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For centuries auctioneers have — with a number of similar (or nearly identical) items — sold them “all for one money” or “choice” and/or sometimes “times the money.”

For instance, an auctioneer has 11 (eleven) old soda bottles to sell — so he might sell them all together for one price, allow the high bidder to choose 1 or more at the high bid, or sell all 11 (eleven) by the piece, times the high bid.

Any method is acceptable so long as there is clear disclosure of the chosen method. The problem is there isn’t always clear disclosure. An advertisement of “Lot of 11 soda bottles” and then in small print denoting “Selling by the piece, times 11” is not clear, and borders on misrepresentation.

In other words, is this one lot of 11 soda bottles all selling for one price? Is this rather a grouping of 11 soda bottles selling together, but 11 times the money? One such representation seems to say the former, and the other (smaller) representation represents the latter.

The argument seems to be selling by the piece, “times the money” (in this case, times 11) causes bidders to pay more in total, and as such that benefits the seller/client. If that’s the case, isn’t it clear the bidders didn’t realize [or truly comprehend] the true method — especially if there are two different conflicting statements about the method?

Shouldn’t we be making bidding as easy as possible? Shouldn’t we be encouraging bidders to participate at not only the current auction, but the next one, and the next one, and then the next one …? Isn’t full disclosure better than conflicting disclosure?

Bidders are responsible for understanding — that is so long as they are reasonably able to understand. When there is intentional — or even unintentional — misrepresentation or conflicting representations, the burden is on the seller/auctioneer to make such more understandable.

Incidentally, anytime in our history, we have offered the high bidder the option of rescinding his or her bid if there is a misunderstanding of “all for one” or “choice” or “times the money.” We have had customers thank us for that consideration, and return year after year to many more auctions.

One could argue when the bidder thinks one thing and the auctioneer is selling something else, there’s no contract, as there’s no “meeting of the minds.” We’ve routinely sat in many courtrooms regarding numerous material auction assets, and that’s generally how many attorneys and courts view it …

Too, live auctions are distinctly different than online-only auctions — wherein the latter personal inspection is often not practical and there’s customarily no actual oral (audible) announcements. We’re increasingly seeing online auctioneers use various print sizes to show what they want you to see, and what they don’t want you to (necessarily) see.

You as an auctioneer can sell all for one, choice or times the money as you wish and certainly, you are to endeavor to maximize the seller’s position. Just be careful to be clear about the chosen method, and not have conflicting (nor shrouded) information which causes the buyer to not correctly recognize your true plan.

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.