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empty chairsAuctions have been conducted all over the world, beginning as early as 500 B.C.

In the United States today, there are well over 1 million auctions held every year — maybe even 2 million.

And, in the history of auctions, we explore today if there are auctions where nobody shows up.

Let’s say a potential bidder doesn’t “show up” for an auction. It seems this must be due to one (or more) of three reasons:

    1. He didn’t know about it (lack of marketing/awareness)
    2. He knows about it but didn’t like it (didn’t want/need what was offered)
    3. He doesn’t sense the “prospect of a deal.”

What someone who is not familiar with auctions might wonder is, “Why wouldn’t there be auctions where nobody shows up? I know yard sales, estate sales, retail shops, antique stores and other business entities/events where nobody showed up on a given day … so why not an auction?”

The answer to that valid question is, “Auctions are the most seductive sales events on earth.” It’s almost unheard-of that an auction would have no bidders present given the inherent prospect of a deal, and human nature that seeks out discounts and is excited by the treasure hunt opportunity most auctions offer.

So, let’s take a closer look at the reasons nobody would show up for an auction:

  1. The auction is not advertised (or marketed) sufficiently. If no Internet ads or listings are placed, no mailings, no newspaper advertisements, no signs are put up … yes, maybe nobody shows up as nobody knows about the auction.
  2. The auction has property nobody wants or needs. If an auctioneer is selling an inventory of broken office desks and damaged file cabinets, it could be that nobody shows up because nobody needs or wants these broken desks and/or damaged files.
  3. There is no “prospect of a deal.” If an auctioneer is offering items worth about $100 with minimum bids of $125, it could well be nobody shows up because there is no opportunity to buy these $100 items for any less than $100.

How are some auctions advertised today? AuctionZip.com, auctioneer’s website, other websites, signs, emails, newspapers, mailers, brochures … even others advertise on television, radio and with news releases and resulting stories.

We submit the following:

    If an auction is this well advertised, and nobody shows up, then it must be because the property offered is completely undesirable or that there is no chance to get a deal.
    And if an auction is well advertised, and the items are desirable, then it must be because there is no chance to get a deal.
    And if an auction is well advertised, and the items are desirable, and there is the opportunity for bidders to purchase below perceived market value — then people show up.

But, what if all three criteria are met and still nobody shows up? Wouldn’t someone show up? Just to see what is there? Just to see who else is there? Just to talk with the auctioneer or another staff member there? Just to get a hot dog from the food vendor …?

Are there auctions where nobody shows up? There are indeed, and there’s always a reason.

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.