Online Horse Auctions

On December 6, I participated in my first ever live online auction at Addis Live Auctions.  My husband and I had found a colt that we liked and hoped to bid on at Black Stallion Ranch.  Actually, we had tried to buy him outright before the sale, but we were unable to schedule a time with the owner (I sure wish we could have figured something out!).

In theory, this auction could be a great forum for buying and selling horses.  Online auctions can open your market worldwide at the touch of a button.  However, that night everything went haywire!  I logged in at 7:30 as suggested and my computer was running the video beautifully.  Just after the first lot was being announced, the server bumped me!  I tried unsuccessfully for almost an hour and a half of constant refreshing before I was able to see the auction again, by that time they were on lot 12 and Ivanhoe was sold.  Also, I tried calling at least 6 times and was sent straight to voice mail.  I left two messages, but received no reply. Technically, the story could have ended there, but I was so upset because the colt sold for much less than what he is worth and I didn’t even get a chance to bid.

After a couple of days, the auction company did contact me.  They really didn’t offer much other than a brief apology and a bunch of excuses.  Later, they did finally grant the concession of at least contacting the winning bidder and letting me give them an offer (to me this was a somewhat fair alternative…it didn’t work out, but at least I got a chance).  On my end as a bidder, I didn’t lose much other than a bit of time and some frustration.  However, looking at this from a seller’s point of view, I am appalled!

I was in contact with several of the sellers and I appreciated their kindness.  Several of them lost thousands of dollars and left the auction with a sour taste in their mouths.  I am not aware of all communications between them and the auction company (that’s really none of my business).  I hope that the auction company offered some kind of concession to the sellers who lost so much in this auction.  The seller who offered the colt I was interested in sold several of his horses for considerably less than what he had posted on his website before the auction.  Apparently the sellers were encouraged to not place a reserve on their lots…a good strategy, but VERY costly in this case.

I am not saying not to deal with this auction company, but I think that customers should be aware of this situation.  I understand that the server received much more traffic that night, but the auction should have stopped immediately.  If you have a SERIOUS bid, call the company well before and place your bid, or place a proxy bid before the auction starts.  Thankfully, buyers really have nothing to lose (other than the opportunity to buy a horse they want).  Sellers have much more at stake.  My suggestion is that if you do decide to go this route to sell your horse, USE A RESERVE!  Buyers will understand…this is not a knick-knack on eBay….this is your HORSE.

In closing, I feel that online auctions for horses (and other pets) could be a great market.  However, there are some things that need to be changed.  First, I don’t know why there is a need for a LIVE online auction.  Why wouldn’t an eBay style format work?  This would eliminate many of the problems.  Second, REQUIRE a reserve.  NO reserve auctions are a good selling strategy to attract more interest, but these are our horses!  I can only imagine the anguish the sellers had when they had to load their babies on a trailer knowing that they were bought at such a low price.  Finally, the technology has to be working.  There are so many issues with technology.  If you are going to do anything online that is time-sensitive, you MUST make sure to have enough technical support, server capacity, and bandwidth to make it work.  Blaming it on the customers’ computers is NOT a good business practice.

To the sellers who participated in this auction, you have my heartfelt sorrow for this whole situation.  Since I will be selling some of my foals in the near future, I can see myself in your shoes and I feel absolutely sick.  To the buyers, congratulations (I guess), you got some SUPER deals.  I hope that you treat your new horses with lots of love and kindness.  To the auction service, I hope that you have done everything in your power to rectify this situation for all of your customers.  You did concede to contact the winner of the colt we had wanted and I consider that fair….I applaud you for making that concession.

I am sending a link to this blog to the sellers I have “met” and to the auction company.  I am NOT writing this to slander their company…I just feel that future customers need to know what happened.  Personally, I don’t think I’ll use this service in the future…I don’t have the nerves to go through this again.  I might consider selling one of my foals if I see that the company has “fixed” their problems, but I WILL have a fair reserve price set on my listing.

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