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How to handle threats at an auction

23 August 2016

Auctions can throw up all sorts of weird and bizarre situations which you can never prepare for, but how do you handle threats and stop an auction getting out of hand?

This situation happened to LJ Hooker’s Auction Manager Ricky Briggs at a court-ordered car yard auction in Sydney’s western suburbs. 

The site was being sold after numerous complaints of misconduct had been made against the owner, who had then been ordered to sell the yard against his wishes.

Ricky explained: “Upon arriving at the auction there was a large crowd of about 200 people, and it was evident that there were different factions and different car operators looking to purchase the land.

“Whilst getting out of my car a gentleman approached me and said if I did not sell the land to him or his family I would not walk out of the property alive.

“Having only just arrived I laughed it off as a joke. However, I soon learnt how serious it was when I walked past his family of about 30 people and they also made remarks on how I had better sell it to him, which was quite intimidating.”

Ricky immediately approached his client, the principal of the company selling the land, where they both agreed a police presence was needed.

The police were already aware of the background to the property and were on the scene within five minutes, which only enraged the crowd further.

As a result, the police called for further back-up and about 15 officers arrived which settled the crowd down. 

Ricky added: “Once the auction started the bids flowed fairly quickly between two families.

“One purchaser asked for a moment to phone his banker which is when the family member who threatened me started yelling that I better sell it to him. I told him I would give him the same amount of time if he needed it.

“However he responded with more threatening remarks, and so the police stepped in to say they would remove him if he continued.”

During the auction the owner of the property showed up and started yelling that it was worth more money, and that he would burn the property down. Ricky asked the police to remove him because it was collusive practice and would impede the sale.

Eventually the land was sold to a family who had been bidding against the “intimidating family”.

Ricky said: “The family who made the threats against me then surrounded the agents and I and said we were not going anywhere.

“The police stepped in and called for more back-up. A riot squad arrived five minutes later and escorted us back to the real estate office where we signed the contracts and took the deposit in a safer environment.”

How do you handle a situation like this?

Ricky said: “It is not very often these sort of situations occur, but standing your ground whilst not making any comments that would directly antagonise the people who have made the threats would be my best piece of advice.

“Given the way it unfolded the police were fantastic in dealing with what happened and kept the peace.

“If it was not a court-ordered auction it would be best to cancel the auction and move it to a more secure environment where no one is in fear of their safety. However, given it was a court-ordered sale we felt it was best to continue with the court’s wishes.

“If any comments are made which could impede the sale it is important to cut them short straight away, because if allowed to continue it can have a damaging effect on the sale of the property.

“Once I asked the police to remove the owner, it helped quieten the crowd down because they knew I would not tolerate any other comments that were unfavourable to the auction.”