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A question we’re asked in auction school quite often is, “How many staff will I need for my auction?” The answer is, generally, in addition to the auctioneer, there are three (3) essential staff at any auction. These three staff are:

  • Clerk. The clerk is the recorder or record-keeper for the auction. As items are sold, the clerk notes typically three, four or even five pieces of information for each item. Those items are, and are recorded in this order: Lot, item description, price, buyer number and quantity. In some cases, the lot is not recorded, as all the items in the auction belong to the same seller, or lot numbers are not being used otherwise. As well, many times the quantity is one (just one item) so the quality is not recorded.

    Here’s an example:

    Folks, Lot 100, we have three Roseville vases here, high bidder gets their choice, and I’d like $100, $100, $100, well, $50, thank you, now $60, $70, $80, $85, $85, 85? Sold for $80 to bidder number 32. How many would you like? Bidder number 32 takes the two on the right.

    In this example, the clerk would record the following:
    Lot: 100
    Description: Choice of Roseville Vases
    Price: $80
    Buyer Number: 32
    Quantity: 2

    As some auctioneers sell an item as fast as every 20 seconds, it is important that the clerk has the ability to focus on the auctioneer’s pronouncements without being distracted, or being asked to do other jobs simultaneously. A good clerk will have an appreciation for detail and accuracy, as if a mistake is made in the recording of the auction, it can be quite costly for the auctioneer.

    The clerk records on paper or sometimes into a computer system, where that information is automatically transmitted to the cashier’s office. Otherwise, the paper “clerk sheets” must be turned into the cashier area as they are completed.

  • Cashier. The cashier has typically two jobs: Bidder registration and buyer checkout. Both these jobs usually involve working with the public face-to-face and dealing with various issues including identity privacy to questions involving buyer invoices.

    First, bidders are registered. Typically, a driver’s license is required, and information including name, address, driver’s license number, telephone number, email address are noted — on paper, or into a computer system. Then, a bidder card is prepared (or printed) and provided to the registered bidder.

    Second, buyers are checked out. After the clerk fills one clerk sheet with information, that clerk sheet is turned into the cashier for sorting or input into a computer system. Either way, the information the clerk provides must be “categorized” or sorted by buyer number, so that when a particular buyer comes up to check out, his total due can be calculated and an invoice prepared. Some computer systems allow the clerk’s information to be automatically fed to the cashier, so preparing invoices is a simple as a click of a mouse.

    Cashiers must handle all types of payments, including cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards and traveler’s cheques. Cashiers must be able to count cash and coins accurately, and be able to use calculators and various credit card processing equipment.

    Other issues the cashier must deal with include the calculation of buyer’s premiums and/or sales tax. Too, most buyers with questions about picking up purchases later, titles to vehicles, or gun paperwork ask the cashier. The cashier must be informed about all aspects of the auction so he can correctly answer questions.

    Lastly, cashiers usually deal with any concerns over privacy of information. With identity theft a concern, many bidders question the amount of information that must be provided in order to bid. Too, cashiers are the ones confronted when a bidder notes, for example, “I paid $75 for each of those vases, not $80, and the invoice shows $80 each.”

  • Ringman. Most ringman at an auction operate as the auctioneer’s assistant. Duties generally involve displaying and describing items that are up for bid and/or looking for bids from the audience, and communicating those bids to the auctioneer.

    However, a ringman has other duties including deciding what item will sell next, passing out items to the crowd, adjusting the microphone, running clerk sheets to the cashier, getting the auctioneer or clerk something to drink, handling items sold to absentee bidders and interacting with the bidders — especially any who have questions or require special attention.

    Many auctioneers note that a good ringman is key for a smooth running auction. And, on the other hand, a not-so-good ringman can make an auction move too slow or cumbersome, and be a detriment to getting the maximum prices for the seller. Some auctioneers consider the job of ringman to be so critical that they will perform the ringman duties — lacking another skilled ringman — and allow another auctioneer to conduct the bid calling.

  • While many auctions involve many more staff than an auctioneer and 3 staff, it is almost imperative that any auction have the 3 essential auction staff.

    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.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.