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Bidder Numbers at Auction

gavelonkeyboard_212x141Three-digit bidder numbers
I’m going to make the case that larger auctions should start their bidder numbers at 100. More specifically, there should be no two-digit bidder numbers. If you need four-digit bidder numbers (1000+) for your floor bidders congratulations, you’re having one big auction!

With everything that it takes to facilitate a successful auction I want to focus on a very specific function; clerking. From an auction software perspective, the most important person on auction day is the clerk. Why the clerk? No other position (again, limited to auction software) has as much impact on a bidder’s experience. The clerk must be fast. The clerk must be accurate. In fact, a clerk with O.C.D. is probably worth their weight in gold!

Clerking accuracy
The more accurate the clerk is, the less problems you will have at checkout. Every time a bidder disputes the price of a bid, or a wrong item is on their invoice, or an item is missing from their invoice what effect does that have? It sloooooows things down. It causes everyone else in line to wait that much longer as the staff rifles through the manual clerking sheets or listens to the taped recording of the auction.

Fast checkout
If a bidder knows that they are going to have to wait in line to checkout what do they do? They checkout early to avoid the rush. If the bidder is checking out early what are they not doing? They are NOT bidding! If a bidder knows that checkout will be fast, even at the end of the auction, then that bidder is more likely to stay on the floor and keep bidding. If the bidder is bidding the consignor is realizing maximum dollar and so is the auctioneer. Win-win.

What does all this have to do with bidder numbers?
We’re all human and we all make mistakes. We transpose numbers, we miss numbers, we mess up. One thing we can do to help our clerks is to always hand out three-digit bidder numbers. That means we start with bidder number 100 and go from there. This helps because the clerk knows that every bidder number should be three digits. If the clerk mis-hears bidder number 23 they automatically know there is no bidder number 23 and they can ask the auctioneer to repeat the number.

But I already have permanent bidder numbers with two digits!
If you already have permanent bidder numbers with two digits there is still something that can be done to help the clerk. Have the auctioneer say the zero in front of the two-digit number. So instead of bidder twenty-three, say bidder zero-two-three or oh-twenty-three. 

Exceptions to the rule
If you rarely exceed 100 bidders at your auctions then I recommend starting at bidder 10. Why ten instead of one? Because your clerk knows there should be two digits. Clerk hears bidder 7, knows there is no bidder 7 and asks auctioneer to repeat… but you already knew that didn’t you? In this case it makes no sense to add the burden of typing three-digit bidder numbers if you don’t need to.

Change is good
This simple change might only eliminate a few clerking errors each auction but every little bit counts. The point of auction software on auction day is to provide a pleasant experience for the bidders. Fast + Accurate = Happy Bidder and happy bidders come back to your auction. All else being equal, if you and another auctioneer are having an auction on the same day, which auction will the bidder attend? Yours with the fast checkout line or your competitor’s auction where they have to wait 40 minutes to checkout? Your fast and accurate clerk can actually bring more bidders to your auction which gives you a competitive advantage.

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  1. May 29th, 2009 at 05:58 | #1

    Good post. We actually use the number of digits in a customer’s account to differentiate between live purchases and Internet purchases. We’re up to 5 digits in customer account numbers, but any live bidder must register for a three-digit number so when we’re reviewing unpaid invoices and items that are left at the end of the night, it’s easy to tell if it’s a live bidder or an Internet bidder. Customers can check out with either number.

    I very much agree that permanent numbers and numbers with fewer than three digits are a pain.

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