Chinese Auctioneers Visit Phoenix For Training

September 27, 2013

China has often been accused of stealing information and technology from other countries, but now some Chinese entrepreneurs are blatantly “borrowing” from the United States. An Arizona firm is helping them learn more about the American auction industry.  

classroom The class of Chinese students at the Auction Systems Auctioneers and Appraisers in Phoenix. (Photo by Steve Shadley-KJZZ)

This auction house on the south side of Phoenix is a busy place. The warehouse floor is full of furniture, art work and collectibles, but in a classroom at the back of the building there is 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.

“This is the first time we’ve worked with Chinese people and of course selling in Mandarin, " Ramirez said.

Paul Auctioneer Paul Ramirez of Tucson coaches the Chinese auctioneers. (Photo by Steve Shadley-KJZZ)

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

“Our process in the United States is an accelerated process in comparison to the pace they use to sell items in China. So, one of the main things we are going to talk about today is going at a faster clip so that more items can be transferred in a day," Ramirez said.

Ramirez explained his auctioneering techniques in English, and an interpreter translated for the students. It is a long process but finally, the Chinese give it a try. There are some laughs in the audience as this auctioneer waves her hands to get people’s attention. She works the crowd for bids on an imaginary luxury car.

“We’re anticipating the auction industry as a whole in China could be the next greatest emerging market to come into China for both retail and wholesale transactions," said Deb Weidenhamer, CEO of Phoenix-based Auction Systems Auctioneers and Appraisers.

women Deb Weidenhamer and Zhang Yanhua. Weidenhamer is CEO of Phoenix Auction Systems Auctioneeres and Appraisers and Zhang Yanhua is president of the Chinese Association of Auctioneers in Beijing. (Photo by Steve Shadley-KJZZ)

Three years ago she started an auction company in Shanghai called Ai-Pai which translates to “I love to bid!"

“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 if they change those laws what impact possibly that would have to their economy," Weidenhamer explained.

Weidenhamer said 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 said right now American companies are beginning to see the value of test-marketing their products at auctions in China.

“This gives them a way to see if the Chinese people like their product, how much they’d pay for their product because it sold at auction. and it helps determine the price that they’ll pay," Weidenhamer said.

student A Chinese auctioneer practices some of the auctioneer skills he learned in Phoenix. (Photo by Steve Shadley-KJZZ)

Zhang Yanhua is president of the China Association of Auctioneers in Beijing. Speaking through an interpreter she explained that private auctions have been around in China for 20 years, but only recently have public auctions started to take off as the country continues to adopt economic reforms.

“China is at a stage that the regulated market has changed to a free market and we need the service industry to grow and auctions are a very typical type of service industry," Yanhua said.

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

After their stop in Phoenix, the Chinese auctioneers will continue their training with different companies in Chicago and D.C.  Meanwhile, there is evidence that the U.S. is making more inroads into China’s market. This week, 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. 

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