Name your price … really?

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phone-1889401_1920This is Tina; we’ll talk about her more a bit later in this article.

We as auctioneers have two choices when selling anything at auction: Sell it absolute or sell it with reserve.

The absolute auction draws far more attention, but risks not meeting the seller’s expectations.

The with reserve auction draws less attention, but the seller can be protected from selling below a certain price.

Absolute auctions are often advertised as “absolute auctions.” However, they are advertised other ways as well … such as “unreserved,” “without reserve [the legal term,]” “no reserves,” and the like.

Recently, I’ve noticed some peculiar advertising which I believe means the property is selling absolute, but is it? My question is, “What does ‘name your price’ or just the words ‘regardless of price’ mean?”

As we’ve previously written, selling absolute means: “Selling to the highest bidder regardless of price” and the legal standing of the word “absolute” is the seller has the “Genuine intent to transfer to the highest bidder regardless of price.”

But auctions advertised as “name your price” or “regardless of price” might actually suggest someone can just say, “Okay, I’ll name my price: One dollar. Now, where’s my property?”

If these events advertised in this manner are indeed auctions, bidders can’t just name their price, and property doesn’t sell solely regardless of price — it actually sells with regard to price: the highest price [offer.]

Or, are these “name your price” and “regardless of price” “with reserve” auctions? If a bidder names his price, regardless of what it is, can the seller decline? I hope not …

Maybe these aren’t auctions at all? The word “auction” is either missing altogether, or buried much later in the marketing. There has been that trend/suggestion to not use that word so maybe that’s the strategy?

As we mentioned, above is a picture of Tina. She’s 31 and worked with her uncle Carl when she was a teenager at his weekly livestock auct … uh, I mean name-your-price-market. She went on to college and is now a Veterinarian. “Doc Tina” as she’s known is staring at her iPhone at one of these “name your price” events … wondering what she’s supposed to do.

“It looks like an auction, but ‘name your price?’ Sounds more like a ‘Buy-it-now,’ Tina told me. “My husband (a noted trial attorney) has never been to an auction, and he didn’t really know what this meant either.” We wonder if we asked a “room full of average people” what this meant, what percentage would know.

Lastly, the use of the word, “price” is indeed interesting in these advertisements. You can name it, and it sells regardless of it … apparently. Price actually tends to be either historical — what someone paid (where cost = price) — or what something is offered for (as in a store, the “price” tag.) We do sanction its use combined with “selling to the highest bidder …” however.

So-called auction advertising has been in a turmoil in the last few years. Maybe the tendency to be unnecessarily creative (and thus confusing and vague) will die down in the coming years, and we’ll return to using words that actually mean what we’re trying to say? Yeah, or maybe not.

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, 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 and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.