Yet, I see this word in countless auctioneers’ terms and conditions, and suggest it’s the worst possible word choice.
What is this word? “May.”
I have told thousands of auctioneers to be — if nothing else — consistent. Instead of closing the auction with a variety of “customary manners” (“Sold!” “It’s yours!” “Right here!” …) I suggest only one — “Sold!” Instead of sometimes reopening the bid when a bid comes in “while the hammer is falling …” and sometimes not, I suggest always reopening or never reopening — which leads to my conclusion “never reopening” is far better.
Yet, we see terms and conditions saying auctioneers “may reopen,” or “may refuse a bid if …” or “may keep the bid between two bidders” and the like which of course suggests auctioneers may not reopen, may not refuse, and may not keep the bid between two bidders.
Steve Proffitt probably said it best … “This consistent policy avoids complaints of favoritism and capriciousness.” Start treating bidders differently or arbitrarily and you’re asking for legal problems; the case in which I just testified regarding in Orange County Superior Court dealt with this very issue, to the tune of over $3,000,000 in damages sought.
So what are auctioneers to do? Generally speaking, given a choice of legal, ethical and reasonable options (A or B) — pick one — do A or do B, but be consistent. Further, given that, which of A or B do you want to always do — which is better? Pick that one and always do it.
This issue [“may” be] is just about this simple …
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.