By on April 15, 2012


Every few months I get an unwanted creature in my life.

It smiles. It makes nice conversation, and for as long as I’m at the auction it almost never leaves me alone.

“What did you think about that car Steve?”, “How’s business going Steve?” “Are you going to bid on that car Steve?”

Rarely do I get sick of hearing my own name. But when it’s said for the sake of a one sided relationship, my mind wanders to deviant thoughts.

A typical birddog at the sales will eye you as you’re looking at a vehicle. “Hmmm… he likes that vehicle! Oh yes, I’m going to snap this losing streak and outbid him. Some retail buyer will definitely pay more for it!”

The trick when it comes to any birddog is to get them to buy rancid crap.

Stare at the rolling turds before the sale. Spend time with them. Before the auction begins, go through every little crevice of the interior and spend copious times underneath the hood as el señor birddog pretends to like you.

When you walk away from the car, keep looking at it. Longingly. The bigger the turd. The longer the look. Then make a few scribbles on your run list and head to the ‘auction barn’ when the sale starts.

If the birddog is still on you, strike up a quick conversation with a friend as he gleefully listens to meaningless pleasantries.

Snap a quick wink to your friend, and then tell the birddog, “I’ll be right back.”

Walk away out of sight, get an extra copy of the run list, and then make a sharp turn back to your pre-auction inspections.

You are now thankfully free from the birddog for a limited time.

Now it’s time to enjoy yourself. On one run list make your usual notes on good cars. On the second run list, make notes of the shitty cars you found with bid prices that are high enough to keep the birddog out of the auctions for a long time.

It’s important not to ever personally insult the birddog because he will try to outbid you out of pure greed and spite for months on end until his last line of credit has been shut. Always be nice. Always make sure the ‘bad’ list is within easy sight of the birddog’s eyes.

While you pretend to pay attention to the bidding at the auction, the birddog will make note of your turd list. If the fellow is particularly hoversome, you may need to also be extra discrete with your bidding.

I’ve always found it better to just walk away from the birddog when you need to bid on the good cars, and just give a quick glance and wink to the auctioneer while not missing a beat in your walk.

A quick but casual use of your fingers or fist will also give most auctioneers the sign that you need. Always make sure your back is turned away from the birddog when this happens.

Choosing an odd number instead of the usual 100, 500 and 1000 increments also helps you lose the birddog’s scent. Especially if the auctioneer has a reputation for running up the price.

When the auctioneer goes down in price to an amount that has a 600, 800, 1100 in it, many dealers automatically think that he is trying to bump up the bid… and see if he’ll go lower. For instance out of the four cars I bought today, two were started off at 600 and 1100 instead of 500 and 1000. They were older vehicles. A 1996 Honda Passport and a 1998 Saturn LS1. I didn’t receive a single competing bid and they both ended up being good cars.

As for the birddog….

I waited until another Saturn came through the lane. Salvage title. Frame damage aplenty. Enough peeling paint and rust spots to make it part of native Detroit’s architecture. In fact here was the announcement.

“Announcements: clamp marks, frame damage, miles exempt, rebuilt history, salvage history”

I stared longingly at my favorite turd while the birddog asked me, “Are you going to bid on this?” My answer was, “I don’t know.”. I looked at the car, dropped into a crowd where making out my bid would be difficult, and smiled at the auctioneer so that he would look in my direction.

The first bids came in and the dance began. I was lucky enough to have a bidder on my left so it looked like I was bidding. But I wasn’t.

I made eye contact with the auctioneer and then looked at the birddog with a shrug and grin to auctioneer that implied, “You have a live one over there.” The birddog obliged and soon he bid the poor Frankenstein into the nether-regions of amateur ignorance.

Afterwards the birddog came directly to me while I was picking up my buy sheets, “Did you bid on that Saturn Steve?” I played dumb, “Yeah… but I got outbid. It’s hard to buy cars these days, huh!”

Do I feel guilty? Hell no! I will have one less competitor in my life come next Monday.

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12 Comments on “Hammer Time Rewind: Tricking A Birddog...”

  • avatar

    This seems a lot like poker. Do you have a movie script in you Steven?

  • avatar

    Every walk of life has a birddog of some sort. Yours, at least, provides the rest of us with some entertainment and you with some stimulation.

