Decoding Auctioneer Chants: It's All in the Filler!
Can you imagine attending an auction without an auctioneer? Aside from being rather chaotic, it also wouldn’t be nearly as much fun or remotely exciting. Aside from an auctioneers primary function of organizing bids, they serve as the face of the auction in a way and create a unique and memorable bidding experience. With their chanting and ability to generate enthusiasm on each unit, they make the proceedings entertaining.
As a wet behind the ears auction attendee, it can be a task to learn the chant of the auctioneer. Especially because there is no “right way” to chant and each auctioneer usually has their own distinct style and cadence of speech. Plus, they always seem to be talking so fast!
Below we’ve decoded the basic chant components for you to help you succeed in making the best and final bid at your next auction.
Auction Chants & Language
So you’re attending an auction, and the auctioneer has started the bidding. He seems to be talking faster than your brain can keep up with and saying things that make no sense to you. Is he speaking another language or what? The answer is no.
He is performing the age old tradition of auctioneer chanting. The chanting serves two purposes. The first is to announce and organize the current bids for each unit to the crowd, the second purpose is to generate higher bids on the current locker. They speak quickly to generate a sense of urgency and pressure.
While it may not seem like it now, each word spoken by the auctioneer serves a deliberate purpose and has a specific meaning. Auctioneer chanting consists of a few basic components. These components are the actual numbers involved in the auction, and what is commonly referred to as filler.
Current Bid and Asking Bid: The current bid is announced throughout the auction. This is announced to let the crowd know that unless another bid is entered, the current amount will be the winning bid.
The asking bid is the bid that the auctioneer will throw out to try to increase the bid. Depending on the auctioneer, the unit, and the apparent interest in a space, the amount the auctioneer throws out will vary. It may be as little as a few dollars, but it may be done in larger increments as well.
At the start of the unit the auctioneer will often throw out a number to get the auction started. He may start out at $100 to see if he can get this much. However, if nobody takes the bait, he will then reduce the bid. “Can I get one hundred dollars, one hundred dollars? Fifty dollars, can I get fifty dollars?”
The auctioneer also announces as each new bid comes in. For example, “I’ve got fifty dollars, fifty dollars, can I get a hundred dollars, a hundred dollars? I’ve got a hundred dollars! A hundred dollars! Can I get a hundred fifty?” As the bid was increased to $100, the auctioneer announced this and then the asked for the bid to be raised again.
Filler: Filler is everything else that the auctioneer chants while reigning over the auction. All filler should provide the crowd with specific information and should never be just gibberish. Filler should consist of providing the crowd with information on what number currently holds the highest bid, and garnering higher bids and connecting the numbers. For example, “I’ve got twenty dollars, twenty dollars. Can I get fifty dollars, fifty dollars? All in, all done? Going once, going twice, sold for twenty dollars!” The filler wording serves to attempt to raise the bid to fifty dollars, and to ask the crowd if there is any further interest in the unit. (The term all in, all done is a particularly popular for this.) If no other bids come in, the auctioneer will then close the bidding and announce a winner. Aside from the current and asking bid, everything else in the above quote is denoted as filler.
Often times auctioneers will slightly slur the filler to give the illusion that they are speaking much faster than they actually are which is why it sometimes seems that they aren’t saying anything intelligible. This fast paced speaking pattern also serves to entertain both the bidders and the nonbidding portion of the crowd, in the hopes that more people will decide to throw their hat into the ring.
Auctioneer School and Competitions
In many states it is required that auctioneers attending courses or school to get certified to auctioneer in that state. Auctioneering school often consists of courses specifically designed to teach chanting and to help auctioneers brush up on their skills.
Throughout the country, auctioneering competitions are regularly held. These competitions give auctioneers a chance to test their skills without the pressure of actually having to sell anything, although some contests do require the auctioneers to actually sell.
Aside from storage auctions there are many different types of auctions held throughout the country at any given time from estate sales to live cattle auctions, car auctions, and more. Each auction has distince characteristics and as a result, the auctioneering styles will vary. For cattle auctions, the chanting may be quicker, while some types of auctions may allow the auctioneer to speak relatively slower and be a bit more entertaining.