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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Auctioneers behaving more “reasonably”

For centuries, auction terms and conditions have been — more or less — “my way or the highway.” In fact, it’s not hard to find some attorneys suggesting the prudence of more unconscionable practices and terms.

Does this sound familiar? Bidders must agree to sales which are “as-is” where-is, all selling “with reserve,” we’ll be taking fictitious bids, lying to you, reopening sales, no guarantees, no warranties, no returns and you must pay for your property immediately and secure it yourself.

Today, we pose that to survive in the increasingly buyer-friendly marketplace in the United States, auctioneers may have to begin behaving more “reasonably.” Further, it is acutely clear litigation involving auctioneers almost always results from auctioneers acting “unreasonably.”

What do we mean by all this? While the rules we’ve always used are important, could we make our auctions more buyer-friendly? Could we treat bidders/buyers so well they would hesitate to sue us in court?

And before you say, “My 127 pages of terms and conditions are so rock solid, I would easily win in court …” It’s not winning in court, it’s staying out of court:

So let’s see … what about a return policy? What about a guarantee or warranty? What about no up charge for credit/debit card use? What about free shipping and/or delivery? What about no buyers premium? How about everything sells and you the auctioneer don’t take bids out of thin air against me?

Maybe most importantly, what about a “Buy-it-now” option?

I’ve heard it for decades now … the “younger generation” doesn’t go to auctions. While I’m not sure the “younger generation” ever went to auctions, let’s ask more generally how we get “more of the right bidders to our auctions?”

It’s not highly-one-sided, all-seller-favorable and buyers-must-take-it-or-leave-it terms and conditions which will endear bidders/buyers to our auctions in the future. Buyers of all types desire a fair playing field — if not a buyer-favorable environment.

Some auctioneers are telling me they are already thinking this way. Other auctioneers are suggesting they will spend all their time taking returns, exchanging, refunding and restocking/reselling … without apparently considering how many more bidders/buyers such policies might (would) attract.

Additionally, would such a policy shift keep bidders/buyers more content, and less litigious? My significant experience in this area assures there would be less lawsuits against auctioneers; we’re all looking for that.

It’s not that every buyer-favorable policy needs implemented right away. Rather, could you move your policies from where they are now (as-is, no warranties, no exchanges, shill bidding, running the bid, reopening the bid after sold, selling with reserve …) to something even just a bit better?

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.

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