The story was recounted on a recent episode of YouTube channel VINwiki's Car Stories series by SwitchCars owner Doug Tabutt. It happened to one of his clients, who decided to sell his 26,000-mile 2015 G 63 AMG on the popular auction site Bring a Trailer with a reserve price of $90,000. As it usually happens on these sites, the bidding started slow, and the seller was worried he was going to lose money, so he decided to bid on his own vehicle in an attempt to boost its desirability and drive its price up.
He placed his bid close to the auction deadline but didn't realize his false bid was going to be the last. And maybe this wouldn't have been a newsworthy occurrence if he hadn't ended up winning the auction with a false bid. What's more, he had to pay the buyer's premium, which, in the case of Bring A Trailer, is five percent of the winning bid.
What this man did is called shill bidding, which refers to the practice of deliberately placing bids on an auctioned item in order to artificially drive its price up and increase the seller's profits. As it turns out, though unethical, it's a practice that has increased substantially recently, and though most auction sites have set rules against it, many shill bidders are still able to go undetected.
The thing is, the seller didn't know how online auctions work and apparently was unaware of the fact that there was a five percent threshold. What this means is that, if the final bid is within 5% of the item's reserve price, the auction house gives up the difference and considers the vehicle sold. Basically, the winning bid plus the five percent premium amount to the reserve price asked by the seller.
In this case, the winning bid was the G-Wagon owner's attempt to inflate the final price. The man shill bid his own vehicle up to $86,000 and, as a result, the total price of the boxy SUV went up to $90,300 with the premium. As such, the seller/buyer had to pay the auction house the $4,300 fee out of his own pocket. All of this for a vehicle he already owned.
Talk about karma impartially teaching people their lessons!
Watch the video below for the whole story.