Auction Horror Stories



I am sure almost any auctioneer that has been in the auction business for a number of years can tell you some horror stories about things that happened at their auction. I had one happen to me last year where the seller pulled several main item from the sale a few days before the auction. I decided to cancel the auction because the items he pulled were items that would attract the most bidders to the auction. According to our contract, he paid me a withdrawal/cancellation fee.

I thought about that situation when I went through an Auction Disaster Prevention and Recovery Class when I was at Indiana University last March for my second year CAI (Certified Auctioneer Institute) class. The class was taught by Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE.

This was the situation: A Farmer was retiring, moving to another state,  and was selling his shop equipment, his tools, some personal household items and three like-new McCormick Deering Farmall F20’s in pristine condition. These tractors are highly prized by tractor collectors all over the United States and each one could demand as much as $25,000.

With the auction about three weeks out, the auctioneer’s web-site was updated with pictures and descriptions of each item including the Farmalls. The auctioneer contracted with an online auction company to use their online bidding platform and credit card system.

Newspaper ads were placed, postcard mailings were sent out in addition to an email blast to over 1,500 previous customers and antique tractor investors. Signs were strategically placed. And then the phone began to ring, people wanting to know more about the auction.

Auction day arrived and there were over 400 people in attendance with about 390 of them looking hard at the F20’s. 170 bidders were registered online, mainly for the Farmall F20’s.

The auction was set to start in 30 minutes when the farmer walks up to the auctioneer and says, “We need to talk”. The farmer said, “Last night, I sold the three F20’s to my neighbor, Kenny. He gave me a fair price and I’ve always wanted him to have them. I just wanted you to know that.”

With over 400 people there live and another 170 registered online, what should have been the auctioneer’s response to the farmer? The answer: it depends. It depends on how the auction contract was drawn up.

I share this to explain that many sellers do not understand the process that takes place when an auction is used to sell property, whether real or personal. In most cases, this is the auctioneers fault.

Some sellers misunderstands the efforts that are put into marketing, hoping to bring the highest price through competitive bidding. Many think that an ad is run here and there, then all the auctioneer needs to do it wait for the auction day to arrive. And some do not understand the “due diligence” process that goes on behind the scene.

If you are considering an auction to sell your home, farm/land, personal property, business, etc., sit down with the auctioneer and ask him/her about the behind the scene process of putting together the auction. I am sure he/she would love to discuss this with you. Even if it was permitted, once you understand the process of competitive bidding, I don’t think you would want to pull high end items from your auction.

To learn more about auctions, go to our website and click on the FAQ at the top of the page or call us at 252-257-4822.

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