When Camille Booker was a child, she said she was shy and terrified of getting in front of a crowd.
Now the Washington native is a bid spotter for Scottsdale-based Barrett-Jackson, a premier car auction. The Scottsdale 2021 auction is underway this week through Saturday, March 27, at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
“The idea of getting up in front a crowd didn’t exactly appeal to me at the time,” Booker said. “It wasn’t until my last year at the University of Washington when I realized this was the profession I wanted to pursue. The interactions with people were what appealed to me, as well as the opportunity to be able to help them through various life situations.
Booker has been a key member of the Barrett-Jackson team for the past five years and many members of the car community recognize her from the main auction block where she works as a professional bid spotter.
“I serve as the liaison between the lead auctioneer and the bidder,” Booker explains. “The auctioneer is up on the stage but can’t see every person in the crowd that raises their hand, especially with bids coming in from all across the room.
“Our team consists of multiple bid spotters that help relay bids to the auctioneer. For some people, this is their first experience buying a car at an auction, so we’re there to provide assistance and help them feel more comfortable during the bidding process.”
Booker’s role requires her to read people’s body language, as well as understanding each person’s specific needs and bidding style.
“Everyone is different, from first-timers and car dealers to the guy who has been coming to Barrett-Jackson auctions since the very beginning,” Booker said. “One person may want to stand on the opposite end away from the bid spotter because they don’t want to be seen, while somebody else will want me right next to them the entire time. I also have to be able to recognize when someone is done bidding or if they want to keep going. It’s about understanding everyone’s personalities and comfort levels.”
Booker has been an auctioneer for more than 20 years and helps run her family’s auction business, Booker Auction Company, which was established in 1980 in her home state of Washington.
A third-generation auctioneer, Booker’s grandfather and father were both auctioneers, along with several of her uncles and all three of her siblings. As a kid, she grew up helping her family with their auction business and attended auction school when she was 16 but didn’t plan on becoming an auctioneer.
She underestimated herself. In 2011, Booker won the woman’s title for top auctioneer at the International Auctioneer Championship, which is sponsored by the National Auctioneers Association and brings together top auctioneers as they compete for the world title. Booker also met and befriended Joseph Mast, who won the men’s title that same year.
After he became the lead auctioneer with Barrett-Jackson in 2015, Mast invited Booker to join the team.
“I had the privilege of going to a couple of Barrett-Jackson auctions before I went to work for them and it’s definitely one of those bucket list experiences,” Booker said. “It’s the premier auction to be a part of. It’s truly amazing to see how many people show up to enjoy the show. Besides the auctions, there is so much else going on for people to see and enjoy.”
Booker said some people’s decision to bid on a car is based on an emotion or memory that holds special meaning for them.
“Whether it’s the same car that their parent had growing up or the car they drove when they were in high school or always wanted to drive, there is often a lot of emotion associated with bidding on a car,” Booker explains.
Each auctioneer has his or her own “chant,” also known as bid calling, which is the rapid-fire speech that is used to help sell the items during an auction. Booker has developed her own chant over the years that has contributed to the success of her auctions.
“Having good general cadence and pace is important, because when people are listening to an auctioneer all day long, they don’t want to be annoyed by the person’s voice,” Booker points out. “You also don’t want to go too fast because people need to be able to understand you. I adjust my chant depending on the type of event that I’m working at.
“At a car auction, we need to maintain a relatively quick speed so that we can get through hundreds of cars in a limited amount of time. But at a fundraiser where people are enjoying their drinks, you don’t want to whip through the items. Chanting helps escalate the excitement and enthusiasm at every auction.”
Fundraising auctions are among Booker’s favorite events in which to participate. She always looks forward to the annual charity car auctions that Barrett-Jackson hosts.
“Barrett-Jackson does an amazing job every year at supporting a wide variety of charities,” she said. “People love those moments at the events.”