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mikeI’ve been an auctioneer over 30 years. As of January 1, 2014, we had conducted just over 3,000 auctions — at our auction house, onsite auctions, real estate auctions, car auctions, benefit auctions and special event auctions.

All of these auctions have been live auctions with a few coupled with online bidding. So given that, there was an auctioneer (me or one of our other auctioneers) bid calling at each of those events.

We’ve discussed over the years what we think the most important bid calling trait is … with speed, clarity, enthusiasm, timing, rhythm all making the list. Yet, bid calling accuracy appears paramount.

I suppose due to this conclusion, I find it troubling how much bid calling inaccuracy there is out there. How would I know? For one, I travel a lot and see and hear many auctioneers bid calling, and otherwise, there is the Internet.

There is a vast array of videos on the Internet of auctioneers bid calling: Bid calling contests, training video, promotional video, live auction recordings, and the like.

And while most of these videos are very good, the one thing that concerns me more than any other is inaccuracy. And, for that matter, wouldn’t accuracy be the most important thing? Shouldn’t it be concerning?

What does “bid calling accuracy” mean? Bid calling involves communicating two numbers: the have and the want. It also involves saying, “Sold!” for the have and identifying the correct bidder.

This video https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/auctioneer-bid-calling-want-sold-have-buyer/ shows Peter Gehres accurately communicating the have and want numbers, and noting the correct sale price and bidder.

Unfortunately, as I see and hear other auctioneers, and watch other videos, I have found auctioneers:

  • Saying sold for the want, not the have. (I have $375, and I want $400? Sold for $400)
  • Changing the have. (I have $2,250 and I want $2,500 … $2,500? I have $2,100 and want $2,500?)
  • Otherwise saying sold for the wrong amount. (I have $350, and I want $400? $400? Sold for $375)
  • Cutting the bid incorrectly. (I have $90 and I want $95? $95?, okay how about $97.50?)
  • Going the wrong direction. (I have $6,100 and now $6,200? Now $6,300? Now $6,400? Now $5,600?)

How did I come up with these examples? They aren’t just examples.

Now, nobody’s perfect. Professional pilots land at the wrong airport, professional baseball players drop balls, professional singers forget the words … and professional bid callers mess up the numbers.

However, there is a difference between a mistake that’s known and/or acknowledged, and one’s that’s not. That major league baseball player drops the ball, and he knows he dropped it, and acknowledges he will try to do better. Unfortunately, some of these bid calling inaccuracies are apparently not known nor acknowledged …

Why do auctioneers mess up the numbers? It appears to me that distraction is the primary culprit. In one case, the bid calling inaccuracy I noted was likely caused by a sudden loud noise, while another was probably due to the bid calling being video recorded.

Nevertheless, how do auctioneers fix such inaccuracies? First, realize they are mistakes — either by noticing themselves or giving the other auctioneers, ringmen, clerks and anyone else on staff the job of watching and listening, and free rein to tell the auctioneer that he, “Said Sold! for the wrong amount,” or “You’re on the wrong number.”

I think rightly so there is a tendency to view an experienced auctioneer’s bid call as authoritative. In other words, if they say it, it must be right. On the contrary, even experienced auctioneers make these types of mistakes.

For large or important auctions, it maybe be prudent to have someone designated to essentially play umpire. This person would listen and watch the auctioneer and call any discrepancies to his or her attention. In such prominent auctions, a mistake can be (and has been) quite costly if not immediately corrected.

Because bid calling accuracy matters.

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 serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.