Amid growing popularity, UT’s annual bike auction needs a makeover

Chen-Pang Chang

Two weeks ago, UT Parking and Transportation Service held a used bike auction at East Campus Garage. Hundreds of people, including myself, attended the event. It started with the purpose to resell bikes to students in need and ended with success — most people went back home with new bikes and a smile.

However, the auction faced problems from its growing popularity this year. PTS currently conducts a silent auction to make the bidding process more efficient. During the event, after people find a bike they like and make a note of its number, they then find a sheet with the matching number and place a bid. When the time expires and the table closes, the winning bidder is called to come forward and is handed a ticket. At the end, they pay when exiting with their bikes.

Nevertheless, the increasing number of participants is causing problems for PTS’s silent auction. With limited bikes and a growing number of guests, people acted aggressively to each other over the bikes. PTS should consider changing the silent auction into a verbal one.

After placing my bid at the auction, another guest blocked the sheet for the final minute. He was apparently waiting for the time to expire. When I finally got a chance to bid after him, I found out that he only bid one dollar more than me. Then, he pushed me away and yelled, “Hey! The time is up.”

During the process, PTS staff walked around and tried to remind people to be kind to each other. They asked guests to step out of the way once they placed their bid so that others could bid as well. However, PTS was not there when I needed them. Perhaps this practice did not really work out for everyone.

“There has been an increasing number of guests and students attending the event over the years and PTS has been trying to figure out how to manage the growing popularity,” said Jeremy Hernandez, the bike coordinator for PTS. “The reason to have an increment of one dollar, instead of five dollars, was because the main audience is students. Most students have limited budgets.”

The main objectives of the bike auction is to reduce waste and harm to the environment and lessen financial burden on students. However, since it is an open event, the audience is not limited to students. 

If PTS wants to stick to low-increment bidding, they should make the auction a closed event for UT students with valid IDs. If we are to embrace the event’s increasing popularity, certain measures must be adopted to address its popularity.

Turning the silent auction into a verbal one is a more realistic option for PTS. By doing so, they can increase the transparency and fairness of the process. A verbal auction works better because it gives sufficient bidding time for everyone who is interested in the bike. No one can keep others from bidding, as the process is completely open.

UT’s annual bike auction was created to do the environment good and turn a bike that might have cost $200 into a bargain for students. It’s a good sign that the bike auction becomes successful as more people attend over the years. PTS needs to update their auction practice to thrive with the growing popularity.

Chang is a philosophy junior from New Taipei, Taiwan.