, the seller is not interested in receiving offers and you should not try to contact this seller through other means to negotiate price or terms. This is a violation of eBay’s Offers to Buy or Sell Outside eBay policy.

When to Respond to a Best Offer

You should use Best Offer only when you’re serious about purchasing the item, service or property at your Best Offer price. Like the bids made on auction-style listings, your Best Offer is binding. if your offer is accepted by the seller, you are obligated to pay for the item, service or property.

Best Offers are good for 48 hours, or until the listing closes, whichever comes first.

Best Offer gives you the chance to negotiate the price with the seller. One advantage of a Best Offer is that you have the opportunity to buy the item at a lower price than the Buy It Now price. However, you should only make what you consider to be your “best” offer for the item because any seller who receives multiple offers for an item is likely to accept the highest Best Offer.


Making a Best Offer – Information from the eBay site for Sellers

If you are selling an item with a fixed price, as part of the listing process you can choose the Best Offer option. With Best Offer, you give buyers a chance to negotiate with you on price. It’s used mostly for high-price items such as cars, boats, and jewelry. Each Best Offer is good for up to 48 hours. A Best Offer is binding, just like any other bid. There is no charge to use Best Offer but it does have some limitations and restrictions.

After you receive a Best Offer, you can do one of the following:

  • Accept the Best Offer and end the listing.
  • Decline the Best Offer. You can explain your reasons to the buyer if you want to.
  • Respond with a counteroffer. If the buyer doesn’t respond within a reasonable amount of time, you can let the counteroffer expire.
  • Let the offer expire after 48 hours or when the listing ends, whichever comes first.
Now that I have described how the BEST OFFER system is meant to work, I’ll tell you how eBay’s BEST OFFER system really works.  First, never a day goes by without a potential eBay buyer emailing me to ask if I would take less for an item I have listed that does NOT have the Best Offer option.  Some days I have dozens of those emails.  And to each and every one of the potential buyers I have to respond to let them know that the item they are inquiring about does not have the BEST OFFER option and I give a short explanation of the BEST OFFER option.  Now, of course, half the time the potential buyer comes back and is extremely agitated.  They make sure to tell me that they know what the BEST OFFER option is, they know that the item did not have a BEST OFFER option and that is why they were emailing me, and that they are not stupid and geez! they were just asking a simple question where I could have simply responded with a no instead of explaining the BEST OFFER system.


Someone who doesn’t sell on eBay might be asking themselves why I am “complaining” and why I don’t just ignore the emails.  I am certainly not required to answer all emails that are asking me to violate eBay policy.  Well, I will tell you why.  Sometimes, we are not able to answer all emails right away, especially during the holidays, and the type of emails asking for “good deals” are one of the first that get pushed to the side. 

However, our experience has been that some eBayers will take a “no response given” as a “yes”.  If you don’t tell them no specifically then they feel it is safe to assume that you agree with their request.  This type of buyer will usually wait a day or two (although sometimes only a few hours) and without a response from me, they will purchase the item(s) in question and then deduct the “discount” they had inquired about.  For example, sometimes they ask if they can get $1 off each item if they buy 5 different items and so at the time of checkout they will subtract the $5 discount that was self-awarded.  And this has occured previously (I have first-hand experience) because I do not respond to their email request to have a better price.

Now, since eBay buyers can self-award discounts and when those discounts are not honored by the seller the buyers can leave negative feedback and/or report the seller for nonperformance if they do not ship for the lower price, eBay sellers today are then effectively forced to respond quickly to email requests from buyers who want to purchase the item at a discount.  eBay does not consider it extortion for the buyer to request a discount.  If the buyer asks for free golf balls to be sent with their golf club purchase then that is extortion according to eBay.  Demanding a discount, either before or after shipment, is not extortion according to eBay.  So, we spend time responding promptly to potential buyers who want cheaper items rather than focusing our efforts first on timely shipping and good customer service to buyers who do purchase our items.

