Bidding: How to Beat The Computer in the Room

The internet has revolutionized auction, changing the way auctions are conducted worldwide. With internet auction sites like Live Auctioneers, Art Fact, Auction Zip and The Sale Room, anyone can bid in real time during an auction almost like they were there on the floor. Online bidders have a way of increasing the auctioneer’s bottom line but to the floor bidder and auctioneer can be a frustrating addition to the auction. If you find yourself at an auction bidding against a computer, here are some tips that might give you, the floor bidder in attendance or phone bidder, a competitive advantage over the computer.

How to beat the computer if you’re on the sales floor

Remember, most online bidders are slow to bid. Maybe their internet connection is terrible, or maybe the just don’t feel pressure or sense of urgency to bid. Whatever the reason, this puts the bidder actually in attendance at a competitive advantage. Conversely, most auctioneers are in a hurry to sell. To the auctioneer, seconds seem like minutes and they lose patience quickly taking bids from an online bidder they can’t see or hear. Realizing this and being able to control this dynamic will give you the competitive advantage almost every time.

Do not treat “the computer” like another floor bidder. You aren’t bidding against the guy sitting at the computer, he works for the auction house and isn’t going to be rattled easily. You are bidding against an unseen person bidding in the comfort of his own home and may not have the same sense of urgency of the people at the auction. Use patience when bidding against a computer and don’t bid quickly. The auctioneer will lose patience with the online bidder first, before losing patience with you, the bidder in front of him. For example, if the auctioneer has the computer as the high bidder, don’t bid immediately. If you bid immediately, the auctioneer will have one fast bidder on the lot (you) and more time to wait for the slow bidder (computer) to catch up. If there are two slow bidders on the same lot – you plus the computer – the auctioneer will lose patience overall especially with the computer. Thus, when the computer is the high bidder wait until the auctioneer is at last call and bid loudly. This will make you the high bidder and force the internet bidder to react and bid again. The internet bidder may already assume he has won the lot due to the time lag between his bid and yours. Now you are trying the auctioneers patience and he’s running out. He will sell it to you just to close the lot and move on.

To Recap:

  • Be patient, don’t bid immediately if you are outbid by the computer.
  • Wait till last call to bid and bid loudly so that you are heard.
  • Internet bidders in general will not react quickly.
  • Slow down the auction and make the auctioneer lose patience, he will lose patience with the computer first.

Hopefully, this method will give you an advantage at auction. Having been the guy running the computer in the room for several auctions for years, experience has taught me that this method works well for floor bidders who find themselves in a bidding war against the computer. The only thing that will nullify this method is if you’re bidding against an online bidder who is attentive and really wants the lot. By far, this is not the case. The internet bidder who bids quickly will level the playing field to an extent, but they simply don’t always bid quickly.

If you have a different opinion on the matter, please share your comments and experiences in the comment section below!

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About Berkeley Brown
Anson Brown, co-founder and principal of Auction Exclusive, is an expert in rare books, prints, antique maps, historical manuscripts and autographs. He is also well versed in a variety of fine and decorative arts and antiques and has 7 years experience in the auction industry. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from George Mason University and and Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland.

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