Ignore the man behind the curtain! - Hoff Online Auctions
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  1. #1
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    Default Ignore the man behind the curtain! - Hoff Online Auctions

    I bought some stuff back when Hoff was Hoff-Hilk and still get notices when auctions are coming up. Their "July Machinery Exchange" came up and I saw some things I'd like to have if the price were right so I placed an initial bid of the minimum amount just so I could keep track of the items by my bid until things started to heat up towards the end. I have an odd memory for numbers and I kept seeing what I think were the same bidder numbers bidding against me as I'd seen in previous auctions. I figured it could be someone like me who places minimal bids to track items, or a reseller, or someone who just wanted to jack up the price. Still, I thought there'd be no harm in writing the company to see what their policies were regarding sellers bidding up their own items and whether they had any mechanisms for identifying shills. It was a very matter of fact, non-accusatory request for information which went unanswered.

    I figured by law they would have to disclose the rules of the game - this is excerpted from the "Terms and Conditions" from their site:

    3. RESERVE: All assets in the auction shall be sold to the highest bidder. Some items may be auctioned with minimum reserve prices, and/or subject to the sellers right of confirmation. On lots with a reserve the auctioneer reserves the right to bid on behalf of the seller. Hoff Online Auctions reserves the right to reject any bid that is only a minimal increase over the previous bid.

    13. ADDITIONS OR WITHDRAWALS: Hoff Online Auctions may, in its discretion, offer the assets for sale by the piece or by the lot, or in any manner that best serves the interest of the seller. The seller has the right to add assets before the bidding, or remove assets from the auction either before or after bidding has been completed. In the event of a removal after bidding has been completed, the purchasers sole remedy shall be the refund of any purchase price actually paid.

    Couple the fact that the auctioneer can bid up the price of an item to drag legitimate buyers along with the right of the seller to withdraw an item after bidding has begun or even ended and the only recourse is the refund of any purchase price actually paid (which is almost certainly zero) with a 15% buyer premium and 7.75% mandatory sales tax (24% above and beyond the bid) and it's a rigged game. Caveat emptor!

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  3. #2
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    Thanks for posting that. I was reading that just last week and wondering if was actually reading what
    I thought I was reading... I was talking to myself out loud, and saying, " Really? Are you kidding me...?"

    F'n scam.

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    Yet people still bid. Same with regular on site sales that have an online in advance or concurent. People merily bid away. Often site unseen. Just a grainy picture. A stand in the crowd and watch the auctioneer keep going to the moon and nobody in the crowd bidding. All online. Are there 2 people online?

    I remember a guy buying an EDM in Greensboro with no electronics.

    Small auction in Va. Old beat to death manual machines. Someone paid 3x what HGR sold them for. Battled it out over the net with the runner up.

    Pillowtex sale. Guy in canada bought a beautiful Tos lathe. A big one. Auctioneet said sold, they took his number and he hung up. THen they A lotted the follow and steady rests, chucks, centers, toolpost grinder etc.

    Myron bowling sale, some guy bought a royal master grinder for real money. Gets on site next day. Its a parts machine. Sells to the scraper. Oh, and myron tends to start bidding at your proxy bids max.

    Back to Hoff. No feedback system. Plus loading, no recourse, no way to check out the seller. etc. Plus premiums.

  5. #4
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    I have noticed this for several years with Hoff-Hilk and into Hoff online auctions. The one bidder number that keeps popping up is 1019. I have seen many of these items won by 1019, end up on the machinery exchange.

    I personally do not like this practice, I think its actually illegal. If there is a reserve, why not start the bidding there?

    Josh

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    I guess it wouldn't bother me if they just posted the reserve so I could know whether it was worth following after all of the add-ons, but the idea of someone with no skin in the game watching the bids coming in and trying surreptitiously to nudge up the price just enough to keep the suckers chasing is nothing short of slimy. I am going to pick up a small mill accessory from, dare I say it, Interplant Sales tomorrow and was going to swing through Minneapolis to check out some of the Hoff auction machines I was interested in, but now I'm not just on principle. I read somewhere that the Hoff "Machinery Exchange" is the mechanical equivalent of the local livestock auction selling the old, barren, sick, the culls - if the animals were worth buying, they wouldn't be at the livestock auction.

    Topper, didn't see your post come in until after mine - you can look at all of the bidding history by clicking on the number of bids. I'm compulsive enough to have considered doing a spreadsheet of all of the bids on all of the items (I used to be an auditor until I went mad) to make a case for or against rigging, but after not receiving a response to my request and reading their terms and disclaimers, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that it stinks.

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    I have had really good luck with the machinery exchange. There is some good stuff on them. But, you do need to look at it.

