Generally, I avoid auctions, in case I get carried away and spend more than I can afford. Recently, though, I found myself caught up in an online auction for a piece of art I admired. What tempted me was not the excitement, nor the sense of competition, but the sense of tactics involved.
The auction was to raise money for a woman so that her children could have a Christmas. I happened to discover the auction while there was only one bid, so I add a hundred dollars to it in the hopes of stimulating the bidding. A few hours later, another bid added fifty dollars to the total, and I responded with another fifty – and so we went, trading the high bid back and forth in increments of fifty dollars.
The next morning, my rival had the high bid. When I added another bid, they soon added another bid. The auction was due to end at noon, so I figured it was time to get crafty.
The first thing I decided was that to add a bid too early would only drive the price up. Given the good cause, I was prepared to do that, but I was also determined to keep my bids within the limit I had set. So, instead of instantly adding another bid, I waited an hour. My rival responded within ten minutes with another high bid, raising the total by another increment of fifty dollars and confirming my assessment of the bidding pattern. I decided to wait before replying.
The second thing I decided was that I would bid with less than a minute left, to make a counter-bid less likely. However, my rival could easily do the same, even though they currently had the high bid. Accordingly, I decided to bid an extra sixty dollars, breaking the bidding pattern and, with any luck, emerging with the high bid.
I delayed my bid as planned, but I was worried that a difference in clocks might defeat me. With forty seconds to go, I could wait no longer, and placed my bid as planned.
As things happened, I cost myself ten dollars. My rival tried to enter a counter-bid, but it only increased the price by fifty dollars. I responded with a bid one dollar higher, but I had barely posted it when the holder of the auction announced that the last two bids had been submitted after the end of the auction, making my bid with forty seconds to go the successful bid.
Later, I heard that the funds from the auction came unexpectedly, and exactly when the recipient needed them. The next day, too, I received a pleasing piece of art, as well as candles, cards, T-shirts, and a couple of books of the artist’s work.
Both these outcomes pleased me, but what surprised me was the satisfaction I took from my winning tactics. While some of my tactics were unnecessary, together they ensured success, and I remain immodestly pleased with myself.
All the same, I don’t think I’ll enter another auction any time soon. Devising tactics – especially successful ones intrigue me too much for my own good. But at least I know now where the danger in auctions lies for me.
The next time I’m near an auction, perhaps I’ll see if watching other people’s tactics is anything like as satisfying as developing my own. However, I’m not sure if I can trust myself not to leap in, so I’m probably better avoiding auctions altogether – in only because, at an auction of any size, people with more tactical experience than me are sure to be bidding.