Q: Will I understand the auctioneer?
A: In a word, yes. The auction chant is comprised of a series of numbers and filler words. The auctioneer will start the bid on a specific number, "five" for example, then some filler words that are there to keep the rhythm of the chant (which is what I recognized as the indecipherable babble), then the auctioneer will look for a higher bid by saying and repeating the next number he's looking for, "ten" for example. When he gets that, he'll go up to fifteen and so on.
Q: How do I bid on an item?
A: When you check in at the auction trailer you'll be asked to give your name, address, and phone number which will be entered into the computer and a number will be assigned to you. You'll be given a bid card with that number on it. If an item comes up that you wish to bid on you simply raise your card high enough for the auctioneer to see it. In some instances the crowd is large and the auctioneer can't always have his eyes on all the people. That is what ringmen are for. There will often be about two or three people working with the auctioneer to catch bids, these are the ringmen. They are always scanning the crowd and looking for bids and when they see someone trying to bid they'll get the auctioneer's attention and work with the bidder to make sure that they're getting it in.
Q: Can I pay for my items any time or do I have to stay until the auction is over?
A: The clerk is always near the auctioneer entering information into the computer. The first thing the clerk enters is an item description, then the price for which the item sold, and the bidder number of the person who bought the item. The computer that the clerk uses is linked via modem to the computer in the auction trailer so that as soon as the clerk enters the information on an item into her computer it is immediately accessible from the computer in the trailer. So, if you wish to leave before the auction is over you can pay out at the trailer at any time.
Q: Is it possible to bid on something without meaning to?
A: Sometimes the auctioneer will take a bid from a person who didn't mean to bid, but usually the auctioneer and ringmen make eye contact and either gesture or nod their heads to make sure that they've got your bid. If you do end up bidding on an item unintentionally the auctioneer will start the bidding again with the person who had the next highest bid, and it's not a big deal so don't worry.
Q: Do I need to bring cash?
A: Spear Auctioneers accepts cash, checks, and credit cards.
Q: What if I purchase I large item that won't fit in my car?
A: Many times an auction site, especially one where there are lots of large items or equipment, will be open long after the auction for people to get their stuff. Arrangements can usually be made to return the next day with a truck or larger vehicle. Sellers tend to be very willing to work with you to make sure that you get your purchases.
Q: Is there any kind of warranty on the stuff I buy?
A: Items sold by auction are sold "as is," but when there are vehicles or equipment the crew will usually try to start them up and see if and how they're running so people have a better idea of what they're bidding on.
Q: If I'm only interested in one item, how do I know when it will come up for bidding?
A: The auctioneer tries to move through a sale in order. If he jumps around a lot it becomes more possible that he'll miss something. High-dollar items such as vehicles and real estate will usually be sold at a scheduled time because most of the buyers for those items are there specifically for them. Other items like coins, jewelry, guns, and collectibles are often sold at the beginning of a sale.
Q: Is there anything to eat or drink there?
A: There is usually a concession stand that sells hot dogs, hamburgers, sodas, chips, and bar-be-que that "smells so good I nearly bit someone," as ringman and auctioneer Don Dougan says.
Q: Can I bring the kids?
A: Absolutely! An auction is a really fun way to spend a Saturday with the family.
If anyone has any questions that have not been answered here, please feel free to email me (my address can be found on my profile) or contact Spear Auctioneers. Don't be intimidated if you're thinking of attending an auction for the first time. Auctions are not nearly as confusing as they make them seem on TV. They're a lot of fun whether you're just checking things out or planning some large purchases.