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Bidders at auctions behave in all kinds of ways. From very serious buyers to others who just come to watch.

Our subject today regards one such bidder who routinely notes that an item has some sort of defect — such as it’s broken, damaged, worn — or otherwise not as the auctioneer has represented.

Of course, an item can be broken, damaged, worn or otherwise not as the auctioneer has represented and this is a legitimate concern of any prudent bidder.

However in this particular case of concern a bidder falsely notes such an issue with an item, and announces such fabricated concern loudly with the intent for other interested bidders to hear.

For instance, in the case of a pristine Mettlach Stoneware Bluebells vase, the perpetrator may say, “Look! This has been repaired,” for the sole purpose of others hearing, and taking note of, his so-called concern.

The offender announces such to implant doubt about the vase in other bidders. The hope of the offender is the other bidders bid less, or don’t bid at all, and he can buy the pristine Mettlach Stoneware Bluebells vase at a discount — which has actually not been repaired at all.

Auctioneer Robert Weiman discussed this behavior and related it to Proverbs 20:14 “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.” Others refer to this as, “jawing” where a person stresses the worthlessness of some item, in order to obtain the item for a lower price, and then the buyer boasts of his good fortune proving his assertions were false.

This type of behavior is illegal. The Sherman Antitrust Act was named after Senator John Sherman, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; the Act was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison on July 2, 1890. We wrote about “What is collusion at an auction?” and referenced the Sherman Antitrust Law.

As late as 1993, the United States Supreme Court commented about the Sherman Antitrust Act with these remarks:

    “The purpose of the [Sherman] Act is not to protect businesses from the working of the market; it is to protect the public from the failure of the market. The law directs itself not against conduct which is competitive, even severely so, but against conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself.”

Auctioneers are advised to take note of such behavior, and take appropriate action. Such action should include at minimum talking with the offender about the illegal nature of his actions and/or barring him from this and future auctions. The United States Department of Justice investigates such crimes. For offenses committed on or after June 22, 2004, the maximum fine is $100 million for corporations and $1 million for individuals, and the maximum jail sentence is 10 years.

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. 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.