Getting Thrown Into The Fire – Welcome to the Auction Business
Welcome To The Auction Business!
Fresh out of college I was ready to do what many Casperts have done for the last century, join the auction business. As much as I have been around the business my entire life, going to sales, helping my family when need be, I had no idea what I was truly getting into. The auction business is something one definitely cannot learn about while reading a textbook.
Growing up I always thought the day of the auction was the only aspect of the business that mattered. I could not have been more wrong. I have now experienced three auctions from start to finish, all of which extremely different. However the process for executing and developing each could not have been more similar. I never could’ve imagined the sale of forklifts, restaurant equipment, and cars would undergo the same processes with the same issues all to produce the same result.
Let’s discuss what it takes to go into all three of these auctions. For years I assumed the process went like so.
We show up to the auction site after weeks of advertising.
The equipment is already perfectly arranged, cleaned, and lotted.
We auction off the items.
The buyers pick up what they bought.
The auction process is completed.
Little did I know this description is about as accurate as Mark Sanchez on the J-E-T-S.
First thing to note, every day in the auction business is different. Nothing is typical and most things are unexpected.
After weeks of deliberation and negotiations with the seller/landlord/bank, we are finally able to inspect the equipment. Initially, the auction site typically looks like Dresden post-WWII in which case it’s time to get to work. It is up to us, the auctioneers, to clean, organize, and lot each item to ensure the highest possible revenue the day of the auction.
I spent the two weeks before our recent automobile auction detailing these cars in every way, shape, and form you can imagine. This entailed starting cars, power washing them, getting the titles, preparing the bills of sale, popping cars into gear to push them, and much more (so much for my title being media & business development). I learned more about cars in the two weeks I spent with them than I have in my whole life.
Now two days before the auction it was time to relocate the cars we had been prepping from the warehouse to the auction site. So, early Thursday morning I went out to the lot to assign each space to a car so the auction could go according to the catalog. Me being the rookie I am, I decided to use chalk to designate these spots and in the twenty minutes it took me to move my first car over to the site, it had started to rain. My spaces that were aligned 1-25 just a short time ago were now unmarked as the rain cleared the chalk from the pavement. And back to the drawing board I went…
License plates removed. Check.
Odometers read. Check.
Batteries charged. Check.
Tires inflated. Check.
Keys tagged & matched to each car. Check.
The day of the auction:
We arrive early in the morning. Half of us go to the warehouse to move the three higher-end cars, including a Rolls Royce, and half of us arrive at the auction site. As I pull up to the lot I see the cars I had been working on and they look fantastic.
Shortly after 8 A.M. prospective bidders started streaming in and the registration process began. My two cousins and I registered people for three hours and, as more and more bidders flowed into the auction site, we felt the energy rising.
A public car auction draws an eclectic group of individuals. With cars ranging from Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes Benz to “junk cars” and everything in between, the bidding pool is diverse. Men and women of all different ages and stages melt together to form a huge customer base. Hands and bidding paddles rise and fall as the auctioneer’s chant is heard over the hum of the crowd. Irrespective of an almost 3-hour inspection opportunity, questions still persist – Does it start? How many miles? What year is the car? Working the auction, however, the best phrase you hear is when the auctioneer bellows “sold!” and we’re moving onto the next car.
The auction came and went smoothly without any issues (even though it did rain for the last five, mostly high end cars). When the auction ends, every buyer treats the process like they’re buying a pair of shoes from Foot Locker. These guys just bought expensive vehicles and they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. We organized the buyers around the registration tent to ensure that all the money and paperwork was handled correctly on both ends. Shortly after the auction concludes, with the crowd subsided, the auction site becomes a virtual gasoline alley – proud new owners and their pit crews examining their purchases and making plans to remove their vehicles. A flotilla of tow trucks and flatbeds descend upon the auction site, carefully removing newly purchased vehicles in an orderly fashion. It was quite a sight.
Many agreed to take their vehicles the day of the sale but for those who did not it was my responsibility to see that they were to pick up their cars on Monday.
Fast forward to Monday, the auction site is empty except for the 6 cars that were yet to be picked up. I collected the remaining balance from the buyers, I gave them the title, keys, and bills of sale to complete the transaction.
There were post auction issues that I resolved by day’s end. I had completed my role and I was ready to call it a day. This experience taught me a lot about the business my family has been in for many years.
I learned how to treat the public as a business partner. I learned, and you now did too, how much energy and effort goes into selling cars at public auction. I learned that reading the fine print is extremely important in this and every business. I learned that in the auction business everyone wears multiple hats and has many responsibilities. Lastly, I learned the importance of satisfying your client and that every auction is like an audition for the next one.
The auction process is multi-dimensional. It’s the foundation of a crazy business that takes a lot of patience and quick thinking to navigate. I think I’ll stick around for a little while, I have a lot to learn.
Caspert Auctioneers and Appraisers was founded 96 years ago in 1921 making us the most established auction and appraisal company in America. We have conducted thousands of commercial and industrial auctions, assisting a wide range of companies both large and small. We serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the New Jersey State Society of Auctioneers as well as the National Auctioneers Association. As for our appraisal services, we are long-standing members of both the American Society of Appraisers and the Association of Machinery & Equipment Appraisers