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Auctioneers want to maximize the bidder pool. In doing so, many of us are allowing online bids either placed in real-time and/or for the software to execute. For bids left for the platform, bidders can bid right along or leave a “maximum bid” and let the online program bid “for them.”

If live bidding is taking place in addition to online bidding, sometimes the live bidder bids the online bidder’s maximum bid. For instance, the online bidder’s maximum bid is $2,000. A live bidder bids $1,800 and the software bids for the online bidder at $1,900, and the live bidder bids $2,000.

At this point, the software can’t bid for the online bidder anymore, even though this online bidder left a maximum bid of $2,000 — almost assuredly before this live bidder bid $2,000. The online bidder’s argument is usually, “I bid $2,000 before the live bidder bid $2,000, so why didn’t I win the property?”

Before we address that issue, wouldn’t it be in the auctioneer’s and seller’s interest to accept the online maximum bid in hopes the live bidder bids more, rather than accept the live bidder’s $2,000 knowing for sure the online bidder won’t bid again?

In fact, when the opportunity presents itself, experienced bid callers will often take a bid from someone who’s about done bidding, so that another bidder can outbid him, rather than take a bid from the bidder with “more in his pocket” where the other bidder doesn’t bid again …

So could the online platform (and thus the auctioneer) accept this bid for the online bidder for $2,000 instead of the live bidder? It could if the technology raised the online bidder’s $1,900 bid to $2,000 automatically — in specific cases such as this — so this didn’t (or did) happen.

Of course, software (or in a live setting) placing a higher bid for a bidder who’s already the high bidder could only be done with that bidder’s knowledge and consent. As my phone continues to ring, it appears to me online “maximum bid” bidders would gladly consent to such a practice.

The technical part of this issue is the “maximum bid” isn’t a bid until it’s placed (offered.) As such, the maximum online bid of $2,000 isn’t a bid — and rather a bid to be placed — and the first $2,000 bid here is the initial live bid for that amount. The online bid of $2,000 at that point can’t be accepted.

Ultimately, a live or another bidder could bid $2,000 even if the last bid wasn’t $1,900 so there are no guarantees, but this would alleviate this common problem of the online maximum bid being on the wrong increment and feeling disenfranchised. Possibly software could offer bidders a choice — bids placed as they naturally occur, or allow the bidder to outbid himself one more bid to land on their maximum bid exactly?

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, Brandly Real Estate & Auction, 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 has served as faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.