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The Non-Buying Bidder

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

by Lee Pitts

I’ve worked about every kind of auction there is from A to Z – automobiles to zebras – and in every case, the auction crew had to deal with the menacing nuisance of a non-buying bidder. As far as I know, there are at least four species belonging to this genus. 

The Big Shot

One will find this fully-feathered fathead at charity, rare automobile and high-dollar wine auctions. They are easy to spot, which is their objective – to be noticed. 

I remember one charity auction where the sale crew had to rent tuxedos to wear, and we had to pay $18 for the Cokes we drank. 

Although they didn’t inform the crowd of it, many items had to meet floor prices. 

A car dealer donated a brand-new exotic automobile to the auction with the provision if it didn’t bring $125,000, it didn’t sell. 

Knowing there was a floor price, two very vain board members got into a fake bidding battle all the way to $124,000, giving everyone the impression they had money to burn. 

We had to beg the pompous jerks for every bid, and the crowd gave the imposters a standing ovation for their fake generosity. 

Not one cent was made for the charity – we pumped up the egos of two arrogant imbeciles, and the whole thing made me want to purge my $18 Coke.

The Auction Addict

In the words of Author Larry McMurtry, “People get irrationally competitive at auctions.”

To which I would add, “Especially when fueled by copious amounts of booze.”

At auctions where liquor is served, beauty is often in the eye of the beer holder.

Bidding at auctions is fun, and some folks just can’t control their competitive urge to out-bid another drunk. This is how we end up with a guy waking up the next morning with a hangover, $15,000 lighter in his wallet and a brand new Sea-Doo in the driveway.

And, he probably doesn’t even know how to swim!

There ought to be an organization to help such people, known as auction addicts or the AA.

The Fly Swatter

It doesn’t happen very much these days, but 30 years ago when bull sales didn’t average $5,000 – let alone $1,500 – we considered ourselves lucky if we got the bulls off of the scale.

Some owners would put a floor price under their bulls based on what they’d bring in the slaughter run at the local auction market. For example, the seller might put a $1,200 floor on his bulls. 

Although the floor price wasn’t announced, it didn’t take a genius to understand there was one. Often, auction junkies would have a glorious time bidding the price just short of the floor. 

I recall one sale where we weren’t getting any bulls sold, and after about 10 “no sales” the owner whispered in the auctioneer’s ear to lower the floor. You should have seen the look on the guy’s face when all of a sudden we sold a bull to him for $1,100. 

After the sale, he came up to me and said, “Lee, you gotta help me out. I bought a bull, but I don’t own a single cow to breed him to. I was just having a little fun, and my wife is gonna kill me.”

Other excuses for being caught were waving to someone, swatting flies, scratching a nose or winking at a cute gal. By far, the most used excuse was, “I was just trying to help.”

The Hide and Seeker

Although nearly extinct, this species used to be seen at consignment horse sales, usually in the back of the room with a clear path to an exit. 

Most reputable horse sales these days have strict rules which don’t allow buy-backs, but this doesn’t stop a  consignor from asking his brother-in-law to stand in the back of the room and bid his horse up. 

We refer to such people as “rabbits,” and it’s important to spot a rabbit early in case he bids one time too many and ends up actually buying the horse. Invariably, in such an incident, the rabbit tries to escape out the back of the room before we can get his name or his buyer number.

Believe me, early in my career – 50 years ago – there were many occasions when I had to go rabbit hunting.

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