What you don't know about auctions -- and should

It's All in the Chant

You hear the mesmerizing patois of the auctioneer rhythmically announcing the bid increases. You feel your blood pressure escalate and your eyes widen as the opening bid amount triples and then quadruples. The room seems to tilt a few degrees, and time seems to flash by as the auctioneer reaches a crescendo pitch. What just happened?

You've just been sucked into the action by the auctioneer's chant, a kind of syncopated chatter punctuated by bid increments. So what makes the auctioneer's chant so entrancing, and why the chit chat between bid amounts?

This rapid-fire speech is a learned art meant to create momentum and engage the crowd in a bit of theatrics while keeping the pace of the sale moving along. The words sputtered between bid amounts are known as "filler words" and are usually unique to the auctioneer. As an example, Weidenhamer recalls an auctioneer who uses "Yabba, dabba, doo" as his chant in-fill.

If you're bidding, the key is to stay cool and not let the mounting beat of the chant push you past your bidding comfort zone. And if you're not bidding, make sure to note how the sing-song chant affects the behavior of the bidders. As the auctioneer speeds up and becomes louder, do rival bidders bow up?