When I contract to use a service, I do it because the money I pay them, I expect a service to be performed that makes it worth it to me, to pay them. I know, that they are in business to make a profit. In fact, I like being associated with successful companies, so I actually want them to make a lot of profit.
6 years ago, I was choosing an electronic clerking software. I chose Auction Flex. Why? Because they had the best customer service I had ever seen, and they had, at that time 3700 members that had either bought, or were leasing their software. They also were so robust, that they had features that we could grow into, including this entity called Bidopia, which has evolved into HiBid, the online bidding platform that I use. I am not tied to Hibid, or Auction Flex. I could change today to Wavebid, or BidWrangler, both, or ProxiBid. Wait... Proxi bought Wavebid.... Sandhills bought Auction Flex... Yes, the world changes, these days, quickly.
This year, things have altered with one of the companies that I joined. The business relationship, or partnership, has changed, not by my choice, but I adapted, and will continue to do so. It is called growth.
Since the Sandhills acquisition of AF, they have come under some heat. They now charge a percentage of the auction, much like other providers, only minuscule in comparison. In doing so, they made promises. I have been the beneficiary of such promises, but there have been issues as well, the most serious, and the only thing that would make me look elsewhere, is the seemingly untimely failure of the electronic bidding capabilities during peak activity periods.
Many many industry professionals that I highly respect, are angry at providers for starting the company under an ideal, then changing those ideals in the future. We watched it with Auction Zip, are watching it with Auction Flex, and have to wonder what other platforms it will happen to.
We have choices. We can build our own, or join another. Here is what I believe to be the crux of the problem, which is twofold.
1st is ownership of bidders. Auctioneers, for thousands of years, have owned their list of bidders. That was the gold mine, the blue sky. To have the ability to see an asset, and know that you had buyers for that, made many an auctioneer wealthy. Knowledge is power. Welcome Google, Facebook, the internet. There are groups for that, knowledge here, equalizers everywhere. Auctioneers have a real problem sharing bidders. They belong to that auctioneer, whose client money collected them for the auctioneer. Well, except that bidder, through their own efforts, can join someone elses list, at the touch of a button, or worse, the platform, or a scraper, can harvest all that as well. If a thief can get thousands of credit card numbers, how difficult is it really, to harvest contact information, that is freely given. To my colleagues, I implore you to stop worrying about that. Finding bidders is easier than ever these days, and economical, although that will change, at least the economical part. Concentrate on finding more business using new tools.
2nd, is the perceived problem with these platforms selling to the general public, which perceived is not meant toward selling, as that is a fact, but to it being a problem. We, as auctioneers, are a fiercely independent lot, that don't take kindly to being told how to operate our businesses, yet we are always ready to tell others what they are doing wrong. Welcome to the A type...
If a business is doing something that is 100% legal, selling their service to whomever is legally allowed to consume it, then, that is the way it is. I liken it to FSBO selling. Yes, you can do it, but is it wise? I have been told, that anyone can do an online auction. Yes, indeed it is true. But, can anyone do it well? Real Estate Agents, what is the likelihood of a homeowner selling their own property? Isn't the statistic around 7% success rate? There is a reason professionals get paid like professionals. Doctors, Nurses, Attorneys, Athletes, Auctioneers, Realtors. People that are successful command higher than average rates, because they are exceptional at what they do. Do not strive to be average, be exceptional.
Shawn J Dostie, Auctioneer/Agent CAI