Now, this type of thing is not limited to just the BEST OFFER option.  If you do not specifically say in your auction description that Local Pickups are NOT Allowed then some Buyers will absolutely put their foot down and demand that you make the item available for local pickup.  “You didn’t say in your auction that I couldn’t pick up the item… and you are in my local area… so I am going to come by and pick up the item.”  So, if you wonder why some sellers auction listing terms are incredibly long, it is because they have to include everything they will NOT do because otherwise eBay buyers will demand that they allow whatever it is that was not included as part of the terms.

But I digress… back to the BEST OFFER option.  Even when a potential buyer uses the BEST OFFER option formally there are still problems.  For example, I had one potential buyer use the BEST OFFER system to submit an offer for an item that he wanted to purchase for less than half the price I had listed.  I read the email that came in on a Saturday but I didn’t respond.  Normally, I would have checked the person’s feedback and considered making a counter-offer but the initial offer was so low that I didn’t take action at the moment the offer first came in.  And I got really busy Monday morning taking care of customers and so the offer expired.   This is the email I then received from the potential buyer:

“I made an offer for your item. Rules say you are to respond in a resonable period of time. Now I get notice that my offer expired. My offer has not expired! I belive you have failed to follow the rules and that my offer, not responded to by you, becomes the selling price. Please confirm my right to purchase immediately….I am a clergyperson. This is the best I can do.”  signed Rev Ray

I took a deep breath and then proceeded to block yet another potential buyer because I saw what was coming next — Rev Ray was going to purchase the item at the full price and then subtract out 60% of the cost in order to arrive at the discounted price that he so rightly deserves (in his own mind).

The frustrating part about selling on eBay now is that I have a harder time taking care of the good eBay buyers.  I am so busy battling eBay directly with all the glitches and unexpected problems and rule changes and I am so busy  blocking the numpty buyers and answering emails from eBayers wanting a “better deal” that my priority is no longer the true customer, the eBay buyer who actually purchases my item at the price I set and agrees to the terms I have listed and actually then pays for the item timely.    eBay simply doesn’t understand.  I am a businessperson.   I want to take care of the buyers who purchase my items because I want them to come back and buy from me again.  I want to provide good customer service.  I want to have a good reputation.  But it is becoming harder and harder to offer good customer service within the eBay system and eBay will not recognize the fact that they are creating and nurturing a system where even the best of sellers are set up to fail.

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18 Responses to “How Does the eBay BEST OFFER Option Really Work?”

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I wonder if Lorrie reads here…

I wonder what she’d say to this…?

Hi Brews,

Best Offer is an eBay feature I especially like. It reminds me of my old days doing baseball card shows, a little wheeling and dealing often leads to unexpected sales.

I have mine set so I have to manually respond to each–the reason I do this, well, I’d hate to set a $10 limit on an item only to lose the sale over a $9.75 offer. So I take a look at each offer and readily accept anything within about 20% off, and consider everything else on case by case basis dependent on my margin and how long the item has been in stock.

I have a certain bottom limit, where if you offer me below $X on any item, no matter how cheap, I’m just not interested–basically I respond saying while your offer may be fair it’s really not worth my labor for under $X.

I probably have Best Offer attached to 75% or so of my items, have been using it since they rolled it out–as I said, it immediately restored some of that old card show feel to an online venue for me. I’ve found it can create sales on an otherwise slow day, it can add items to a sale creating a bigger sale, it can even help in communication as I’ll explain my combined shipping through the notes area and get extra items to sell that way.

I did have one buyer pull the routine where they bought a bunch of items and asked for a discount afterwards, but they spent about $700 without making offers, so I figured myself ahead of the game anyway, and granted them 20% off after the fact. I ate some fees, but that’s much larger than my typical sale so I was still pretty happy.

I see Best Offer as a big part of eBay’s future success, kind of creating a reverse-auction atmosphere when used. It’s a unique feature among the big sites, at least I haven’t run into it anywhere else. I’m hoping to see them promote it better in the future.

One weakness I have noticed it when you get involved with counteroffers it is a little difficult for the inexperienced buyer to find where to go to accept a counter offer. I’ve had them incorrectly pay full price or simply wait for the counteroffer to expire before sending me a new offer at the counter price. I think eBay could do a better job of making the process clearer.

