Bill Roper (billroper) wrote,
Bill Roper

Wenching For Fun and Profit

I actually generally enjoy the antics of the Interfilk Wench Corps, as they're quite complementary to the antics of the Interfilk Auctioneer Corps, and help in the goal of having a good time and raising a good amount of money for Interfilk. That said, when things get out of control, two things happen. First, we have a danger of descending into something that's possibly a bit more raunchy than is actually wise. Second, we make the auction take a very long time. Given that I know that the Interfilk Auction Organizers Brigade is really trying to keep it down to an hour, that latter point is also something to consider.

So here's a modest attempt at codifying the Pirate Code (really more a set of guidelines) for how to handle an Interfilk auction (or any auction) so that it runs smoothly:

Let's start with the auctioneers:

1) Three is a good number. More is ok (within reason), fewer can put too much load onto the auctioneer. Why? Well, keep reading.

2) The auctioneers have three states:
2a) On the stage, auctioning a piece.
2b) Having just left the stage, getting a drink, and going to get the next piece from their runner so they have a moment to think about how they want to handle it.
2c) Waiting with their piece and runner so that they are ready to take the microphone as soon as the fellow on stage says "Sold!"

With three auctioneers, everyone must be paying attention at all times as they move from one state to another. This is good, because it avoids confusion such as "Who's next?" With fewer auctioneers, states collapse, the work is harder, and the auctioneers less effective.

3) Funny is good. Fast is good. Fast and funny is best. The time spent studying a piece while waiting to go up is an important part of being able to do both. (You think we make up all these lines while standing there with a mic in hand? Ha!)

4) The bidders should be able to know when you are about to sell a piece. Most familiar is "I've got fifty dollars going once. I've got fifty dollars going twice. I've got fifty dollars going for the third and final time. Sold!" Variations are acceptable, but you should be consistent. Why annoy someone by selling something after a two count when you've been using a three count all night?

It is also ok to restart your count if it is interrupted for whatever reason. You don't have to spend forever on each tick of the count, but you do need to spend long enough that no one feels cheated.

5) Know the house rules for handling paperwork. Personally, I insist on having the bid sheet in hand until I have finished announcing the item. After that, if one of the organizers wants me to hand it off, that's just fine. If they want it when the item is sold, that's also fine. Just find out how the paper is being handled and how they want the high bidder to identify themselves. If for whatever reason (lack of sleep?), you've forgotten someone's name, you can indicate "That's sold, right there, for fifty dollars," and the bidder will identify themselves when prompted by the organizers who would really like to have the name. Just remember to do this to your closest friends on occasion as well, so no one knows whose names you actually remember in your sleep-deprived state. :)

6) You are not the star of the show. The items being auctioned are the stars. You are there to make them look good. If for some reason, there is something that you can't find anything nice to say about, consider swapping it with another auctioneer who might have something useful to say. Don't use this as an excuse to hog all the good stuff for yourself. The other auctioneers will notice.

7) The microphone is your friend. It is also almost always set to too high a volume if you have any natural tendency to project. Talking across the side of the mic where it's less sensitive can allow you to operate at a more reasonable volume, making it easier to hear the bids, which again is why you're standing there.

Ok, let's go on to the rules for running (and/or wenching) the items:

1) Runners get more exercise than the auctioneers. This is good, as they are young and agile, while we are old and fat. As a result, you want more runners than auctioneers, but a good rule of thumb is to have no more than twice as many runners as you have auctioneers. Otherwise, the runners don't have enough to do, they lose focus, and chaos ensues.

2) Runners have three states:
2a) Running the current piece.
2b) Taking the just-sold piece back to the table so that it can be handled by the organizers; then picking up a new piece.
2c) Waiting with a piece for it to be their turn again. This includes chatting (quietly) with an auctioneer about how they want to handle the piece.

3) It is nice if the runners are well-dressed, but it isn't a requirement. The runners should not distract from the display of the item that they are running.

4) The runners also need to know how the organizers want the paperwork and pieces handled.

5) It is important that people who are interested in bidding on an item get a chance to look at it. Those who want to see it more closely have usually been instructed to yell "Runner!" and raise their hands. Listen for the call, look for the raised hands, and go there to give them a closer look. The auctioneer may also tell you to show the item to someone who's been bidding already in his attempts to extract some more dollars from them.

Now we move from "running" into "wenching", with the supplemental rules for Interfilk auctions.

6) Don't do anything that you would be unwilling to do in the presence of your or the bidder's SO. If your preferences in this area are a couple of standard deviations out from the fannish norm, think it over first. :)

7) The wenching gang tackle is fun to watch. Once. Maybe twice or even three times during an auction. But not so much in quick succession. The problem with pulling out the big guns is that you get into "Can you top this?" mode. And, being fans, someone will try. If we're lucky, it'll be funny. If we're not...

8) Fast is good. Funny is good. Fast and funny is best. The wenching gang tackle fails on the fast part of it, especially when overused. Generally, one or two good wenches are funnier than the mob. More effective too. The person bidding on the piece is more likely to be impressed by something that they are getting that is unique than by something that they've seen a lot. (Don't take the "unique" part as a challenge. :) )

I think that'll do for the time being.

Corrections and additions are welcome!
Tags: essays, filk, musings
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