Online bidding and no shipping?

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We sell personal property at auction live and online. For our live auctions, pickup of purchases can take place that same day or likely another day/time. For our online auctions, we ship anything we feel competent to pack and ship, and otherwise — if we can’t ship it — we allow the buyer to pickup or arrange for his or her own shipping.

However, our topic today concerns any auctioneer who sells personal property online and offers no shipping, no matter the property. As another auctioneer asked, “Why are you selling online if you don’t offer shipping?” We would add, “Why invite people to bid from far away and not ship?”

In this regard, “offering shipping” might be the auctioneer/seller shipping, the auctioneer/seller taking the property to a packing/shipping company to pack and ship, or allowing the buyer to arrange for shipping — but to offer absolutely no shipping options is unconscionable.

As I write this, it’s 2021 and not 1921 nor 1821 (and incidentally that’s a picture of an airplane above) … shipping and delivery is a part of the world economy today, and most all buyers rightly expect some shipping options. For that matter, we buy very little online if it cannot be shipped to us; it’s possibly our most material consideration.

We would suggest that for almost any auctioneer — if you are not providing for bidders from far distances, as well as shipping options for those buyers, you are not maximizing your seller’s proceeds, nor yours. For instance, we don’t ship cars from our car auction ourselves, but allow buyers from around the United States to arrange for their own shipping/transport — and they do.

At the moment, the three major players in the United States are United States Postal Service (USPS,) United Parcel Service (UPS,) and FedEx who provide shipping services worldwide. Too, there are any number of private courier, rollback, and special delivery companies. Some companies augment their shipping with packing services including boxes and other related materials.

What can the impact possibly be by offering or facilitating shipping options? A car we recently sold at auction had a high bid of $3,500 from local bidders, and then two bidders from over 1,000 miles away took the bid to nearly $7,000. The buyer secured a shipper to pickup his car 3 days later and deliver to him.

We haven’t always sold online, and even in live auctions 40 years ago, we would occasionally have bidders bid from some distance, where shipping was an issue. We accommodated those buyers with either packing and shipping their purchases, or in a few cases allowing them to arrange for such.

Here’s a simple test: Bidder calls you and asks, “Hey, I’m interested in Lot #341 but I’m in … do you ship?” Your answer: “No, we don’t ship.” Bidder responds, “Okay, can you take the item to a local shipper and have them pack and ship?” Your answer: “No we can’t do that.” Bidder responds, “Can I have someone pickup the item for me?” Your answer: “No, you would have to pick it up.”

Our conclusion is if you can’t help this out-of-the-area bidder at all, you don’t belong in the auction business as you are not providing even a minimum level of service for your seller. Further, before you engage any future sellers, be sure to inform them your services don’t meet with minimum standards here in 2021.

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.