Otherwise I haven’t experienced anything like what you have with buyers–I think this may come down to categories, as we know buyers do seem to differ greatly in expectations (and behavior) across categories.

Regarding unwanted pick-ups: My line is that I rent and the landlord does not allow customers to stop by. Very sorry, but those are the rules. It’s worked everytime since I’ve thought of it!

Thanks for the post,

I thought you put that just right, and I completely agree about Best Offers increasing one’s sales.

I believe there is an eBay setting that will make it so the buyer can’t “adjust” the invoice. That would solve your issue with buyers assuming you meant yes and taking the discount by themselves.

Also, I don’t believe it is against eBay policy to ASK if the seller would take less for an item SO LONG as they do NOT try to complete the transaction OFF eBay.

Ken, sellers can choose to disallow buyers the option of changing the invoice. Unfortunately, because eBay’s system for inernational shipping is broken… it is impossible to use the checkout system to correctly calculate combined shipping for multiple items for international buyers. Therefore, I allow the buyers to change the invoice themselves because I have many international buyers who are repeat buyers. I state in my auction what the shipping cost is for multiple items and by allowing buyers to adjust the invoice, the international buyers can purchase and pay instantly. Also, the buyer who “self-discounts” doesn’t even have to use eBay’s checkout. They can pay me directly with Paypal the amount of the purchase less the discount they award themselves. So if I removed their ability to edit the invoice it still wouldn’t make any difference.

Regarding buyers who email to ASK if we would take less for an item….. Perhaps you overlooked the section in my blog where I copied DIRECTLY from the eBay site:

“Important: If the MakeOffer button does not appear on the listing, the seller is not interested in receiving offers and you should not try to contact this seller through other means to negotiate price or terms. This is a violation of eBay’s Offers to Buy or Sell Outside eBay policy.”

I’m trying to buy something with a Best Offer, and this info was helpful. As for the fellow giving you grief for not responding, I wouldn’t trust anyone who styles himself a “clergyperson.”

I know these “buyers” after the first or so email offers I just started putting them in my BBL and deleted the message. Especially in the new punishment environment. I simply couldn’t afford to say no have the buyer buy it and then trash my feedback/DSRs. So Block Block Block- that’s the new eBay!

I tried to buy something last night and had never used the Best offer option before. It rejected my offer so I kept going up in my offer, but apparently not high enough. Now it won’t let me bid anymore because I had exceeded the number of bids allowed. It does say I can purchase at the Buy it now price. Is there a certain amount of time that I can wait to try the Best Offer option again or am I banned from doing that. There are still 25 days left in the listing. Thanks!


According to the eBay Help pages: “You can make up to three Best Offers for any item. Expired offers, declined offers, and retracted offers all count towards the limit of three Best Offers.”

It sounds like the seller has an Auto-Decline option which automatically declines best offers that are obviously too low.

The Best Offer is not a “bidding” process but rather a negotiation process whereby you offer slightly less for the item and the seller considers your offer. If you input your BEST offer 3 times and it was rejected then you’ll have to use the Buy Now option if you really want to purchase the item.

My, what a troubled tale of offers I just read.

We’ve been using Best Offer on almost all our goods for over a year now, ALL. and are extremely happy with it. In fact almost 90% of our sales now happen with a best offer. easily solved, bump up the price a bit 🙂

Happy with it, So much so that our new website/store has incorporated a best offer system as well.