    As far as Interplant Sales. I will not be dealing with them again. I had been dealing with Dave on a vise and outboard support for my HBM. We talked on the phone the day before I was coming, I said I would be there by 10AM. He finally shows up at 12:30. Thats got me a bit mad, but I understand that things happen. We looked at several vises, one caught my eye. 10" Kurt. First he tells me $600. OK, good price, I'm interested and will grab it on the way out as we had other stuff to look at. We get back to the vise and he says that he wants $800 for it. I need it, so we go up front to take care of paperwork. He starts writing it up for $1000. WTF. I told him I was fine with the first price increase, but not the second. He argued that he told me $1000 first. I had one of my guys with that argued that he did in face jack the price 2 times. In the end, I walked out with nothing, he made no sale, and never will with me.

    Sorry about the rant, just thought you guys should know how they conduct business there.
    Josh

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    Thank you so much for posting this! I have been suspicious of Hoff for quite some time now. The bidder number that always seems to follow the items I am interested in 16142. Too many times, I have thrown "hail mary" bids 5-10 minutes before the auction end. What makes me really scratch my head is that too many times I end up winning the items, by the bid increment amount! I have not bid on anything for over a year because I had a bad taste in my mouth because of my suspicions.
    Russ hilk is no longer with Hoff and for good reason! I've talked with Russ at auction sites a few times and he seemed to be a really nice guy with integrity. I think he went to anderson auction service now. The auctions have not been the same since he left about 2 years ago.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wgnrr1 View Post
    As far as Interplant Sales. I will not be dealing with them again. . . .
    Sorry about the rant, just thought you guys should know how they conduct business there.
    Josh
    Josh, I hear you and I've heard similar stories, but I found they had a particular rotary/cross slide table on their site which I'd been looking for. I called and it was represented as "like new" and looks it in the pictures. The guy I spoke with, I think it was Dave, came down to within $100 of a rusted beater I'd been looking at near Milwaukee. Thanks for the heads-up all the same.

    Oh, I got some nice stuff from Hoff-Hilk, some really nice surprises in the "grab bag" lots, huge taps worth 20 times what I paid for the whole box. By the same token, I don't use PayPal because I can't stand their business model even though it has cost me some big ticket sales, but I'm also known for tilting at windmills, sword fighting with people who stare at my long nose, and occasionally howling at the moon.

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    If it was Dave, just be careful. I think he is actually the owner, and it doesn't seem like he even cares if he makes a sale.

    I have gotten some great deals out of Hoff-Hilk myself, but haven't hardly bid since Russ walked away. They haven't really had anything I wanted untill recently.

    Good luck with the table,
    Josh

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChipChaff View Post
    The seller has the right to add assets before the bidding, or remove assets from the auction either before or after bidding has been completed. In the event of a removal after bidding has been completed, the purchasers sole remedy shall be the refund of any purchase price actually paid.
    Doesn't the latter option count as theft, notwithstanding any alleged repayment?

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    I called interplant 3 times (and an email) about a machine. Said they would get a pic and get back to me. Still waiting. Only been 2 years I am sure they are working on it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wgnrr1 View Post
    I have had really good luck with the machinery exchange.
    Josh,

    Can you expound on that? We're shopping...

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    Just got back from Interplant Sales with my "new" rotary/cross slide table. It's clean and tight. I dealt with Rick and he couldn't have been nicer. Dave is the president but Rick "runs the place" and is not indifferent about sales. I spent over an hour walking around getting my hands greasy gawking at some of the odd monster machines they have, some so heavy I could feel their gravitational pull. One of the owners who showed me a Monarch lathe I'd seen on-line seemed know just about everything about each of the machines we stopped by no matter how strangely it carried out its purposes. The more I know the more I know I don't know.


    Quote Originally Posted by wgnrr1 View Post
    If it was Dave, just be careful. I think he is actually the owner, and it doesn't seem like he even cares if he makes a sale.

    I have gotten some great deals out of Hoff-Hilk myself, but haven't hardly bid since Russ walked away. They haven't really had anything I wanted untill recently.

    Good luck with the table,
    Josh

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    Update - I received an email from Dennis Hoff yesterday afternoon. He has apparently scanned this thread haphazardly as he informed me "FYI" I was mistaken in identifying 16142 and 1019 as shill bidders and invited me to call him. I replied that I had not identified anyone as a shill bidder and declined his invitation to talk. I also said I thought the PM members would be delighted to have him mark up and explain how his auction process worked, including hidden reserves, anonymous bids by the auction house, and the ability of sellers to nullify an auction after the fact. If anyone would like his number to call for clarification, contact me and I'll send it.

