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2footballsAll auctioneers have some sort of method or style when taking bids. Some have a predetermined method of taking bids, basically, between two bidders until one is done, and then moving on. Most all buyers prefer this method. In fact, an auctioneer once said the following in regard to this question:

    When I see that an auctioneer is taking my bid, and then taking someone else’s bid and then not coming back to me to bid again, I usually decide to stop bidding. If I give an auctioneer a gift of an opening bid, the least he can do is come back to me if someone else bids … that’s how I treat my bidders, and that’s how I expect to be treated.

Still, some auctioneers take bids in a variety of other methods: Some take a bid from one bidder (Bidder A) and then accept the next bid from Bidder B, and then maybe take a bid from Bidder C, and then back to Bidder A, then to Bidder C or Bidder B, or even maybe Bidder D. Some auctioneers take bids from Bidder A, then Bidder B, then Bidder C, and then back to Bidder A, then Bidder B again, then Bidder C — in a circular pattern. Some auctioneers include four, five or even more bidders in this rotating design.

Unfortunately, some auctioneers use yet another method — once there are four or five hands in the air, they take the first bid, second bid, third bid, fourth bid — basically from nobody in particular, and talk really fast, and then only choose a certain high bidder once most of the hands go down. Here’s how one auctioneer described his use of this method:

    … As to taking bids from more than 2 bidders, I’m in the camp that I’ll take the bid from whoever has their hand in the air. Many times when we start an item, we like to begin the bidding at a level where MANY bidders feel that they can get their hands in the air. I really don’t care who I’m recognizing, just that I am recognizing a bid and as the hands begin to fall, I’m on the money with A bidder.

I say unfortunately because this defies basic contract law and even nears unethical or illegal activity.

It seems to me that the purpose of all that fast talking is to engage bidders in the process; if we as auctioneers can minimize the time between a particular bidders first bid and their second bid, and their third bid, it seems clear the likelihood of engagement is greatly enhanced. Too, by going in a haphazard fashion, or through a circular patter of six bidders leaves too much time between each bidders first bid and their next.

Too, if Bidder A bids, and then Bidder B bids, who in the room would be the most likely to bid again at this point? Probably Bidder A who just had the item, had it taken away by Bidder B, and probably wants it back. It begs the question, although not always with the same answer: “You thought it was worth $25 (and then someone else bids $27.50) but not $30?”

Here is another advantage auctioneers have who “keep the bid between two bidders:” If Bidder A is $500 and Bidder B is $550 and Bidder A is $600 and Bidder B is $650 … and then a loud noise, or some other distraction causes the auctioneer to lose track of where the bid is — a pattern has developed. A is on the even-hundred number, and B is on the half (or $50) number. If the auctioneer knows he has $650, then the current high bidder must be Bidder B.

For those auctioneers who follow the “two bidder” philosophy, when do they (or do they ever?) consider any other bidders. In two instances:

1. One of the first two bidders stops bidding, or delays bidding (2-3 seconds).
2. Another bidder suggests a material increase in the bidding.

For our second reason, here’s an example: Bidder A is at $25 and Bidder B is at $30. Then Bidder A bids $35 and Bidder B bids $40 and just then, Bidder C says, “$100!” Okay, we’ll take that $100 and then inform both Bidder A and Bidder B that they are both out.

Besides bidders expecting this type of bidding pattern, it also communicates to bidders that if they want to bid, they need to bid early, in order to become one of those first two bidders. As well, this system increases speed, which most auctioneers consider a price enhancement technique.

Do other bidders (Bidder C, Bidder D …) lose out when the bidding is kept between just Bidder A and Bidder B? Not at all. Once, Bidder A or Bidder B stops bidding, then the auctioneer can look to any other bidder (let’s say Bidder C) and then continue between those two until one stops bidding. And, many times, Bidder D, and other bidders don’t bid when they have the clear opportunity because by then, the necessary bid has exceeded their own perception of value.

Auctioneers who keep the bid between two bidders can move quicker, have clear, more concise bid tracking and retracement, and usually conform to what their bidders expect. Is the customer always right? In this case, we think so.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.face book.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.