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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Online auction bidders don’t read?

I know this is probably true, and I keep hearing it from other auctioneers that it’s true so we’ll start with this: online auction bidders don’t read. Basically an online auction bidder sees what he wants, and clicks to bid on it …

Terms and conditions of an auction [particularly online-only or simulcast] might say, “No shipping,” “15% Buyer’s premium,” “$20 handling fee,” “Buyer must reside …,” and further even if the item is described in detail including item location, questions often include, “What size is it?”, “Where is the item located?”, “What does it cost to ship?”, “What’s this $20 fee about?” “I only bid $50 but the invoice says I paid $57.50?”

Auctioneers have tried putting these terms in bold print, italic print, repeating the terms and conditions several places on the website — and even putting the information in Lot 0 (or Lot 1) where bidders don’t read that either and ironically and routinely place bids on the actual terms and conditions disclosure.

We wrote about this particular Lot 0 (or Lot 1) phenomenon here: While bold or italic print, or notices posted several places, online auction bidders apparently don’t read any of it.

What’s the solution? There may not be one. Take another look at the above graphic and how many times do we all see such a discussion on Facebook or otherwise? I’ve written over 900 articles about the auction industry, such as this one, and am frequently misquoted as I guess people don’t read what I [actually] write either.

I think to an extent, the Internet generally has taught people not to read terms and conditions. How many people read other terms and conditions when, for example, updating software or downloading something? 1,000 words? 10,000 words? 100,000 words? We all pretty much press the “I agree” or “Okay” button and proceed … I really can’t blame anyone for not reading auction terms and conditions.

We don’t read any of this day-to-day Internet stuff because we can’t change it, counter it or alter it — we just have to agree to it, so we do. Auctions aren’t seen as much different and as a result, or terms and conditions keep getting longer and more one-sided and unfair.

We wrote about “unconscionable” auction terms from a legal standpoint, here Western State University College of Law Emerita Law Professor Edith R. Warkentine wrote about her perspective:; our complete analysis is here:

The other issue with any one auctioneer’s terms and conditions, almost every auctioneer has different terms and conditions. Some ship and some don’t — some have a buyer’s premium and some don’t — some have special fees or time frames and others don’t, different rates, costs, surcharges, etc.

My point is, there is very little uniformity so bidders have really nothing to become accustomed. Maybe the Internet has otherwise made bidders/buyers think it’s all the same? You’re an auctioneer and your bidders aren’t paying attention or otherwise noting your specific terms, conditions and other expressions? Indeed.

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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