    In thinking about why Hoff's rules seem so out of whack to me, I've come to a still somewhat fuzzy conclusion that to be as successful as possible, an auction house must serve two conflicting constituencies about equally well. Where Hoff's auction rules gall me is that they seem to so thoroughly favor the seller that the potential for a buyer to get the kind of "good deal" one hopes to get through an above board live auction is minimal and the potential for paying too much for something or buying something in poor condition is steep indeed. It's a given that the house is guaranteed to win - it's only a matter of how much - while, if my interpretation of the Terms and Conditions is correct, the worst the seller will do is pay the 15% commission on the "winning bid" if they choose not to let it go at the final price. As a would-be buyer, the idea that machinations designed to hike the prices are hidden behind anonymous bidder numbers which Hoff can issue and terminate at will, leaves me uneasy with a sense that it's an auction in name only. It seems that because the motives and participants are different when an auction house disposes of a single company's assets attendant to a closing or updating, I would think the pro-seller bias would be less pronounced.

    PS, With a day and a half to go, I"m already seeing bids which, after the 15% and taxes, will end up higher than comparable items available on eBay or prices I've paid in used equipment stores.
    Last edited by ChipChaff; 07-17-2012 at 06:36 PM.

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    Zahnrad,

    The good deals I got all required that I went and actually inspected the items. One auction in particular was for a drill press. Had I not gone, I would have bought the Clausing that was a total piece of crap. Instead I bought an Avey for half what the clausing went for, and a much better machine.

    Some of the equipment is worn out crap. Some of it is worth more than what they get. You just need to go and look.

    Chip,

    Glad to hear you got a good deal on your rotary table. Its just too bad Dave treated me like he did, they did have machines I was interested in.

    Also if Dennis Hoff was really concerned about what he read here, he would become a member and set us all strait. Untill then, I will still bid on his auctions, but walk away if it seams fishy at all.

    Josh

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChipChaff View Post
    PS, With a day and a half to go, I"m already seeing bids which, after the 15% and taxes, will end up higher than comparable items available on eBay or prices I've paid in used equipment stores.
    Yep and to top it off, with low possibility of honest representation of each item (i.e. no buyer feedback, no Paypal refunds, etc), deadlines to get items out, rigging fees, etc. I never cease to be amazed when folks pay more from an online specialized auction situation than for same item on eBay.

    With one exception...if whole plant is being auctioned at the same time, folks can better justify going to see it all in person and therefore have more confidence that machines are as good as photos (if they are) vs difficult justification of traveling to inspect just one machine on eBay.

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    I have bid and won hundreds of items from Hoff with no problems whatsoever. The prices I have paid for very valuable machines, tools and tooling has been around 1 to 14 cents on the dollar. I sincerely have no complaints and nothing but praise for Hoff auctions. Complain all you want, but from my many years of experience purchasing through their auctions, my shop has grown immensely!

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    I have been to hundreds of auctions and the only ones that ever seemed like they were not full of shills were federal bankruptcy auctions. The ones were there is a group of suits and federal marshalls standing in the corner. I am sure some of you go to lots of auctions and see the same people and you know who is bidding fraudulently. Most people only go to auctions in there own area so they are unaware of what is happening. I havent been to an auction in 2 years and dont plan on going they are a waste of time. I have better luck going right to the owner of the machine and working a deal, or better yet buy from a dealer and let him screw with the auction. This is reason number 2 for not going into the used machinerey business.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kpotter View Post
    I have been to hundreds of auctions and the only ones that ever seemed like they were not full of shills were federal bankruptcy auctions. The ones were there is a group of suits and federal marshalls standing in the corner. I am sure some of you go to lots of auctions and see the same people and you know who is bidding fraudulently. Most people only go to auctions in there own area so they are unaware of what is happening. I havent been to an auction in 2 years and dont plan on going they are a waste of time. I have better luck going right to the owner of the machine and working a deal, or better yet buy from a dealer and let him screw with the auction. This is reason number 2 for not going into the used machinerey business.
    I've also been to hundreds of auctions (mine all machine tool or woodworking machinery related...for all I know you are including antique, estate and farm auctions) and considering some of the screaming deals I got in the early 2000's I don't think shills were involved in most of them. However today the internet has made it such that so much live online bidding is taking place during live auctions, who knows. I also haven't been to a live auction in a long time but mostly because none seem to show up within 500 miles of me that are interesting for what I'm looking for and prices sometimes go higher than I can sell the same machine for.

    But it's mostly the former...an interesting auction happening next week but it's just too far away....seems like it's all dried up in GA, SC and NC...maybe we are doing too well here.

  25. #20
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    I said it before, GO INSPECT BEFORE YOU BID! These auctions are all buyer beware. Sometimes its all crap, sometimes not.

    Kpotter, I agree 100% about buying from the original owner, if that's an option. I have gotten some great deals that way. My Lucas 441B-48 HBM was bought off craigslist, for 1/10 of what it was worth. I have also gotten great deals on auctions. I tend to buy bigger machines, which have a smaller group bidding.

    Anyway, Don't buy without inspecting. If it turns out to be crap, then your mad. If you inspect it, and it turns out to be crap, its your own fault.

    Josh


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