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You may have won your dream home? You may have won the lottery? You may be pregnant? I would suggest uncertainty is something most people aren’t generally looking for …

In fact, we proposed some time ago that “may” may be the worst word to use in the auction industry: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/what-may-be-auctioneers-terms-conditions-worst-word-choice/

Yet, there appears to be auction software (online) which notifies bidders they “may have won.” Which means as I read it, that these same bidders “may have not won?” Does this message indicate bidding is complete? Does this message indicate something else has to happen to then see if I’ve won or not? If so, what is that …?

I have noted that a few auctioneers have in their terms — essentially — “You may have won … means you have won.” If that’s the case, why does the software say “may have …?” Further, if this message means the bidding is not quite complete, then can I bid again if necessary? Can anyone still bid against me? If that’s the case, why does the software say anything?

Rather, during an auction until the high bidder is deemed the winner, he is always in a position of maybe winning — that is if nobody else bids. For those unfamiliar with bid calling contracts, here is our treatise concerning: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/bid-calling-is-just-numbers/

It could be that this “feature” (using that term lightly) is beneficial in a simulcast auction? As such, the auctioneer would be the person to close the bidding by use of “the fall of the hammer or in [some] other customary manner (per UCC 2-328 (2): state law?” The software would only be indicating that they essentially see the light at the end of the tunnel …?

Or this “may have” is maybe the default setting and is purposely vague? Can the auctioneer change this message? It appears many don’t actually change the setting, but rather post messages that indicate “may have won” and “won” are synonymous. I wonder when eBay, Amazon, Walmart and others will begin regularly using (saying) … “may have won” when items are maybe purchased?

Here’s my recommendation: If software companies want to service the auction business, they need to understand the auction business, and make the software commensurate with state and federal laws, considerable contract law precedent and work with auctioneers in a collaborative fashion. Too, everyone in the auction business needs to realize consumers have choices — and the more difficult, confusing and ambiguous buying at auction gets, the less these consumers will choose to participate.

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, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.