    Another good story. Thank you.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Hey, bird dog get away from my quail
    Hey, bird dog you’re on the wrong trail
    Bird dog you better leave my lovey-dove alone
    Hey, bird dog get away from my chick
    Hey, bird dog you better get away quick
    Bird dog you better find a chicken little of your own

  • avatar

    eBay bidding is similar bidding in non-consistent numbers. But we can do this for most of the one week listing. :)

  • avatar

    Yep, I can hear the description of this fellow, “He’s a bird dawg.”

    “Bird Dawgin” is a good way at looking at folks who come tagging along to scoop someone else’s knowledge and research, while pretending to be a friend.

    • 0 avatar

      Just got done with one of those episodes. After cozying up real close, with lots of smiling, dog stole some of my work and passed it off as his own. However, he doesn’t know that I know he did it, because I discovered it by fluke.

      From time to time he asks me for advice on his business problems. Somewhere out there is a salvage-titled, frame-damaged, paint-peeled, rebuilt, clamp-marked, rusting, overpriced Saturn with his name on it. He doesn’t know that yet, either.

  • avatar

    I would have no remorse in your line of business because it is dog-eat-dog in that setup. The sellers at these auctions want the bid driven up and the buyers want it driven down. Bird dogs are just part of the landscape. Though I have to say they don’t exist in every line of business just those that lend themselves to it like the secondary market in general.

    It’s why I hate going to estate sales really and stick to garage sales for my summer picking. I prefer vintage and antiques and while estate sales have plenty of that it also has plenty of people who want to grind this stuff for a profit and not for a fun time and enjoyment with some pocket money along the way.

    • 0 avatar


      It all depends on what estate sales you go to, not all are like what you describe and it takes some time to know the better ones, once you do, you can have a lot of fun at estate sales.

      Used to go a lot when younger, but don’t go as often now. Back then, both parents were still alive, now, it’s just my Mom and we don’t go as often as we did even a few years ago. Some of our favorites have gotten out of the business due to either death or age.

      2 summers ago, I bought a complete Cuisinart food processor with all the accessories in good working order and new enough to still get all the parts for it, bowls, lids, shoots etc, including a wooden storage unit for the discs for a whopping $30 and it’s the 11 cup model too but it’s still essentially vintage to the mid to late 80’s most likely.

      That same estate sale had a bunch of vintage 60’s era Le Creuset pots and pans, in turquoise that I would’ve loved to have had a piece or two, but with many of them going for $30 each or so, I had to leave them behind.

      I DID buy a full 5 piece vintage set of Le Creuset in buttercup yellow, or Elise Yellow as they called it, from the 60’s that contained 2 skillets, a 5Qt Dutch oven and a small 1.5Qt sauce pot and that whole thing was $25, bu that was almost 20 years ago.

      • 0 avatar

        The estate sales I’ve been to are more like garage sales except it’ the whole house. I haven’t scored any great deals but I did see a decent condition Wedgewood stove that went for $400. Refurbished, it may be worth $1200 or more. I’ve never done an auction.

  • avatar

    Steve, while I’ve not done any bidding myself, I’ve been to Gov’t auctions where they sold of GSA vehicles as my late Dad bought several cars, mostly for himself over the years there and I went to a bunch of them.

    It’s an interesting way to purchase cars and he’s bought several good ones from the Gov’t over the years, the last being a 1987 Plymouth Reliant that was, I think an Army service car (as it had that light army green paint) and was a basic 4 cyl model with AM radio and no AC, but with the automatic and I think the 2.2 for my middle sister, though some of them did have AC.

    His 83 Chevy Citation, also a Gov’t auction car had AC, AM radio, and automatic and the 2800 V6. He stopped going after that Reliant as the bargains just weren’t there anymore.

    Used to be if you bought a civil service GSA car, it had nothing but heat/vent, automatic, V6 or small V8, depending upon the car. Now, AM, if not AM/FM and/or AC are often found on these same vehicles. Also, when they had the 83 Citations, a bunch of them came with the 4Cyl’s and manual transmissions, go figure on those. they weren’t anything special, came in the usual Citation colors even, but that’s the ONLY time I saw cars with something other than an automatic though that I know of, for what appeared to be for Civil Service use.

  • avatar

    YES THIS ANNOYS ME!! I am a photographer, and have had so many people follow me around just to try to get the same photo as me and post to Facebook or Twitter before I can! I am not a papparazzo, but I have gotten a few celebrities, and they are more receptive to me than the creepy birdogs.

    WOW, just reading this made my skin crawl…

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