It's no good asking, because I just won't do it. And yes, I have been asked.
When I go to an auction I prowl the room and decide what I want to buy based on whether I think I can sell it. I decide how much I will pay, taking into account the (now exorbitant) auctioneers fees (almost 1/3!), any work required, selling-on price and a miserly margin for the business. I'd be happy to get it for less, but I'm also quite resigned to paying what I think and I will not join a ring to try and leverage my profits.
Firstly, of course, they are illegal. Not that some auctioneers respect that, turning as they do a knowingly blind eye. But mostly because I too have been, and will be again, a vendor at many auctions and if my lot was subjected to the ring, and I found out, I would be livid. I would feel betrayed by the auctioneer. Because they know. They protest, but they know. And in the mood I am in today, I would report it to the police and/or trading standards.
A ring: where a group get together before the auction and decide to not bid against each other, so picking it up for less than otherwise might have been the case if the auction had been free and open. Then, after the sale the ring sit together and divide up their spoils. Some money might change hands, a further mini-auction might take place. But however the spoils are divided, the deception of a vendor is involved and the seller has lost money. Maybe a lot of it, because of course rings are more effective the higher the value of the item. Sadly rings still operate widely, and the larger the ring at any given auction, the more they stand to make, all out of the vendor's pocket.
I can remember the first time I saw a ring. I had driven hours, about four, to a wild and distant land in an effort to buy fresh stock from 'out of area' and with the bonus of a lack of the usual local competition. So I was disappointed to recognise two of the dealers at the auction. But then, post sale, I was shocked to see these same dealers at the back of a large van, with a few others, clearly making deals with money visibly changing hands. Now it could have been quite innocent. But it wasn’t. I later discovered it was a ring at work. And the auctioneer clearly knew. It was right next to their auction rooms, in their car park, blatant and obvious. And I'll admit, at the time I felt a twinge and thought how it would help me financially to be asked to join, to be in their gang. But then, on the long trip home I thought it through. I thought about the vendor, the deception, the illegality, and quickly realised I can not live that way.
Similar, to me, is to be asked not to bid on something by a fellow dealer. Or worse, to be expected not to bid on something because I vaguely know the other bidder. This happened to me the other day. A guy I was on nodding acquaintance with lost two items to me and he was clearly livid. It seems he had expected that I would stop bidding, simply because he was the only other bidder. Two fingers, buddy.
And if it happens again, my reaction will be exactly the same. I don't do deceit. Not deliberately, not ever. Simple. So don't ask.
PS: How do vendors avoid being “ringed”? There is little you can do other than mention the practice to the auctioneer to warn them that you are alert to it, and set a decent reserve that you will be happy with. A personal thing is to avoid the “with discretion” which means everything could go for 10% less than your reserve. I avoid this where possible. If it doesn’t sell, it probably only means that the reserve was wrong that day. On another day the item will sell. If the sale is on the internet it helps, but doesn't eliminate ringing totally. Nonetheless Internet bidding is a must-have if you are selling. Best avoided if you are buying.