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Sometimes the online auctioneers tell the live auctioneers that they don’t have to worry about rain, snow, high wind, traffic, construction, parking … and sometimes the live auctioneers tell the online auctioneers they don’t have to worry about platform outages, cloud interruptions, software crashes … or even Russian hacking: https://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/auction-software-provider-hit-with-foreign-ransomware-attack/.

  • A few months ago we had to cancel a live auction due to pandemic restrictions and I had several telephone calls about “Why aren’t you selling online?” as these auctioneers had online auctions going nonstop.
  • More recently, my Facebook feed and text messages were blowing up due to a major auction software outage, while we were driving to our live auction that evening which ended up well attended and very successful.

As we titled this story, there are no auctions safe from disaster. As an online auctioneer, you can depend upon a third-party platform, cloud solution, or even your own platform but any system can malfunction or go down. As a live auctioneer, you can be onsite, in an auction house or a massive auction facility and you can have the weather, traffic, or a pandemic causing your live auction to “go down.” There just aren’t any guarantees in this regard live nor online.

How can you as an auctioneer guarantee your seller(s) their auction will go on? You can’t. As such, contracts involving auctioneers and sellers can (and probably should) contain clauses in case all doesn’t go according to plan. We’ve written about “force majeure” clauses more than once, including here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/05/08/contract-provisions-the-foreseen-vs-the-unforeseen/.

“Force majeure” clauses should be drawn up by your competent attorney and there are several related considerations including that they involve unforeseen (and not foreseeable) events. Plus, the laws today almost automatically give rights of suspension or termination of performance in cases of “impracticability,” “impossibility” and “frustration of purpose.”

Possibly more important than anything in the contract — is that you as an auctioneer discuss with your seller(s) about possible issues and keep good communication throughout the auction process. Auction software companies should (could) also keep in contact with their clients (?) and customers when system problems occur.

A long-time auctioneer once told me, “It’s not the circumstances, but how you react to them” that counts. I think for those experiencing limits on your live and/or online auction, there’s no better lesson for which to be mindful, understanding that no auction (live, online, and/or simulcast) is immune from disaster.

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.