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Friday, October 4, 2013

Chinese Learn The Art Of American Auctioneering

A class of Chinese students at the Auction Systems Auctioneers and Appraisers in Phoenix. (Steve Shadley/KJZZ)

A class of Chinese students at the Auction Systems Auctioneers and Appraisers in Phoenix. (Steve Shadley/KJZZ)

A group of Chinese entrepreneurs has come to the United States to learn some tips from American auctioneers.

Auctions are starting to take off, as China adopts economic reforms, and American companies are beginning to test their products at Chinese auctions.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Steve Shadley of KJZZ reports.


  • Steve Shadley, senior field correspondent for KJZZ, the NPR member station in Phoenix, Ariz.




Some of the largest auction houses in the U.S. are testing the waters in the world's second largest economy, China. That country is starting to increase the number of public auctions, and Chinese entrepreneurs are coming to the U.S. to get some tips from the American auction industry. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, Steve Shadley of KJZZ has our story.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Unintelligible)

STEVE SHADLEY, BYLINE: This auction house on the south side of Phoenix is a busy place. But in a classroom at the back of the building, there's something a little different going on. About 20 men and women have traveled all the way from China to learn about the American style of auctioneering. Paul Ramirez of Tucson is their trainer.

PAUL RAMIREZ: This is the first time that we've worked with Chinese people and, of course, selling in Mandarin.

SHADLEY: Ramirez says he respects the cultural differences between Chinese and American auctioneers, but he thinks the Chinese may be a little too polite.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)

RAMIREZ: Our process in the United States is an accelerated process in comparison to the pace that they use to sell items in China. So one of the main things we're going to talk about today is going at a faster clip so that more items can be transferred in a day.

SHADLEY: Ramirez explains his auctioneering techniques in English and an interpreter translates for the students. It is a long process, but finally, the Chinese give it a try.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

SHADLEY: This auctioneer waves her hands to get people's attention. She works the crowd for bids on an imaginary luxury car. Deb Weidenhamer is CEO of Phoenix-based Auction Systems Auctioneers and Appraisers.

DEB WEIDENHAMER: We're anticipating that the auction industry as a whole in China could be the next greatest emerging market to come in China for both retail and wholesale transactions.

SHADLEY: Three years ago, Weidenhamer started an auction company in Shanghai called Ai-Pai which translates to I love to bid.

WEIDENHAMER: Auctions in China are part of a regulated industry, and what we're excited about is that this group here actually has the power to change those laws in China. And that's what they are here to learn about, is if they change those laws, what impact could it possibly have to their economy?

SHADLEY: Weidenhamer says auctions in the U.S. generated $275 billion last year, and she believes growing consumerism in China could be a financial boon for both countries in coming decades. She says right now, American companies are beginning to see the value of test-marketing their products at auctions in China.

WEIDENHAMER: This gives them a way to see if the Chinese people like their product, how much they'd pay for their product because it's sold at auctions so the market determines the price that they'll pay.

ZHANG YANHUA: (Foreign language spoken)

SHADLEY: Zhang Yanhua is president of the China Association of Auctioneers in Beijing. Speaking through an interpreter, she explains that public auctions are starting to take off as China continues to adopt economic reforms.

YANHUA: (Through Translator) China is at a stage that has turned the regulated market to the free market. And we need the service industry to grow. And auction is a very typical type of service industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Foreign language spoken)

SHADLEY: Back in the classroom, another Chinese auctioneer is practicing some of his new skills. He seems to be having some fun with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Foreign language spoken)

SHADLEY: After their stop in Phoenix, the Chinese auctioneers will continue their training with different companies in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, there's evidence that the U.S. is making more inroads into China's market. Last month, Christie's auctioned off some high-priced art and other items in Shanghai, the first time any foreign auction house has held such a sale on the mainland without having to go through intermediaries. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Steve Shadley in Phoenix, Arizona. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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