So you’ve finally saved up enough cash to go to a storage auction. You’re eager to buy your first unit and are planning on doing so no matter what. As you make your way through the crowds at the storage facility, you feel confident that no one is going to outbid you. But wait-do you know who the whale is at this auction? Did you just overhear someone talking about phantom bidding? Is there another new blood to contend to? Better yet… do you even know what any of that means?
If not, hold your horses! If you want to walk the walk, you gotta talk the talk. Over time, the auction scene has become somewhat of a subculture, and as with all good subcultures, the bidders and auctioneers have developed slang and secret codes. Knowing their language is indispensable in being successful.
Look around. Get a feel for the crowd. Listen. Hear what people are saying about the other bidders, about the units, and about the auctioneer. Here are a few phrases to listen for at the next auction that might just save your career.
Caravan auction – a series of site auctions advertised through a common promotional campaign. Caravans are usually led by the same auctioneer, who will lead the “caravan” to different unit facilities throughout the day. Find out if the auction you’re at is part of a caravan-you might have an opportunity to visit more than one facility that day!
“Fair Warning” -if you hear the auctioneer say this, listen up: if you haven’t bid on the unit and would like to-do it now! The auctioneer is about to close the bid, and is alerting you that he/she has given you “fair warning” before doing so.
Jump bid – a bid made of a much higher increment than the previous bid. Usually employed by a serious bidder who wants others to know that they mean business.
Looky-loos – a person who goes to an auction purely to spectate, with no intentions of bidding. Looky-loos can be frustrating to both the auction goers and the auctioneer, as they crowd the space and make it harder for potential bidders to see the units. The amount of looky-loos has increased in current times due to the booming popularity of storage auction reality TV shows.
New blood – a newbie; a person who is new to bidding. Don’t underestimate the new blood, they can be just as fierce as the seasoned pros as they’re trying to prove their worth amongst the other bidders and carve out a place in the business.
Pickin’ bid/phantom bid – a nonexistent bid called by the auctioneer to pique interest in the bidders. Be warned-this tactic is considered improper and in many jurisdictions is illegal.
Quarter/”Gimme a quarter… ” – no, the unit is not selling for 25 cents. The auctioneer may refer to a $25 bid as a quarter. “Gimme two quarters” would obviously mean $50.
Shill/shilling – a type of bid; bidder who is working for the auctioneer to inflate bids. Watch out for this one. Ask around for the inside scoop. Does the auctioneer make a profit off the units sold, or do they get a flat rate salary? Know your crowd, and more importantly, know your auctioneer.
Staged – relating to storage units, this describes a unit that has been tampered with before the day of the auction. Items of interest may have been pulled to the front in order to entice bidders, such as electronics, brand name purses, etc. Look for signs of a staged auction by disrupted spots of dust or an awkward, almost too perfect look to the setup of the locker.
Valuation – estimation of the worth of an item, or a storage unit on whole. After enough auctions and research, valuating will become much easier for you. Valuating is important in deciding what you maximum bid on a unit should be. Obviously, if the bidding goes higher than your valuation, you should step out.
Whale – a seasoned buyer who attends the same auctions very frequently. You’ll probably pin point the whale very quickly, and many people may be talking about them. They are usually tough to outbid if they have their sights set on a unit, and most likely have a lot of cash to burn!
“You’re out!”- a tactic used by the auctioneer after you have been outbid. Auctioneers often interact with buyers this way in order to fuel further bidding.
Are you feeling comfortable yet? Try some of them out, see how they feel! Who knows, you might just impress the other new bloods and the whales alike at your next auction.
For some more fantastic auction speak, as well as some of the phrases from this article, check out “Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms” By Paul Dickson.