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I’ve only used the term once before on this platform. Generally, people use the word, “anomalist” for 2-3 different circumstances, but in this treatise, I’m using the definition, “someone who has a special interest in exceptional cases” to the detriment of their clients.

There are anomalists in every walk of life, so this not an indictment on auctioneers — but I find anomalists in the auction profession and would like to share this dangerous philosophy. In essence, this is an auctioneer not doing the best for his or her client, because, “something bad might happen.”

For instance, here are three such philosophies I’ve noticed in the last year or two:

  • An auctioneer told me he would not have an online auction (despite that benefiting his client) because (of the small chance) the online platform might go down.
  • Many auctioneers have told me they can’t have an order of sale (despite that benefiting their clients) because (of the small chance) something might happen where the order will need to be changed.
  • Some auctioneers have told me that they never conduct absolute auctions (despite that benefiting their clients) because (of the small chance) possibly nobody will show up willing to bid market value.

In other words, I can’t have an online auction, order of sale, nor an absolute auction because this “exceptional case –something might happen (with very small odds)” might show my decision to be flawed.

Yet, let’s penalize all our other clients with no online usage, no order of sale, nor any absolute auctions to save possibly harming one client. Do you as an anomalist auctioneer inform your client your results are going to be safeguarded, but not outstanding?

There is no guarantee any auction will work perfectly — and in fact many do not. We wrote about that concept a few years ago here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/auction-events-are-often-not-perfect/.

Let’s be more specific … for example:

An auctioneer never has absolute auctions because, “something could happen.” He conducts 100 “with reserve” auctions with mixed results (smaller attendance, less than market value results, etc.) where the auctioneer who conducts 100 “without reserve” auctions has great results (large crowds, market values, etc.) but apparently risks that one client not being served by this format.

Are we as auctioneers trying to meet the minimum level of service, producing mediocre results so that no client is ever harmed, or do we do everything we can to “hit this auction out of the park” knowing possibly something less-than-optimal could (or not) happen? Obviously, every auctioneer should discuss this dichotomy with every client.

Not coincidentally, we’ve conducted some online auctions, had property sell in a certain order, and sold a bunch of real and personal property absolute. We’ve had some astonishing results from all these decisions satisfying 1,000’s of clients, and yes, once in a great while a less-than-optimal result.

So should we change our strategy and not have any outstanding results for anyone to save that once-in-a-great-while-client not happy with our decisions? We don’t think so, and we don’t recommend you think so either.

Our conversations with clients typically follow this pattern: “We’re going to do all we can to maximize your position and exceed your expectations … we’ve had similar successes with these same steps.” We can’t guarantee results, but no auctioneer can, including even anomalist auctioneers.

It’s not for me to direct any auctioneer on how to conduct his or her business. I will tell you, however, that your clients need fully informed if you are taking unnecessary precautions lessening their chances of success in order to address an exceptional case that is very unlikely to happen.

In this situation, if you feel for any one seller, an absolute auction has a 95% chance of success, where there is a 5% chance of not succeeding, what do you recommend for this client? We recommend an absolute auction, where an anomalist auctioneer might not — given this “5%” “could happen.” Of course, this is difficult to assess exactly, and different sellers have disparate tolerances for risk/reward.

Finally, not every seller/owner is suitable for auction marketing — and I suppose it’s fair to say not everyone is suitable to be engaged in the auction business … mainly because “something could happen.” But, finding that occupation with no risk may result in a job with little — if any — reward.

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.