by Mike McHugh
One of the best fund-raising concepts to have come along in recent years is the “silent auction.” Just about every organization nowadays has one at its events, and it’s proven to be a gold mine, especially at functions where alcohol is served.
At a silent auction, people write their bids on a piece of paper rather than answer to the call of a live auctioneer. It’s a better way of doing it, in my opinion, since most auctioneers are about as intelligible as Alvin the Chipmunk on crystal meth. Because of this, buyers rarely know what they agreed to pay until it’s time to write the check, when it’s too late to back out.
This makes the silent auction a big improvement over traditional auctions. Come to think of it, there are a lot of things in this world that can be improved by making them silent. The exhaust system on my redneck neighbor’s monster truck immediately comes to mind.
Most of the items at a silent auction are donated from local businesses. It’s a great deal for a business; as it gets a tax write-off while shedding inventory that no one in his right mind would normally pay good money for. But when it goes for auction, the competitive spirit kicks in, and people end up in wild bidding wars over stuff that a Goodwill store would turn down.
Sometimes, though, you’ll find an exceptional item for bid at a silent auction. In such cases, it’s an advantage to have your banker on speed dial when closing time approaches, and the bidding gets as fierce as the stock exchange trading floor at the height of the dot com bubble. A heavy club also comes in handy at such times as you make your way to the bidding sheet.
Recently, I had the fortune to score a fine item at a silent auction without having to resort to such heavy-handed tactics. The prize was a beautiful bar, built of hardwood with an acrylic top that was decorated with various drink coasters. When I first laid eyes on it, I thought it was just part of the décor, but when I saw the bidding sheet taped to it, I knew it had to be mine. Never mind that winning it would mean having to take it home that day, we having come in my wife’s sports car. It would be like trying to transport a grand piano on a bicycle, but when that competitive spirit takes over, you don’t seem to consider such trivialities.
The person I most thank for my good fortune is a musician by the name of Sunny Jim. He was performing that afternoon, and just as the auction was about to close, he broke into his signature number, a song called “Monkey Party.” Whenever Jim plays “Monkey Party,” everybody in attendance mobs the dance floor like crows in a Wal-Mart parking lot on a bag of French fries. There they throw stuffed monkeys back and forth for the duration of the song.
It was the perfect diversion. While everybody else was flinging monkeys at each other like schoolgirls at a pillow fight, I swooped in and entered the winning bid. It happened so fast that I still had time to retreat to the dance floor and toss a monkey or two.
I’m happy to say that my new bar looks great in the garage. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it when the car comes back from having the shocks replaced.© 2014 by Mike McHugh