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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Online-only auction starts to close … and we have a problem

In fact, we have big problem. Let’s say we have an online-only auction with 500 lots. Per state law all across the United States, each lot is in itself an auction. 142 lots have closed (where the software has indicated/designated a buyer) and then the service goes down …

This would mean that 142 lots are already sold, and 358 lots are not sold. The auctioneer running the online-only auction extends the closing times (reloads the auction?) because of the service outage, thus giving the bidders more opportunity to bid on the remaining 358 lots when we have a problem.

In the event of an Internet outage, all lots could extend, which would open previously closed lots.

Open previously closed lots? What does “closed” mean? If it means “Sold!” then this is at minimum a breach of contract; if this doesn’t mean “Sold!” then the high bidder cannot be held to this contract … either.

I suspect many bidders would consider “closed” to mean “I have won this item.” and why in the world would an Internet outage require restarting (and thus reopening) the entire auction event? Why not just suspend (restart?) the unclosed lots?

Thus, it would be prudent for an online-only auctioneer to have in their terms that:“This online-only auction doesn’t behave nor conform to a live auction which you might be used to …if after we say your lot has closed there is an Internet problem, we will reopen your lot for further bidding. However, if there is no Internet outage nor service interruption, then we will consider “closed” to mean “Sold!”

Of course, I’m attempting to inject a bit of humor here. My question is this: Why would software not be able to partition previously closed lots from not-previously-closed-lots so in the event of a service interruption, closed lots would remain closed, and unclosed lots would extend?

We wrote earlier this year about reopening the bid and the obvious consequences:

Can anyone imagine a live auction with 500 lots and 142 lots “Sold!” and then an order from the Sheriff to evacuate the auction site, and the auctioneer saying, “Now folks, those first 142 lots have to stay here as we’re going to have to start the entire auction over …?”

Online-only auctions require the Internet to function. When there is an Internet-outage or other similar problem, the resolution shouldn’t cause more problems than it fixes. If we’re having to play carefully with our words, where “closed” means “Sold!” but in only certain instances … we should expect our bidders to be disenfranchised with the process.

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 of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Texas 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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