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Auctions are seductive — plain and simple. People come to auctions thinking they might get a deal.

In fact, we coined the phrase “prospect of a deal” some time ago.

Yet, despite this powerful draw to an auction, can an auctioneer make it so difficult to participate, that he or she drives bidders away?

Auctioneers put obstacles in the way of auction bidders, and for the most part they continue to participate — to an extent. Put too many obstacles in their way, and they won’t attend?

Here are the most common live and/or online auction bidder obstacles as we interviewed Dale Offenwin, an almost obsessed auction goer:

  • Finding the auction
    “Many auctions are listed on the Internet or otherwise, with no address, no city, no state, no zip code, no directions, no parking instructions … and a fairly new phenomenon known as “signs will be posted day-of,” which depends on those signs remaining in place, easily found, and allowable by local law.”
  • Communication
    “Far too many auction advertisements have no website mentioned, no phone numbers, no email address, no auctioneer’s name … in other words, no way for me to communicate with the auctioneer or any of his or her staff. If I have a question, I typically can’t get it answered.”
  • Prior to auction
    “Too many auctions hide or otherwise have 7,000 word “terms and conditions” publications to read over before bidding — sure, I’ll read these 14 pages! Of course, there are auctions with no terms and conditions at all. Registration can be complicated with multiple forms of identity required, and/or putting in credit card information prior to the auction. Previews are sometimes limited in time allowed, and/or crowded preview areas.”
  • Live Auction Bidding
    “Most auctioneers talk fast — that’s to be expected. However, too fast is hard to understand and makes bidding difficult. Two ringman holding up items at the same time — which is selling now, and which is selling next? Where’s that item I saw on the website? With 2,000 items over 10,000 square feet, sometimes the search is daunting. And, the most unsettling? I have to bid against other people — who want the same item I do!”
  • Online Auction Bidding
    “Online bidding …aaugh. Now, for the most part, it’s fine. However, even with 29 pictures, I can’t really get a good look at some things I want to buy. And, I’ve had a few issues with the pictures not accurately depicting the item. I do get a bit distracted on my computer, and miss a few bids. But here again, the most unsettling? I have to bid against other people — who want the same item I do!”
  • Protection
    “If there is one phrase in the auction business I hear more often than any other — it’s “you’re buying ‘as-is’ today.” As such, I get no warranties, no guarantees, no returns nor recourse so long as, I suppose, there isn’t any misrepresentation on the part of the auctioneer. And, it happens all the time — this is a ‘7 inch Rawlins Blacksmith Vise in great condition’ when a better description would have been a ‘6 inch Ray Lyn Blacksmith Vise in fair condition’ but I’m buying it ‘as-is?'”
  • Payment
    “I think I’ve seen it all …and it runs the gamut. From cash only, no checks, no out-of-state checks, no out-of-local-area checks, no checks unless you know the auctioneer personally, bank letter-of-guarantee required, no credit cards accepted, no “certain” credit cards accepted, minimum credit card charge policies, finger printing checks, two pieces of identification, three pieces of identification …and of course, typically no financing or payment plans — all due immediately.”
  • Pickup/Shipping
    “When I attend a live auction, I usually have to get my items out that same day; there might be a pickup time, but it’s rarely convenient. When I bid online or absentee, I usually have my item shipped, but that’s usually expensive and involves some risk — some risk of never receiving my item at all, or receiving it in good condition. “

Yet, with all these obstacles, Dale Offenwin checks auctions in the newspaper and online almost every day. It’s rare a day passes that he doesn’t attend an auction or bid on items in an online auction. Dale says, “I know there are a bunch of obstacles, but I still love the thrill — of getting a deal.”

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 Greater Columbus Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction and. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.