I was wondering if you could help me out with something. I just used the Best Offer system as a buyer for the first time a few days ago. I submitted what I thought to be a reasonable offer, and after 48 hours, it expired with no response. A few hours later, I submitted the same offer again. As of posting this, my second offer is still pending. I have not sent any emails. Was this the correct thing to do? I do not want to annoy the seller with another copy of my offer if he is uninterested in selling the item at the requested price, but if he simply missed the offer the first time because he was away from his computer, I want to give him (and myself) the chance to follow through with it. As a seller, would you have interpreted my action as a proper and polite use of the system, or as an annoying gesture. I realize sellers are people too, and I would never want to be one of the “problem customers” you described. Thanks! 🙂

Ryan, I cannot speak for other sellers but I certainly would not be offended if you had submitted another BEST OFFER for the same amount on one of my listings. That is a reasonable thing to do especially if you submitted the BEST OFFER over the 4th of July holiday weekend when many sellers may not be looking at their listings. In my opinion you were certainly properly and polite in your use of the eBay BEST OFFER system.

As a buyer, I am a little bit confuse in this Best Offer term of rule and regulation. If I choose this Make Offer selection, I am obligated to the seller for 48hours. If the seller agreed with my offering price, then I must pay with is fine. My question is:
1. Once I received the ‘Counter Offer’ from the seller, and if choose to decline it, am I still bind to that 48hour restriction? Is my agreement with the seller void now?
2. Which then lead to this question. Once I declined it, can the seller go back to accept my original offering price because that would mean I’m still bind to that 48hour regulation. Also, it means I’m screwed by the seller especially if I’m bidding on another auction.
3. Ebay only allows a maximum of 5 for best offers. Should I reach this limit, how long, days or weeks, can I resume this process again?


Remy, If you make an offer and the seller sends you a counter offer then that is the same thing as the seller declining your offer and making you an alternative offer to consider. Once the seller sends you a counter offer, you are no longer obligated to the seller for your original offer for that item.

Bidders are allowed only 3 best offers each on items (although Canada allows 5 best offers) Once you reach that limit then you can no longer submit a best offer on that particular item. Your only other choice would be to purchase it outright using the Buy Now option. Alternatively, if the item ends without being purchased and the seller relists it (so there is a new eBay item number) then you have 3 more chances (or 5 on to submit a best offer.

Hi, thank you for a Seller’s insight into Best Offer. An interesting thing is that eBay’s own page says the AVERAGE savings using Best Offer is 33%! I personally have never gotten that kind of discount, but my point is the Buyer you infer lowballed you with a 50% offer is merely trying to come near reaching what eBay claims to be the average discount rate (because Seller then counters and maybe Buyer counters, and so on).

As a Seller, if you feel that 50% is being lowballed, may I suggest that either
– there are other Sellers who do seriously consider 50% to eventually reach 33% off, or
– you pound on eBay so they don’t set such an unrealistic expectation in the Buyers’ heads.

Finally, a personal annoyance: as a Buyer I do not like it if the Seller does not bother to reply to a Best Offer. While I understand 48 hrs may not be very long if one makes a living selling on eBay, it’s the Seller who created the Best Offer option, not me!

Thanks again for your post and the opportunity to reply.

ive noticed some sellers listing the buy it now price at an extremely inflated price, hoping that someone makes them an offer, that they will accept, even if much lower than there buy it now price. For example — i offered $60 on a $160 item, and the counter offer was for $80. So now, I find it difficult to make, what the article would consider a reasonable first time offer. So while you seem to be an honest seller, I get the impression that there are too many sellers out there whose buy it now prices are ridiculous. (i but used books, where coming up with a fair price can be a little subjective).
So i really don’t know how else to find out if the seller thinks there listed price is reasonable, without making a potentially insulting offer.

I don’t blame people for trying to get a better deal. I consider myself a good ebayer with (as of now) 100% feedback, but I often ask if I can have an item for cheaper. It can’t hurt to ask.

We all like getting a better deal. Even if only $1. It makes us feel like we won something. Like we got away with something. “Haha suckers!”

YOU may think “If I was willing to accept offers, I would have put BEST OFFER -_-”

But guess what. I never put best offer but I’M willing to accept offers. Not everyone is like you.

The reason I don’t put “Best Offer” is because I don’t really want people to KNOW I’ll settle for less.

When you put a “Best Offer”, you are saying you’re willing to sell it for less. Well its pointless for anyone to choose buy now because with “Best Offer”, right off the bat someone get buy it for AT LEAST $1 less.

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