Friday, June 24, 2011

Rural Auction Etiquette

   A little like a garage sale, a little like Mexico shopping villages, and yet nothing at all like these things, an auction out in the country is an exercise in both restraint and certainty.

   Restraint  & certainty are not among my strong suits. 

   Sometimes Handsome & I find auctions of just general household stuff...  Other times animal auctions, other times auctions or estate sales of tools, equipment, & farm implements.  Recently we've ventured into events which are dedicated to caged poultry and nothing else.  Each is special in its own way.

   In case you should ever find yourself invited to such a soiree, please pocket the following short list of tips.  These are trade secrets I rather wish someone had shared with me ahead of time.

  • Dress the part.  This is a good time to be a follower and a blender-inner.  Your hairstyle is also important, though for a more functional reason.  Before you leave home consider securing your tangly, untamed hair, at least well enough that you do not need to constantly flip it around.  Ponytail adjustments, in some circles, are taken as bids.  A good option is a baseball cap and sunglasses.  Your hair will stay put better and your eyelessness will help to conceal your expressions.

  • While the bidding is going on, avoid carrying on conversations that are prone to be overly affirmative. 
Imagine yourself and your spouse at an auction.
You are a good, active listener
who is wrapped up in a nice, juicy talk with your beloved. 
Imagine your agree with your spouse a lot during this talk
and so bob your head up and down, maybe even
blinking dramatically here and there, for effect.
But imagine you also don't want to miss any developments at the microphone,
where a nice looking Angus is being auctioned.
Or instead of cattle it could be a chipped
but beautiful piece of Frankoma pottery. 
You have maintained both eye contact with the auctioneer
and ear contact with hubby.
What just happened is you kept the conversation afloat 
but you also gave the appearance of a stealthy bid. 

Only very merciful auction houses will let this slide more than once.
And needless to say the misunderstanding brings
your fascinating conversation to a grinding halt. 

Fewer marital events kill the "open up to me, honey" mood
more quickly than the purchase of an unwanted steer.

  • I have learned the hard way to not bad mouth items for auction whilst circulating through the crowd, no matter how funny you think you are.  Chances are, at these intimate affairs, the sellers are nearby and they have feelings.  Trash and treasure, baby.  Trash and treasure.
  • Don't take your camera.  Do.  Not.  It's true that rural auctions are GREAT photo opportunities, among the world's best really, but they are just not the place for clicking away.  Talk about sticking out like a sore thumb...  And once you're pegged as an outsider, the sharks will circle.  They know how to run up your bids without hardly trying.  They work in a maniacal, silent network that I am just beginning to understand.  Outsider?  Bad.  Outsider with a CAMERA?  Tourist.  You'll go home with treasures, but expensive ones.
  • Beyond just not showing your emotions, also try to resist emotions in general.  Getting attached too quickly or too strongly to any auction item is dangerous.  It can cause you to pay too much or to chase after lesser items if you lose the good stuff.  Even if you are admiring cute little baby ducks that are so dang cute oh my lord they want to come with me pleeeeaaase can we bid on them... take a deep breath and walk away without fawning.  Another auction will be here before you know it.  Chill baby, baby, chill...
  • Pay attention to the posted buyer's premium.  This is the rate YOU pay to the auction house, on top of the price you win while bidding.  Not all auctions have this, but the larger companies probably do and this can add up quickly while you shop.
  • Oh, speaking of money adding up, a biggie:  "Four times the money!"  Exciting.  This means you pay, big shocker, four times the price you bid.  This happens when a set of something is up for bid, for example four tires, but the auctioneer often slips it in kind of casually.  I guess the sharks know when to expect this, but you might imagine the chaos it triggers for a wide eyed, bobble headed, camera wielding tourist.  This also comes in the form of two times the money, three, seven, etc.  Bidder beware.
  
   My hope is for everyone to give rural auctioning a chance.  It is a fantastic way to form and build unusual collections, and it is cheap, interesting entertainment.
   Best of luck in the restraint and certainty departments, though.  The buzz of a crackling microphone and the perfume of dust and mildew are enough to set this tourist off into unbridled purchasing.  May the force be stronger with you.

pinnable

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