POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - The Better Business Bureau of St. Louis has linked two new auction names, Equipment Plus Auctions and Recreational Complete, to two auction houses that drew multiple complaints and lawsuits from dealers who said they lost money due to unethical sales tactics.
The BBB has merged its files on Equipment Plus and Recreational Complete with its files on Midwest Public Auction and Extreme Auction Services, which got a grade of ‘F’ last September after the BBB investigated complaints. That advisory now applies to the two new names as well.
Auctions have continued monthly at the same Poplar Bluff address under the two new business names. That, along with the companies having several employees in common and the ongoing presence of Midwest Public Auction owner Donnie M. Smotherman prompted the BBB to merge the files, treating all the names as one business.
The watchdog said in a press release that the Cravens Road facility at which the auctions are held has been leased to Smotherman for the last two years, and an auctioneer the BBB contacted, who calls the Equipment Plus/Recreational Complete auctions, referred to Smotherman as his “boss.”
“The BBB has learned that the businesses not only shared the same auction facility, but also shared several of the same employees, including Smotherman, the former owner of Midwest who now appears to be in a management position with Equipment Plus,” according to the press release. “Both the owner of the Poplar Bluff warehouse and the auctioneer who calls the auctions said they have current contracts with Smotherman for auctions at the Cravens Road site.”
A BBB investigator tried to contact management of the auctions operating under the new names.
“A man who identified himself as Max Paul Haas, sole owner of Equipment Plus, told the BBB that Equipment Plus has no connection to Midwest. He also said that he does not know Smotherman,” the agency press release states. However, it continues, “both the owner of the warehouse and the man hired as the auctioneer told the BBB they have never heard of anyone named Max Haas. Both said they deal with Smotherman.”
Haas was unable to explain why Smotherman’s name was on a $280,000 bank transfer document for a payment to a North Dakota equipment dealer who said he lost $120,000 by selling two John Deere tractors through Equipment Plus in June. “Who cares who paid (the dealer),” Haas told the BBB. “Whether I paid him or President Obama paid him, I don’t care.”
Like Smotherman when confronted with complaints about Midwest last December, Haas told the BBB that dealers just don’t read their contracts carefully and that their problems are a case of 'seller beware.'
Haas said Equipment Plus has five offices across the U.S., including St. Louis, and conducts auctions in 12 cities. Asked where he lives, he told the BBB, “on the moon.”
The Missouri Attorney General's office is investigating dealer complaints against the all of the named auction companies.
St. Louis television station KSDK picked up on the BBB report and did a spot with St. Louis BBB CEO Michelle Corey. Watch that report HERE.