POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – An auction house whose methods were called into question by dealers and the Better Business Bureau seems to have gone out of business, but two new websites pitching the same “incentives” have emerged, a July 28 auction is scheduled, and employees of the former auction house may be involved.
Sales efforts by Midwest Public Auction focused on the powersports industry, but the company also took consignments of boats, RVs, power equipment and more before it disappeared in 2012 after a number of dealer complaints. Another company, Extreme Live Auctions, sprang up in its wake with the same management as Midwest; however, this one also has disappeared.
Monthly auctions are still held at the same Poplar Bluff address, and at least some of the people involved may also have been associated with the former Midwest operation. The two new Internet-based businesses, Equipment Plus Auction and Recreational Complete, focus on auctioning farm equipment, RVs and boats; however an AuctionZip advertisement for a July 28 auction also lists motorcycles and ATVs.
Dealers in the farm, RV and marine segments, as well as retailers who consigned trailers, have complained of the same treatment dealers experienced from Midwest and Xtreme: they say they are promised their items will have a “reserve,” or minimum price, at the auctions, but the items are sold at “absolute” auctions to the highest bidder, often at 20 cents to 50 cents per dollar of the item’s actual value.
The businesses bear other similarities. The websites promise dealers up to $60,000 in “protection” if their consigned inventory brings a lower-than-agreed price. The promises are part of formulas contained in an “asset assurance plan” similar to the “Xtreme Advantage plan” and is part of the auction contract. Dealers say the actual cash protection, if any, is much less and does not make up for the amounts they lose.
The Equipment Plus and Recreational Complete sites indicate they are owned by USA Services. Dealernews could not find a business registration for USA Services in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, or Tennessee, where the website owner reportedly lives. The business name also is not registered in several surrounding states.
The Equipment Auctions Plus website lists an address in Bentonville, Ark., and Recreational Complete an address in St. Petersburg, Fla. Both websites’ events pages say the auctions are held in an industrial park in Poplar Bluff, Mo. – the same address where Midwest and Extreme held their auctions. The Poplar Bluff City Collector’s office, which manages business licenses in the city, said Midwest had a permit to hold auctions there until the permit expired Dec. 31, 2012. No company has been authorized to hold auctions there since then, authorities said. A representative for the city said it has not received an application for a business license from USA Services.
The address given for USA Services on the auction ad for July 28 says the company is at 1550 Industrial Park Blvd. in Poplar Bluff -- the street address Midwest initially listed on its website. The Butler County Assessor and the city say there is no such address, although the 1550 Cravens Road address is part of an industrial park.
Dealernews also is investigating whether former Midwest employees are tied to USA Services, including a principal/business manager and a registered owner of the two new website addresses. The name of the business manager was also listed as Equipment Plus principal/office manager on a complaint (since closed) investigated by the Better Business Bureau of Arkansas. This is the only complaint involving Equipment Plus filed with the Arkansas BBB, an investigator there said. (continued)