Why Do I Need Several Computers

Everyone wants to check in or out at the same time, and getting all the sales entered first can be a challenge. We handle it with a basic divide-and-conquer approach using a local-area network of inexpensive (ok, some of them barely function at all) machines and we recruit a lot of volunteers.

This works because the software is pretty easy to use, so we can train volunteers the night before on the 3 basic tasks that happen during 3 shifts - during check-in, they hand out bidding paddles as they search for members in the database (if you already have a database, we can import it ahead of time to save a lot of time there). Mostly it's repeat visitors, but sometimes a new person comes along and we put those in as we go.

Then, when the silent auction is over the crowd comes roaring out of the room to where the food is, (that's a stampede, for sure), so we pull a temporary mobile divider around our workstations (it depends on your layout) and the 2nd shift works on all the bid sheets as they come in - that's a very simple task to train volunteers on, and it's a nice kid/adult pairing opportunity to check each other's work. If you have enough volunteers, maybe dedicate a roving handwriting expert to shadow certain folks as they bid… ;)

It's pretty easy to keep a workstation going during the live auction to keep up to date with live item sales, (we have a dedicated 'spotter' to write them down on bid sheets and a 'runner' to take them to the computer area) so whenever folks start leaving, we are ready for the 3rd (more seasoned) shift to handle them at check out. We have two printers going, and we read to them their statements and balance due, then enter the payment, then hit print. They take the printout to the group passing out the goodies, and that's the basic flow.

Afterwards, we do some post-auction sales of things that didn't sell at church the next few weeks, and take care of folks that had to leave early. There is no paddle number necessary for post auction sales - the volunteer login lets you enter sales and payments right from the online statement.

As events (dinners mostly) happen through the year, participants get automatic reminder emails (with map links) to their host, which is pretty cool. We also do a mass email a few weeks after things settle down to give everyone a link to their online auction statement (there's a sample near the bottom of the TogetherAuction.com page) From there, members can re-schedule dates if they need to…etc without necessarily bugging us (although most do anyway).

There's also some help for before the auction when getting donations and proofreading can be daunting - having it online lets you split up that task also. The catalog still takes some work to generate, but I have some merge templates that help a lot so we usually have it ready 2 weeks before the event.

So basically, since we moved from a single computer system to this web-based one, it's made it a lot easier to handle higher volume. We now fill our space with approx 200 seats for dinner, so that's about 120-ish bidders, and we use 4 customer-facing workstations with 2 printer and 2 more isolated sale entry only workstations to handle the load with fairly short lines. It's even faster since we got -a phone line and credit card reading gadget- several square gadgets to replace the manual card swiper carbon thing.(no special software connect to your credit card readers)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License