Hammer Time: Trips, Skips And Censorship (Part Two)

In Bulgaria (and other places), the rewards are given to the highest bidder.

In Bulgaria (and other places), empty suits are everywhere.

A ‘skip’ in our business happens to be the exact opposite of a ‘trick’. With a trick, you are trying to get a bidder to offer more money.

While with a skip, you want that bidder to go away. Forever. Because he’s getting in the way of a back end deal.

Hammer time 1

Let’s say you want to bid on a vehicle and you’re standing about 20 feet away from the auctioneer. You signal your bid, and he doesn’t see you. Or he does see you, the high bid becomes a bit mumbling and ambiguous as his eyes drift elsewhere, and he sells it to someone else.

This is as common as kudzu here in the South.

There are plenty of auctioneers who never, ever, do something like this. While others will do this four or five times a day at every auction in exchange for a nice c-note after the sale.

I have been on both sides of this equation. As a ringman, part of my job was to ‘get lost’ and ‘help get the next car into the barn’ at this time. The auctioneer would give me the signal that meant, “Skedaddle, Steve. I need to hammer in a deal.”, and that’s exactly what I would do if I valued my job.


Sometimes only the buyer would be in on the skip. While other times it would be both the seller and the buyer. “Keep your eyes for Fred.”, the seller would tell you before the sale as he was pointing to a specific number on his sheet. Other times he would write the dealer’s name on a blank piece of paper once the vehicle got on the block. The auctioneer would nod in acknowledgement, and give the signal to the ringman.

What would happened from here was two basic scenarios. The first would be the auctioneer would change his chant ever so slightly to make it seem like he doesn’t have a bidder, and the asking price would get lower and lower in a matter of a few seconds.

“10-grand! Habadagive 10! Would-a-gibada 9-grand!”

Eventually the bidding would get down to around the $7 grand level. At this point you would likely have two outcomes.

The first is that the dealers may start ‘sitting on their heels’ and not bid on the vehicle; on the belief that the selling price would potentially go down even further.

A few of these dealers would show low-ball offers for these vehicles during the process. They would motion a thumbs up near their body for example. The thumb up is a unviersal sign for six grand in our business, and holding it close to your body effectively shields other bidders from looking at your bid.

Other times the dealers would mouth out the words ‘six’, or ‘five’, or sometimes a foreign bidder would try to really tick off the auctioneer by yelling out something like, “two grand!” for an eight grand vehicle.

That low-baller didn’t matter. If nobody would honor the asking price the auctioneer would say something in the lines of “I’m not playin people’! “I got money! I’m not playin!!!” and then quickly sell the car for $7 grand to the dealer who made the arrangement with the seller.

“See! I told you I wasn’t playin! Now bid on these damn cars already!” A handshake with a c-note enclosed would likely happen somewhere between the auction block and the parking lot.

(This auctioneer is one of the good guys.)

Other times a dealer or two would motion in an obvious for a seven grand bid. At this point the auctioneer would have no choice but to go through the bidding process up to a certain point known as a ‘quick hammer’.

There could often be a moment of hesitancy to bid by the unwelcome bidder.

A blind eye to a new bidder once the others bowed out. Or a ‘pretend’, where the bid would seem to be honored by the auctioneer. But then the asking price would get jumbled in the auctioneer’s chant and the bidder will not realized that he had been screwed out of the bidding until after the hammer fell.

“10-6-7-half-7-half-6– 8-half-seven….Sold! No sorry Fred. I had Jake (my new best friend). Sold bidder number 545. Fred, I’m sorry. I’ll keep an eye out for you the next time.”

Most auctioneers, upstanding ones and otherwise,  know how to make a situation like this work for everyone. Fred, the one who got screwed, would likely get a nice compliment on a deal he got sometime before the end of the sale, and everyone would leave that day happy. Dealers who don’t follow the bid well will get mixed up, and more times than not, it’s just an innocent mistake.

However greed is a real bastard in this business, and to be frank, it’s hard to catch somebody in the act.

But it does happen. I remember one auctioneers from Florida who lost all five of his auctions within a month because he kept on doing skips and pretends to the point where he pissed off too many important people.

I’ll simply call him Preacher Bill because, to be brutally blunt, he loved to preach the Bible and practice bullshit.

Preacher Bill would work the Nissan sale in Atlanta and during the waning moments of the sale, he would use another dealer’s number to buy the vehicles.

If people were sitting on their heels on one of the less important vehicles in Nissan’s inventory, Bill would buy the vehicle by using Chuck Futter Nissan’s number on the block, “Sold $12,500 to #385” and then simply sign off a check  to the dealer and take the vehicle for what would hopefully be a $2000 profit once he re-sold it.

This quick and easy way to make $2000 is a hell of an enticement when the auction is only paying the guy $600 to do the sale. Twice Preacher Bill got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and twice it was the exact same scenario.

Only a few dealers hanging around on the block. One guy who wanted to bid. A quick sell to himself, and then a scan by the screwed bidder that confirmed bidder number 385 was nowhere to be found.

I remember one time the screwed dealer turned bright red and went straight up to Bill and screamed…

“Where is bidder #385 you motherfucker!”

“Excuse me. It’s not my job to tell you who is bidding.”

“Don’t fuckin’ tell me about your job shithead! There are five fuckin’ people here not a single one of these fuckers works for Chuck Futter. You’re a lying sack of shit and I’m gonna have Pete fire your ass!”

Pete was the General Manager of the sale and, no, he didn’t fire Preacher Bill that time. The seller asked for Bill to have clemency (probably because he was in on it), and Bill was given one more chance.

Two months later, the same thing happened. At this point Pete informed the national head of remarketing for Nissan about the situation. Two people got fired that day. Not too long afterwards Preacher Bill got fired from Carmax auctions, ADESA (another large auction company), and the other Manheim sale in the area.

About a year later I heard that Bill and his friend were working a sale in Mississippi the same way. This time for an auto finance company. Some things just never change.

NOTE: The Internet has a version of the ‘skip’. We here call it censorship. Under this scenario, the moderator or owner of a site decides that the content of a given post is not worthy of being recognized. It may wind up in the ‘spam’ folder for good reason. While other times the censor has a unique personal agenda of their own which often leads to the downfall of the site’s content.

This censorship issue is primarily why I planned on leaving TTAC way back in August of 2012 (click here for the details).  Commenters were being given the ‘ban hammer’ for the most inane of reasons, and the editorial freedom of the site eroded to the point where editors were either censored or even suspended for publishing their opinions. I was not suspended. But I did get flack for an article that questioned the viability of the Scion brand, and the moral issues quickly intensified from there.

Let’s all hope for better days. In the meantime, feel free to share your version of a skip.

Was there a time in the car business where you were passed over, lied to, or given the proverbial swerve by a seller or buyer?