Hammer Time: Fast Talk
It pays to have friends in high places. Just as politicians have favored constituents, the automotive auctioneer almost always has a good memory for those who help them during the sale. More than anything else, the auctioneer wants to generate a market and get his own share of greenbacks. Some are easily corruptible. Others less so. But supporting him at times when the bidders that are ‘working the sale’ (a.k.a. colluding) can be worth far more to the auctioneer than the occasional greenback. Doing it the right way, at the right moment, can create a very nice win/win situation that goes straight to the bottom line.
For example, If you bid when others are intentionally sitting on their heels, he and the dealer/finance rep may reward you with a cheap buy. My personal favorite is to stand in the back with a fist on my chest for one second. That literally means ‘hold your bid’ and the auctioneer will honor your bid. If the other buyers don’t join in, and it’s a unit that has to be liquidated, you get the deal.
What I usually do is flash a few fingers when I hold the fist to determine the hold value. Flipping the British bird of course means two. Alternating fingers on your first can offer a $1200 or $2100 bid, while just flashing two numbers in a second’s time, like three, then an open hand for five means $3500. There are also outright sign terms. Thumb up means six. A crooked pointer finger is 7. Crossing your pointer and middler finger is 8. Thumb down means 9. Making a zero with thumb and fingers signifies ten. Raising pointer and pinky makes 11. And adding the ring finger gives you twelve.
Is this an easy thing to do? Hell no! Really. You have to sense the auctioneer’s rhythm when he’s asking for a bid, make your sign at a time when he usually won’t break his chant, and be inconspicuous enough to not tip off fellow bidders who want the same vehicle. The auctioneer also has to sense what you’re doing and expect some type of ‘thank you’ for it. My work as an auctioneer often helps me when I jump to the other side of the block. But in this business, everybody can make a friend and make a deal.
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Another great article and comments. This is automotive anthropology for those of us on the outside. Thx for your insight as always, Steve.
Steve, that's usually full-bore as in wide-open throttle butterfly valve...but given the times and how gnarly the world is (and how mortally nasty a pissed-off boar can be), I don't know but that your spelling is more accurate. Keep up the great work. And yes...I've only been to a car auction once, but would have to say that it's got Woot! and Ebay and everything online beat all hollow..... A similar experience is going to the docks at Newark NJ to see the custom imports...The Ferraris and Lamborghinis yes, but also odd Land Rovers, 2CVs and even (yes) a Simca. The only mechanical experience that ever beat them was going to the Tank Museum at the Home of Armor in Fort Knox, KY. WWI tanks (the ones that looked like an enormous parallelogram...and I got inside it...They were so tall because they had an enormous LONG stroke engine that went from belly plate to the top...and separate water jackets for each cylinder), WWII tanks, German tanks, British Tanks, Russian tanks, tank destroyers, tank retrievers, oh my. That was 40 years ago, dunno how much you can get in and play with the hardware these days.....