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Live auctions have been around for over 2,000 years … so what could be better? Oh my gosh, we have the Internet — so let’s replicate (to an extent) the live auction experience online?

Sunday, November 10 I boarded a plane to Philadelphia to serve as lead auctioneer for an event there on Monday. I arrived at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio early morning and stood in a fairly short line to check my baggage. That’s when it began:

  • The ticket counter service person said, “Sorry for your wait … where are you going today?”
  • The TSA Pre✓® agent who had stepped away briefly said, “Sorry for the delay here … how are you today?”
  • The Starbucks line was modest and yet as I approached the service area I heard, “Pardon for the wait, what can I get you?”
  • The ticket agent announced over the loudspeaker, “I apologize for the delay, Flight 4473 is now boarding.”
  • As we neared Philadelphia, the pilot remarked, “Folks, sorry for the minor delay arriving, but we have a clear landing and open gate waiting for us.”

While you might notice the generally courteous attitude I encountered on my trip, the other thing that stands out is that every single one of them assumed I didn’t want to wait … and why would I?

Here’s our point. Just because you can replicate something on the Internet, should you? Younger consumers (maybe all consumers?) want things now, not later. Yet, auctioneers put items online making these same buyers do exactly the opposite.

What other buying experience online makes the buyer wait? You can buy a car with a click, a house with a click, insurance, groceries, clothing, even secure financing for a home purchase … with a click — no waiting other than possibly shipping time.

As we’ve previously noted, eBay started in 1995 with a 100% online auction marketplace. Today, almost 90% of eBay is “Buy-it-now” rather than an auction format (last data we’ve seen is from 2017 where it was 88% Buy-it-now.) Incidentally, right now it’s 2020, not 1995.

Auctioneers can certainly talk fast … selling an item every 30 seconds and even faster. But how fast is the Internet? In most metropolitan markets here in 2020, it’s almost instantaneous. So we have this super-fast platform which makes bidders/buyers wait 7 days?

Is a “Buy-it-now” environment feasible for every type of property? It’s becoming that way, as more and more past sales data is becoming available. “What’s anything worth?” More than ever, that’s discoverable.

Yes, people have to wait for the live auction event — and notice we said event with personal interaction, food, seating, conversation and sometimes other products/services for sale. Online auctions are not really events and compared to all other interactions online, they’re painfully slow.

Even worse, some auctioneers put their online auctions up and don’t allow anyone to bid for several days or even a week or more. We wrote about that malpractice here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/look-were-not-open-yet/.

It appears to us an online auction with no opportunity to “Buy-it-now” is the worst. Better is an online auction with a “Buy-it-now” option. In fact, maybe just as prudent is a “Buy-it-now” format with some sort of deadline. Want to have a live auction event? Go ahead, have one.

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.