There are two ways to do a charity auction – live and silent – and while I’ve had limited experience with live auctions, I’m noticing a growing trend with thrift shops and Silent Auctions
A number of thrift shops that I frequent set aside items that are unique, antique or collectible and create a silent auction space in their shops. Shops do this in varying ways – some have the auction run for a month at the end of which the last bidder gets the loot and the shop replenishes the area with new stuff. Other shops have a system by which a silent auction can go on indefinitely as long as someone keeps bidding within a certain time frame. Either way, it takes certain items out of the general sale area of the shop and is a way for the shop to potentially raise more money for its charity.
One of the questions I have about this is why does this work? Why is it that, if an antique dresser is on the floor and priced at, say $500, people balk at the price and say it’s too high but if it’s in the silent auction and sells for that or higher, people don’t bat an eye? Is it simply because we have a different attitude to auctions than we do to sales, that something up for auction is simply fair game in terms of what it will sell for? Is it because there’s always the possibility that it’ll go for way, way less, in which case you feel like you’re getting a fabulous deal?
I have friends who have confided to me that they are discouraged by the Silent Auction process in their favourite shops because they feel it has brought in antique dealers whose purchasing power automatically prices items out of the average person’s range.
Having worked for a charity that benefits greatly from its thrift shops, I completely understand the desire to do what you can within reason to raise funds for your shop. If an item could get twice as much at silent auction than it would on the floor of the shop, then why not sell it that way and thus enable your charity to do more of its good work?
What do you think? Should thrift shops hold silent auctions or stick strictly to floor sales?