Does the place matter?

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unitedI’m just boarding my flight from Chicago to Kansas City.

I find my seat, and pull the Hemispheres (United Airlines) magazine from the back of the seat in front of me.

My quick page scanning lands me on page 40 where an article from well-known New York writer Annie Daly appears titled, “The thrill of the place.”

Annie’s article is about her dating experiences. She contrasts finding a date in person while standing in line at an English pub to years later using an online dating app on her phone to find a date in the immediate area of her travels.

She concludes that finding “Adam” in line at that English Pub was materially different than finding “Chris” via her Tinder app while traveling in Costa Rica. The difference? She found Adam in a place; she found Chris online.

Annie offers that the place matters. The surroundings, the sights, smells, sounds and other sensations of the place where her prospective date is located is material. Annie suggests that she might have passed right by Adam on an app, where seeing him in person led to an eight-week affair (contrasted with her 24 hour affair with Chris.)

As an auctioneer, I too think place matters. We recently sold a mahogany drop-front writing desk of no particular significance … except that it was in a bedroom, covered with a light coat of dust, surrounded by other antique furniture, on a bright hot and humid summer day.

This 1920’s writing desk sold for $320. In checking online auction results of similar desks, the highest price we could find for a recent sale in our market was $200. Did bidders bid more for our desk in the place where it was sitting than they would have paid for this same writing desk online?

There is little question that an online auction would allow more bidders to participate — from all parts of the world. However, does this desk look and feel more valuable when seen in place? Viewed as more valuable in person?

Beyond property considered a commodity (#2 yellow corn, Energizer 9V batteries, 20 pound copy paper … for example) bidding and buying at auction is emotional. How the environment where the property is presented makes the bidder feel no doubt impacts the perception of value.

Of course, the environment could prove to be a detriment to the perception of value as well. This same writing desk sitting in a row of office desks and chairs in a cold, wet warehouse … presents a different environment — place — where the ultimate sale price would no doubt be less.

Similarly, I find I only read Hemisphere magazines when in a United plane, despite having the magazine available to me otherwise; it does seem clear the place matters. To the extent auctioneers position property in favorable places, bidder response likely coincides.

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 Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.

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