Friday, October 14, 2005

Dealing with the Problem Bidder

Perhaps the most difficult situation that most auctioneers, as well as other bidders, have the displeasure of experiencing at any auction is the "Problem Bidder". This type of bidder falls into many different classifications such as the (1) "Know it all", (2) "Heckler", (3) "Drunk", (4) "Confronter", and lastly the (5) "Thief". Sometimes the situations that present themselves are hilarious, but more often than not they are unpleasant. It is my hope to better define the "Problem Bidder", and how to effectively deal with them without causing unnecessary disruption to the auction or the other more respectable bidders.

The "Know It All" bidder is someone who fashions themselves as God�s gift to mankind. A venerable genius, and bodhisattva of bulls**t. Often pragmatic and proud, these Cliff Claven's of the Auction Industry know everything about everything, and they are more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge with the auctioneer, the bidder, the food concession operator, and yes, even the farm dog. Realistically, the "Know It All" is not intelligent, often lonely, and just looking for a little attention. Solution: Try to provide them with a modest dose of attention by placating their need for acceptance (i.e. Acknowledge that you understand, and are vitally aware, that if it was not for their input that Jonas Salk would never have developed the Polio Vaccine.). If this does not work, then try a little soft humor, as a laughing audience often subdues these types. Worse case scenario, go off of the microphone and tell them that they are becoming a nuisance.

The "Heckler" and the "Drunk" are most often the same guy, but not always. These bipolar types are desperately seeking attention, and rather than receiving positive kudos, they often receive public scorn and ridicule. The "Heckler or Drunk" truly thinks he's funny. In some cases, when he's "three sheets to the wind", he might be. Solution: Again, try a little humor, as the audience reaction will often quell this type. If this does not work, then address them personally off of the microphone. Be aware of liability, and do not allow your bidders to consume alcohol at a traditional auction. If they get injured, you might also be liable.

The "Confronter" is typically the worst of the bunch. This is the tough guy, with everything to prove and nothing to lose, and they will openly challenge, curse, or even insult your parentage. Humor again is golden in this scenario. Keep your cool cowboy! A calculated and measured response from you, backed by your audience's roaring laughter, will most often disarm the "Confronter". Without stating the typical insults, here are some samples of various responses that you might you might choose to respond with. (1) In fact my parents are married! (2) I have done no such thing with a chicken! (3) If I had a dollar for every time I have been called that, then do you really think I would be up here trying to earn a respectable living?

The "Thief" is the biggest mystery to me. I have yet to meet one that truly had a legitimate need that justifies this illegal act. The kleptomaniac has an attitude in which they feel that they are entitled. How you handle this individual is critical, as your response can induce potentially extreme reactions. Solution: If you are aware that someone has stolen something at your auction, and you know it is on their person, but they are paying for another item, then add the stolen item to the final bill. Politely acknowledge that they must have forgotten it was in their pocket. They may, at that point, want to pay for the item, or not.

A true story. A few years ago, I was conducting an auction, but I was off microphone at the time, when a bidder approached me and pointed out a thief who had stolen a power drill. The thief was already a half block down the street, so I enlisted the aid of one of my employees and we pursued the thief.

When we had caught up to him, my employee was ready to go berserk, as the thief had just got into their car. I told my employee to calm down. Standing at the driver's door, I addressed the thief in a calm yet firm voice, and I told him that I had his license plate number and witnesses that had seen him stealing the drill, and that if he chooses to drive away I would call the police. The man was afraid to come out of the car, because of my employee and me, but I assured him that he had nothing to fear if he gave back the stolen merchandise without incident.

The man timidly exited his vehicle, and we handled this situation by walking the man, and the now recovered stolen power drill as well as merchandise he had paid for, back to my cashier's station. I had reviewed his receipt for his purchases. I refunded his purchase amounts for the purchased items and I retained possession of those items that he had paid for. I told him that I will keep his Bidder Registration Card with his state Driver's License information, and that he is never to attend one of my auctions again. Problem solved!

In the worst "Problem Bidder" situations always call the police. Large auction venues might consider employing uniformed security or even off-duty law enforcement officers. The last thing an auctioneer, or his staff, needs to do is potentially get involved in a physical situation, unless you are defending yourself. Due to legal liability, an assault and battery situation should be avoided at all costs, as the auction company can be held responsible. Worse, you or your staff might be severely injured.

Knowledge is power! Being forewarned is being for armed! Brains over brawn! All of these clich� sayings have intrinsic truth when dealing with a "Problem Bidder". Look at it in this way; if it was not for the idiots in the world, then how would our virtues be tested. Humor and wit most often are your best solutions in overcoming the challenges posed by the "Problem Bidder".

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