Phone Bid Scheduler

What is a Phone Bid?

Phone bids are typically used by antique auction galleries, but can be used for any type of sale. When a bidder leaves a phone bid for a particular lot#, the auction house is agreeing to have an employee call the bidder when that lot comes on the block. During the phone call, the employee will relay the asking price from the auctioneer to the phone bidder and will relay bids from the phone bidder to the auctioneer.

Why Phone Bids?

Ideally, you would like your bidders to attend the auction, the benefits of which are myriad. Phone bids are ultimately a convenience offered to bidders that would otherwise not bid at your auction.

  • Phone bids allow the phone bidder to bid “live” on the lot against all other bidders (floor, internet, phone, etc.). This preserves the excitement of bidding live.
  • The phone bidder who is only interested in a few lots does not have to attend the auction waiting hours for their lot(s) to come up.
  • Phone bids are a good alternative to ‘technologically challenged’ bidders who may refuse to bid live over the internet.
  • Phone bidders avoid having to pay the extra buyer’s premium fees typically charged for live internet bidding.
  • There is nothing to remember. The phone bidder will be automatically called when their lot(s) come up.
  • Location, location, location. The phone bidder can bid from anywhere there is cell phone reception.

Why Do I Need a Scheduler?

It is not uncommon for a high-end auction gallery to have hundreds of phone bidders per auction. Each phone bidder may, in turn, be interested in anywhere from one single lot to 20 or 30 different lots. All of these phone bids are not spread evenly through the catalog. Many lots in the catalog won’t have any phone bids, but some high-interest lots will have many, many phone bids. The challenge to the auction house is to build a phone bid schedule that addresses several desirable attributes:

  • Use the fewest possible employees. The total number of employees required is loosely defined as the highest number of individual phone bids on any particular lot. So if lot 145 has 11 different phone bidders then we need at least 11 employees in our phone bank for this peak point in the auction.
  • Preserve employee-phone bidder stickiness. We want phone bidder John Smith to talk to the same employee as often as possible. It can be confusing for the phone bidder to talk to a different employee for each phone call.
  • Allow preferential phone bidder to employee assignations. We may want to ensure that a high-value phone bidder talks to a particular employee as much as possible. This may be the bidder’s preference or the auction house’s preference.
  • Define some employees as overflow only, meaning, they should only be used during peak phone bid times.
  • Language limitations. Some bidders may not speak English and can only be assigned to bilingual employees that speak their language.
  • X lots between phone calls. An employee needs a certain amount of time to courteously end their phone call and place a new phone call.

What Do I Get?

As you can see, the various criteria above can make for a daunting manual task that takes many, many hours and results in a sub-optimal schedule at best. The Auction Flex phone bid scheduler takes into account all the criteria above and automatically produces a schedule that optimizes both employee-to-phone bidder stickiness and lots between phone calls. When the phone bid scheduler has generated the schedule, it then produces:

  • A master phone bid schedule with option to export to Excel.
  • Individual employee phone bid schedules. This gives each employee all the information they need, lot-by-lot, including lot info, bidder info, and any special calling instructions.
  • Employee phone bid cards with their phone bidder’s numbers. This allows the phone bidder to hold up the bidder number that they are bidding for during the auction.


Feedback from our customers on the phone bid scheduler has been great. We hear over and over that it saves many hours of arduous work for each and every auction. If you are manually creating your phone bid schedules now, do yourself a favor and start using this fantastic Auction Flex feature.


The phone bid scheduler was first added in Auction Flex version 6.10 which was released on January 7th, 2009.

In Auction Flex version 7.10 (released 1/5/2011) the phone bid scheduler algorithm has been significantly improved and now produces an even better, more optimized schedule.

Screen Shots

Below you will find screen shots of each step in the phone bid schedule creation process. From these steps you can see just how simple it is to create your phone bid schedule in Auction Flex.