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[RC] auctions - Linda B. Merims

Louise Burton said:   <firedancefarms@xxxxxxxxxxx>
>What your friend was doing at the auction, trying
>to increase the price of her horse, is not allowed
>in reputable horse sales (ex: Addis).  This is
>what reserves are for.
I'm sorry, I don't know what "Addis" is, but I'd
like to.  :-)
Forcing a price up by bidding against a bidder
is an accepted practise in every auction that I
know about, including the "big" ones like
Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, and in other
auction houses for other items, like Sotheby's.
That's why everybody takes such pains to hide
their interest in a item, hire agents, fronts,
and try to make their actual bid movements
so subtle:  they don't want anybody to know
it's them doing the actual buying, so that the
owner/agent can assess how far they can push it.
It is not a zero risk proposition to the seller;
if they guess wrong about how high a bidder
is willing to go, they get stuck paying the
auction house's commission, they've still
got their horse, unsold.  An agent risks
losing the sales commission.
Now, is it ethical.  I'm not so sure it is
unethical as it is unexpected by the novice
buyers who go to an auction without being
aware that this goes on.  It certainly is the
source of a great deal of bad feeling.  I
thought it was charming that ebay tries to
forbid the practise.  This is why novices
are always told "never buy a horse at an auction,"
because what is actually going on is not
what you think is going on!
It sure as heck is unethical when the auction
house itself gets into the act.
In the particular example I cited, the woman
was a complete stranger.  I talked to her after
her horses went through the ring as she was
wandering around in a daze.  She didn't want to
increase the price of her horses, she just wanted
to pay the commission, get the hell out
of the cess pit she just realized she'd landed
in, and take them home.  No, she didn't put a reserve
on them.  This was an absolute auction.
Which kind of auction would I prefer to participate
in as a buyer?  In an auction that forbids it *and*
actually has found some way to enforce it!
Linda B. Merims
Massachusetts, USA