Should auctioneers be ethical?

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We have held for decades that auctioneers should be ethical — without possibly expressing that exact wish on this platform. We have, however, suggested auctioneers be fair, equitable, reasonable, and adhere to other like standards of behavior …. and written that we believe most auctioneers are ethical despite likely public perception: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/how-ethical-are-auctioneers/.

However, our industry is tainted by some auctioneers acting unethically — and we have analyzed such and conclude that for the most part either their bad behavior is due to “always doing it that way …” or being told to do it that way in the past several years. While a common definition of ethical behavior is “Being in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the conduct of a profession or industry,” some auctioneers can’t seem to perform at that level.

Auctioneers are hardly alone, as there are unethical players in nearly all professions. We can only hope that most people act ethically and the public is smart enough to hire the right person to assist them in whatever problems need solving. It appears to us that’s happening …

If you’re an unethical auctioneer, we would offer these thoughts to help you become more ethical:

  • Treat people how you would like to be treated.
  • Remember that just because you can do so something doesn’t mean you should.
  • Note that just because you don’t have to do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
  • Keep in mind that nearly everyone has a smartphone in hand and can video/audio record you at any time.
  • With the Internet, news about your behavior (bad or good) can travel and spread in a matter of seconds.
  • Public perception is paramount, and you are always on stage.
  • Be very discerning where you secure your advice about how to behave as an auctioneer.

Another way that you as an auctioneer can become more ethical is to surround yourself with ethical auctioneers. The merits of ethical behavior will benefit you as you learn from others how long-term thinking about reputation, and your personal brand, becomes apparent.

As well, your state auctioneer association in addition to the National Auctioneers Association offers classes on ethics that are well worth your time, while allowing you to learn from others in those associations. Two good steps in ethical behavior are recognizing what it is, and understanding it has value.

Want to build a sustainable business? Want to get hired by other auctioneers? Want to be respected in your community, state, and nation? Know that ethical auctioneers who wanted these things likely reached these goals. In fact, it’s about as simple as knowing that people generally like to do business with ethical people.

As a frequent auction expert witness, we regularly see the merits of good behavior and the substantial costs of bad behavior, and in fact, may have more insight into those issues than any other auctioneer. As we’ve noted before, auction-related lawsuits in which we’ve been engaged have sought damages as high as $75 million with far more financial and non-financial outlays.

Ethical behavior, coupled with legal behavior has never been more important for the auctioneer community, and every auctioneer on earth. If you still want to be in business in the next few years, make a commitment to sustained ethical behavior for the benefit of your sellers, bidders, buyers, and you.

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, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.