MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Fast-Talking Auctioneers

If you’ve ever been to an auction, or have ever seen one in a movie or on TV, then you know auctioneers – those fast-talking speakers who guide the whole sale process – really seem like they have somewhere else to be. They’re always in a hurry, right? They always talk blazingly fast. Why is that? It may seem nifty, but it is necessary?

As it turns out, they don’t technically have to talk that fast. But they do want to talk that fast, because it offers the best chance at getting the best prices from their best customers. Speaking so quickly, tends to generate a sense of urgency in the buyers.

That lightning-fast auctioneer patter is called the “chant”, and while it may seem fast it really isn’t as fast as you might initially think. If you were to disassemble the auctioneer’s words & remove all the filler, you’d basically end up with linear strands of numbers or prices.

But it’s that filler material, however, that builds the sense of urgency within the auction: things like “can I get”, “do I hear,” “come on,” “I see”, etc. Auctioneers will usually string those fillers together to create an almost musical drone. And the cadence of that drone hypnotizes bidders into a trance of sorts, which leaves them itching to engage with the auctioneer when he makes the call to raise each bid.

Not just anybody can be an auctioneer. A lot of states actually require auctioneers to be licensed, which can take a great deal of time & practice. And why would anyone want to put in that much time & patience to become a fast-talking auctioneer? Well, for many, it’s an investment. Because many times, they can contractually get anywhere from 10% to 20% of each sale price for the items sold.

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