J. Bear Savo

BEHIND THE BLOCK: Overt bidding techniques

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As discussed in this column’s inaugural article, certain auction-goers feel the need to employ stealthy bidding techniques so as not to be shadowed by rookies or be bid against out of spite. Conversely, there are certain auction-goers that use overt bidding techniques designed to intimidate their competition. As an auctioneer, I have witnessed inexperienced bidders get bullied during auctions by brass veterans and their methods. However, there is no reason to ever feel dispirited by anyone or by any of these overt bidding techniques:

The Statue of Liberty

Much like Lady Liberty, who perpetually holds aloft her arm as an unwavering beacon of hope and freedom, so do some bidders, perpetually hold aloft their arms as an emphatic message of determination: “You’re tired, I’m not poor, and no one else in this huddled mass is going to own that!” Don’t be fooled. Just as their reaches are not limitless, neither are their budgets.

The Stare-Down

Instead of maintaining eye contact with the auctioneer, stare-down bidders glare domineeringly at those who are bidding against them. There are several fun ways to combat this method.

  • Pull out a pocket watch, wave it in the direction of the person who is staring at you, and call out, “You’re getting sleepy… sleepy… sleepy…”
  • Stare back while flirtatiously licking your lips and winking.
  • Wave your hand like a Jedi and say, “These aren’t the items you’re looking for.”

The Swat

One might think that these bidders were being attacked by invisible bats, or that they’re delirious on absinthe and trying to smack away the Green Fairy. But swatters are just trying to let you know that they really want whatever is on the block and that the harder they swing their arms, the more they’re willing to pay. Have a little fun. Walk up to a swatter and say, “You can’t catch the pretty lights. You can only watch them.”

The Conversation

Sometimes gestures just aren’t enough. Some bidders assert themselves within a crowd by engaging a chanting auctioneer via loud dialogue. Conversationalist bidders make advancements by bellowing such phrases as “Sure!” or “Why not?” or “What the hell?” Want to show that you’re not frightened by this technique? Just yell out, “I don’t think so!” Then stare at the conversationalist and swat like you’re being attacked by killer bees.

The Preemptive Put-Down

This one is a bit more sophisticated than the others and requires implementation before the auction begins. A user of the preemptive put-down lingers behind other attendees during the inspection period and pesters his/her potential competition by saying something like, “Don’t even bother to look at that, because I’m going to own it.” There are two ways to handle this attempt at demoralization. You can either ignore it, or when you’re told not to bother, lick whatever you’re looking at, much like you would lick the last Oreo cookie so no one else will want to eat it.

Indeed, there’s no reason to be intimidated by other bidders during an auction. Preparation is the key. Be sure to attend an auction’s preview, thoroughly inspect the merchandise, and determine how much you’re willing to pay for the items that you want before the sale starts.

No matter what overt techniques aggressive bidders might use, they too have spending limits. Letting yourself get flustered will only lead to mistakes. You could find yourself spending more than you want or backing off too soon. Knowing what you want and how much you want to pay for it will make your auction experience more enjoyable and free of regret.

There’s far more to being a professional auctioneer than merely marketing merchandise. Each Wednesday, Behind the Block explores the precise methods, the elemental madness, and the intrinsic humanity of the auction industry.