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I was discussing an auctioneer’s question the other day and I told him, “You can’t do that.” His reply? “I can too do it.” Actually, he was right, he could do it, but there were, rather, substantial consequences if he did.

Here’s what we’re seeing — and hearing as auctioneers: “You may have been told that you can’t do … something … and actually you can.” What has followed? Typically radio silence. Is that the proper messaging to auctioneers? It’s not.

I’m all about strict textual interpretation of statutes, rules, court decisions as well as some reasonable interpretations of such. However, if you think about it, there’s really nothing you can’t do — it’s just that there are possible repercussions.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Can sellers bid at an absolute auctions? The law says they can’t outside of forced sales, but they can and do.
  • Can auctioneers sell “as-is” and deny any and all previews? Many attorneys tell me they can’t, but some can and do.
  • Can absolute auctions have $50,000 minimum bids? The law says they can’t but some can and do.
  • Can an auctioneer defy a Governor’s order and conduct a live auction? No, but some can and do.
  • Can auction buyers not pay for their purchase? The terms say they can’t but some can and do.
  • Can people drive 90 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone? The law says generally they can’t but some can and do.
  • Can someone murder someone else? The law says generally he or she can’t but some can and do.

Maybe every class for auctioneers should have an introductory slide saying, “You can do absolutely anything you want …!” just to set the record straight — a disclaimer of sorts? Then, thereafter we can all say things like, “You can (should) do that” and “You can’t (shouldn’t) do that.”

I was discussing watering plants with my granddaughter Ella and she said, “Grandpa, I want to water these again today!?” I told her she couldn’t water them again (they’d been watered plenty) and she replied, “Yeah I can …”

Maybe instead I should have said, “Ella, while you can water them again, there is an 87.3% chance the additional water will kill the plants, and therefore I recommend you wait to water them again next week?” Yeah, maybe not.

Of course, Ella could have said, “Grandpa, I’m going to pour two gallons of water into this one-pint pot,” and I could have possibly replied, “You can’t do that” and been right? Nevertheless, she obviously understood as she was talking to a friend on her iPad and said, “You can’t overwater plants …” I know, I know, you can.

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.