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There is a disturbing practice going on within online auctions where auctioneers are using “Lot 0” (or some other lot) as an informational post.

For example, “You must pay within 48 hours, preview is Tuesday 2-5 p.m., credit card will be charged within 3 hours of auction close …”

What’s the problem? People are actually bidding on this Lot 0 — trying to buy the auctioneer’s terms and conditions, I suppose … but is this the problem? Not really.

Auctioneers are pointing out how foolish these bidders are … and one might counter how foolish is it to put terms and conditions in one of the lots for the auction? Is there a better way? There should be and in fact, there are far better ways.

Online auction platforms have (or should have) an input area for each auction event’s terms and conditions — and that information can (or should) be displayed at the top of that auction listing. Then, Lot 0, 1, 2, 3 … (or even better, Lot 1, 2, 3 …) would be lots which invite bids for property.

Suppose an auctioneer had an auction house with a sign on a door that said “Enter here …” but in small print said “This sign in only for informational purposes; no entry?” People come into the auction house, grab the door knob to this door, try to enter and then realize the door is locked. How many auctioneers would have such a sign up? Probably few if any.

Yet, we place terms and conditions in an actual lot of an online auction and allow bidding on that lot and are surprised people try that door … er, bid on that lot? Don’t want them to bid on Lot 0? How about don’t have a Lot 0, or don’t allow bidding on it?

Said another way, it is 2017, and with technology as sophisticated as it is, we have a Lot 0 which isn’t really a lot, and allow bidding where we don’t want any bidding? It appears so. If you’re an auctioneer, may be time to find a better solution. If your an online auction provider — it may be time to up your game.

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.