The key to a successful auction is speed, which builds the auctioneer’s best friend: momentum. Never give buyers the opportunity to think rationally, that’s the theory. But there are people who act as auction speedbumps. Here are a few.
Two Bits: This bidder always wants to cut the bid. If the auctioneer is taking hundred dollar bids he’ll offer $50, if it’s 10 cents he’ll offer a nickel, all of which makes the auctioneer chant tongue twisting numbers he wouldn’t ordinarily use.
Coyote Charley: This bidder will loudly ask all sorts of questions that put doubt in the other bidders’ minds so he can buy the animal cheaper. He’ll ask, “Has the bull been anaplazed?” Or, “Has this horse always had that bump on his leg?”
Get-Away George: Get-Away only shows up at horse sales and stands in the back and bids for the owner of the horse to run up the price. Then when the auctioneer unknowingly sells out to him, he slips out the back never to be seen again.
Old Yeller: A hard-of-hearing old-timer at an auction who never buys anything but keeps interrupting by saying things like, “Slow Down” or “I can’t hear you.”
Wannabe Will: This auction-goer evidently feels the auction crew is incompetent and feels the need to spot bids for them. We deal with him by selling him a $10,000 bull when he’s waving his arms and pointing out bids. Usually one time is all it takes to train him to be quiet and sit on his hands.
Blowhard Bob: This rider from the back of his horse will reach over and grab the auctioneer’s microphone and in a slow drawl will say, “I sure enough love this horse and he’s the best I ever rode.” One wonders, why is he selling the old fleabag then?
Old One-Off: After the ring is filled with 20 head, Old One-Off always wants to take one off, even if the cattle are all identical. It’s usually a bidding tactic to make other buyers think one head is deficient. An auction man’s worst nightmare.
Madame Secretary: A woman who feels she has to record the price on every animal. She’ll halt the auction to ask, “How much did that bull five lots ago sell for?”
Bud Wiser: What would a horse sale be without a drunk who has to stand in everyone’s way closely examining the lot in the ring, as if he has the money to buy it.
Foghorn Fergie: A consignor’s friend who wants to make brownie points by stopping the auction and saying, “I’ve used his bulls for years and only had five or six sterile ones.” Invariably no one bids after this impromptu burst of brown-nosing.
Two Time Tom: Two animals enter the ring and the auctioneer says, “Two times the money,” meaning the price is doubled, or multiplied by 20 if there are 20 head. But when Two-Time is the buyer he’ll say, “I thought that was for all of them.”
Clerk’s Nightmare: If we are using buyer numbers this guy never can find his buyer card and the whole show stops until he finds it. Or, if we are using buyer names this guy will mumble a name like Palafox Veteranavelfredavich.
Damfino: This person always wants us to stop the sale and point out the person he or she is bidding against. I always tell them, “Don’t bid again and you’ll find out.”
Hollywood: It’s customary at horse sales to not slam the gavel until the saddle has been removed so everyone can see the horse’s back. But Hollywood, seeking his 15 minutes of fame, refuses to get off the horse, all the while performing tricks like standing up in the saddle or spinning around real fast, splattering everyone in the first row with wood chips and horse manure. Once I heard an auctioneer end this nonsense by whispering to the consignor, “If you don’t unsaddle that horse right now I’m gonna sell him for chicken feed.” You never saw a quicker dismount in all your life.
If you recognize yourself as any of these people please accept our most gracious invitation to stay home from the next sale. ❖
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.