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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Are auctions addicting?

You may have heard that a 28-year-old Russian man has brought suit against Bethesda Game Studios?

He played the video game Fallout 4 for three weeks solid, resulting in loss of his friends, job and wife.

His suit claims that the video game [company] ruined his life and did not provide him any warning of the game’s consequences.

One could certainly use the word, addicted. Our question today is, can auctions be addicting? We’ve been in the auction business over 30 years. In that time, we’ve held thousands of auctions and there are some bidders/buyers who have attended almost every auction.

For instance, Bob started coming to our auctions in the late 1980’s and attended every one until his health failed around 1997. Bob passed away in 1999; we were contacted by the attorney for his estate to auction the remaining items in his home.

When I met the attorney there, it was as if every item he owned was purchased at auction — our auctions, and other auctions in central-Ohio. Many small items remained in the flats with clerk tickets stuck in the boxes, as if to track the prices paid.

Most furniture pieces still had lot (consignor) stickers on them and I recognized the handwriting of both our staff and others who worked in the auction industry in our area.

The attorney told me that Bob’s estate had little cash, and that the auction net proceeds would be used to pay some modest remaining obligations. It appeared to me Bob’s earnings from his job were used primarily to purchase items at auction.

We counted 37 hammers, 24 electric drills, 18 coffee makers, 22 computers and at least 30 televisions. There was so much furniture, it was difficult to walk from room to room. The basement was full of boxed items — no less than 200 boxes stacked floor to ceiling.

About a week after meeting the attorney there, our trucks and staff arrived to clean out the house, and bring all salable property to our auction house (the house had no electric and some plumbing issues, and there was less than ideal parking in the area — or we would have had the auction onsite.)

Bob’s daughter showed up to say, “Hi” and check on our progress. She confirmed that Bob was at an auction almost every day beginning about 1987. She said, “I think he was addicted to auctions …” I think she was right. She also noted that he did, “little else” including seeing her, his grandchildren, and didn’t take very good care of himself either.

According to the experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) addiction is:

A chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive [drug] seeking and abuse, and by long-lasting chemical changes in the brain.

While Bob’s addition wasn’t drugs, it seems he did exhibit chronic, compulsive behavior, and I don’t doubt there were some chemical changes in his brain causing him to attend an auction almost every day.

Some might consider Bob a hoarder — and does that not represent an addiction as well? By purchasing repeatedly at auction, did his addiction evolve to hoarding? Maybe.

Nonetheless, many personal property auctioneers report seeing the same people at almost every auction … almost regardless of what in particular is being put up for sale.

Are those folks addicted to auctions? They could be … and while that isn’t all bad, are auctioneers subject to possible litigation with a claim that auctions are causing the addiction and the related damages thereof?

I’ve not heard of a case, but I hadn’t seen any material video game addiction cases until this recent Russian case. This might be an interesting subject to keep an eye on, and another consideration for a clause in terms and conditions regarding a warning or disclaimer?

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Adjunct Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.

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