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auctionhousecrowdCarl has been an auctioneer for 24 years. He has a monthly consignment auction, and conducts various benefit auctions throughout the year.

As Carl begins his “First-Saturday” monthly auction, he notices that the crowd of bidders is just sitting there. They aren’t really paying attention, nor bidding on any of the items offered.

Our question today is: Why would a crowd of people at a live auction just “sit there” and not bid?

Over the years, auctioneers have tried having the band play, or playing a game, or telling a joke … yet I wonder if there is some sort of basic problem in these situations which isn’t necessarily solved by music, games or comedy.

Auctions rely on the market. In such a market, there is supply and demand which control the prices realized. More supply than demand — less bidding. More demand than supply — more bidding. It’s generally that simple.

Therefore I would contend that if there is ample property for auction (supply) and there is a sufficient crowd in attendance (demand,) then there will be bidding. But, the auction bidders are just sitting there?

Here’s why: Because the people there don’t want what is being offered. What has to change? The property or the people. Changing the music, tempo or humor alters neither of those.

Not to say that some salesmanship or puffing isn’t prudent. “Boy look at this …” or “Wow, what a great piece …” However, generally these types of comments are used to encourage bidders to bid again — bid more — rather than to bid instead of “just sitting there.”

Watch here as Joseph Mast as auctioneer turns the microphone over to Bill Menish at 0:36 who then “puffs” about the vehicle. Again, this isn’t done to get people to bid as much as to get them to bid again.

Joseph has a bid of $25,000 at that point, and eventually the truck sells for $60,000. Not that it might not have sold for that same amount without the puffing, but it likely helped.

We talked about auctioneers and bid calling in regard to captivation and motivation here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/auctioneers-chant-captivation-motivation/ Such bid calling promotes bidders reacting with emotion rather than logic.

So, maybe this offers a third issue? The bid calling itself?

In conclusion I would offer that if bidders are just sitting there, an auctioneer needs to do little else than change what is being offered, or change the bidder pool — or both.

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. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.