It appears there two are different issues being discussed here:
1. The terminology and notification system used on the site for reserve price auctions.
2. The acceptance of reserve price auctions in general, or the lack thereof.
1. In regards to the notification system, it sounds like Sdcampbell understands the term "high bidder" to mean something different than what we think it means. Our definition of a High Bidder is independent of the reserve price, period. If you have the highest bid in place, then you are the high bidder, regardless of whether there is a reserve price, and if so, whether the reserve has been met. Each listing will always indicate whether there is a reserve, and if so, whether it has been met. One possible source of confusion may the fact that listings do indicate "no reserve" in a very similar manner to "reserve not met". As in, they are both blue colored links, as opposed to one of them being red perhaps. Thus, upon first glance, this indicator may not be as clear as a multi-colored one. Another possible source of confusion may be that Dutch Auctions do not indicate anything about a reserve, since by definition a Dutch Auction here can not have a reserve. Perhaps we will start indicating "no reserve" on all Dutch Auctions, to make it more consistent. However, we are quite sure that every single-item auction indicates the reserve status all of the time, barring some bizarre page layout or browser incompatibility issue.
2. In regards to reserve price auctions in general, we consider them a necessary option for auctioneers. It is understandable how some bidders may not like reserve price auctions, and we do inform sellers that reserve prices will turn away some bidders. Thus, if the seller still chooses to list with a reserve price, that is his/her choice. Likewise, bidders are of course free to choose which auctions in which they will participate. In general, we do feel that reserve price auctions are a good way to gauge the demand for an item. Reserve price auctions are really NOT that different from a classified ad, where a seller would set an "asking price", and then receive offers. In this analogy, the reserve price auction would have a hidden asking price, but the offers would be public. On the other hand, a classified ad would have a public asking price, and the offers would be hidden. Thus, we might argue that reserve price auctions are actually better for the buyer, than a classified. For example, let's say Joe had a reserve of $2500 on something, hidden of course, but the highest bid only reached $1500. Now, the bidders have a strong bargaining point with the seller, something like "You can see that $1500 is about the market value, let me offer you $1700...". On the other hand, if Joe had listed the same item in the classifieds with a $2500 asking price, then who knows what the highest offer might have been? In this case, the buyers are making "blind" offers, trusting Joe if he said "Well, the best offer so far is $2000". One last scenario is the classified with a $2500 asking price, where buyers become offensive in their comments or in their offers. Like "You're a XXXXXX if you think you can get $2500", or "I'll give you $500". Instead, at a reserve price auction, the second commenter could have bid $500 without offending anyone, and the first commenter would have no reason to comment. So in conclusion, Audiogon.com does not encourage reserve price auctions, but we think they are NOT deceptive, and if anything, they are a good bargaining tool. They are certainly a little more fun than a boring classified. :)