Behind the scenes at some auctions

People show up at auctions without knowing what sometimes is going on behind the scenes. Sometimes auctioneers get caught between family members who are fighting over an estate. One auctioneer recently shared how at an estate sale the family decided to pull an item from the sale. They could not agree on selling it. Once an item is advertised it should be sold, but it can be hard for an auctioneer to sell something belonging to the family when they decide on the day of the sale to not sell it. So, he didn’t sell that item. After the sale, a buyer came to him complaining that he had waited all day to bid on that particular item. When the auctioneer tried to explain the family had decided to pull the item from the sale, the potential buyer left angry and trashed the auctioneer on Facebook.

Another auctioneer told of a time when the seller came to him the day of the sale to put a reserve on a particular item. That item came up $25.00 short of the reserve price so the auctioneer did not let it go. After the auction was over the seller said that since the price was so close to the reserve he decided to let it go. This time it was the seller who became angry when the auctioneer explained the auction was over, the high bidder had already left, and the item would not be sold that day.

I once had an estate auction where an item was stolen. Unfortunately, this does sometimes occur at auctions no matter how closely the merchandise is watched. A buyer came to me asking where that item was located, and I had to explain that it had been stolen. He had driven two hours to bid on that item. Fortunately, he understood there was nothing I could do about it and did not get angry with me.

At one auction I was working the ring for an auction house. The owner told me he had been having trouble with one consignor who thought her merchandise was worth a fortune. After all, she had gone online to look up the value of the items she was selling! Since I was working her table he told me if she began to complain about the prices she was getting to direct her to him. Soon into the auction I walked past her and she was stopped me to tell me how old one item was. There was no way to prove its age so when I offered it for sale I simply said it was an antique piece, which was obvious, without giving all the other information she had given me. She was not happy! I directed her to the auctioneer who invited her to remove the rest of her items from the auction. I learned later she had offered her merchandise to another auctioneer who refused to work with her because of her attitude and her unrealistic expectations of what they would bring.

Most auctioneers I know are honest, hard-working people who want to get top dollar for their clients and provide a good sale for both the buyers and sellers. Sometimes we can find ourselves caught in a bind between the expectations of the sellers we represent and the buyers who are looking for the best deals. If you are selling, be upfront about your expectations of the auctioneer and be realistic about the value of the items you are wanting to sell. Don’t expect Tiffany prices for your pressed glass bowl. Don’t try to change the terms of the auction or remove items from the sale on the day of the auction. If you are buying, please understand that some things are beyond the control of the auctioneer. We may agree with you that a reserve the seller has placed on an item is too high, but they have the right to do that.

If sellers, buyers, and auctioneers work together and are upfront with one another, auctions are fun and a great way to move merchandise. Let’s just be gracious with one another.


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