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We have sold cars at auction for decades. More recently, those auctions have been online-only. It seems now we have bidders who are less familiar with the auction process than when we had live auctions. For instance, my phone rang from a bidder after a supposed recent auction’s close claiming essentially bidding irregularities.

This bidder told me she was the high bidder all the way up until the last few seconds when a “bunch” of bids were made and she was outbid. She also claimed she had difficulty making any additional bids and lost out on the car she wanted. She felt sure something went wrong and that she should have been deemed the winner of that car.

I assured her that bids are often placed in the last few minutes and sometimes seconds and that one can be the high bidder until the very end of the auction when other bids are placed. We’ve studied and witnessed how bids come in late in an online auction: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/online-timed-auctions-and-later-bids/.

Sure enough, I checked the bidding record for the last few auctions found this subject car and bidder. She was bidding on a car for $900 was outbid with 17 seconds to go, and the bidding continued until the car was sold for $1,187. “I was telling my sister about how crazy your auctions are months ago …” she told me.

I explained to her she had the opportunity to bid again as our auction extends an extra two minutes with each bid occurring in the last minute. Nevertheless, she wasn’t comforted by my analysis. “How can I be the winner of the car at $900 and then get outbid in the last few seconds?” she demanded to know. “That’s how it works; some people don’t bid until the very end,” I replied.

She still wasn’t convinced. “That was my car for $900 and the system wouldn’t let me bid again at the end. I was willing to go higher …” “In fact, I bought a car four years ago and paid only $761.25 for it.” I explained to her that if other bids were higher than her current bids at that point, the system would necessarily not allow her to bid. “Any bids placed have to be higher than the current bid.”

In regard to any car she might have purchased four years ago, I told her car prices are certainly up since then. We’ve seen an almost 21% increase in the number of bidders since November 2016 and prices have grown accordingly. It certainly didn’t seem relevant discussing some car she purchased years ago and she was simply outbid on this car recently.

“I think your system is rigged,” she stated sternly. “I’m going to talk with my attorney about your system and how bids come in at the very end, and it won’t let me bid again … I want that car for $900.” I informed her that her attorney could contact me via my cell phone (614) 461-9229.

The obvious (or not so obvious) problems with her so-called case include she waited months after stating she knew the system has problems to contact me (laches) and relies in part on the fact she bought another car four years ago for less (relevance,) and maybe most importantly, doesn’t understand how auctions work; we certainly can’t undo the sale of this car for $1,187 because she thinks she deserves it for $900.

Such [potential] frivolous litigation is an abuse of our judiciary system — and in addition wastes public money when lawsuits and other claims are put forward without merit. We wrote previously about frivolous lawsuits here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/11/16/frivolous-auction-lawsuits/ and threatening to sue here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/threatening-to-sue/.

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