Beyond the teeming produce aisles and savory baked goods, past the hubcaps and cutlery and Persian rugs, out of earshot of the migraine-inducing bass bleating from the car stereo tents, way, way, way in the back of sprawling Denio's Farmer's Market and Swap Meet in Roseville comes the sound of a man doing his darndest to hawk a case of Depends Adult Undergarments.
"Do I hear $10? Ten, ten, ten. How about $7.50, $7.50? You tell me: $5? Five, five, five. Who wants to get it started? Anyone? Five bucks."
The voice is an urgent staccato, 78-rpms in a 33.3 world, the kind of delivery you hear on end-of-car-commerical disclaimers. This is the hard sell. This is commerce at its most elemental. Just raise your numbered card to tell the helicopter-armed man in the 10-gallon (do I hear 8?) cowboy hat what you're willing to bid, then wait out the others.
"Five, five, five "
Still no takers on the Depends. But unfazed Larry Folkerts, bonded auctioneer, barely blinks or inhales before he's off again.
"OK, we'll pass. Next item "
Twenty-one years after the last gavel sounded, Denio's has recently returned to the auction business. Twice a month through 2012, it will team with Folkerts' TGW Auctions to hawk wares great and small. Those with memories of the FDR administration will recall that Denio's once auctioned off livestock. No sheep now, but can they interest you in an Australian wool comforter?
"We figured this was a good time to come back," said Eric Denio, marketing manager. "You would not believe the number of people who wanted to see it."
Oh yes we would, judging by the stream of Saturday shoppers, locals and Bay Area interlopers, picking over items like vultures over carrion. Who knew such a trove of discounted goods could be had in Roseville?
From the bottom end (adult diapers) to the top notch (Pioneer 42-inch HD plasma TV) and everything in between (chain saws, golf clubs, paper towel dispensers, leaf blowers and hip-wader boots) a trove of deals is to be had on products many didn't know they needed or even wanted before the intoxicating lure of The Bargain left them besotted.
That's the thing about general merchandise auctions: They suck you in. It's part art of the deal, part blood sport when the bidding gets revved up. Call it capitalist Kabuki theater, replete with grand gestures, odd expressions and bold intonations the difference being there's also a lot of substance there.
Substance in the form of stuff. Stuff to fill your house, clog your garage, molder away in your shed. (Cue that hilarious old George Carlin monologue.)
"Do I need 1,000 foam cups?" said Bobby Archie, of West Sacramento, who snagged the booty for the low, low price of $7.50. "No. I'll put 'em in my shop. Will I use 'em? Maybe."
Why, then, didn't Archie fork over another five bucks for the next item up for bid lids?
"You don't have to have a lid to drink, you know."
Right. And besides, he had other purchases to make: a tool chest for $10, a rainsuit for $10.50, a radial arm saw for a cool Benjamin. He lost out on a lighted vanity mirror in spirited bidding. Apparently, $25 was too rich for his blood.
Strategic spending is the key. It makes people feel like a smart shopper to chop 80 percent off retail price of an item, as if putting one over on The Man or The Corporation. It may not be something for which they had a hankering, but, dude, think of the deal!
"You gotta play the game," said Kevin Melvin, of Citrus Heights. "Last week, I dropped about $500 here. This week, we'll see."
His T-shirt read "Livin' Large," and Melvin seemed to embody the credo. An hour into the proceedings, he already had bought five items, the most pricy an air compressor (for $25, saving about $90). He was in the running for a Whirlpool washing machine ($700, retail), but when the bidding got above $45, bowed out.
"It might've just sat in the garage," he said, hardly crestfallen. "But I'm getting all kinds of stuff for five bucks."
And just where does this "stuff" come from?
Folkerts says, "We buy truckloads of product from major department stores and chains and we'll have consignors, too. We're still testing the (Sacramento) market, what it can bear. Right now, looks like tools and electronics."
Case in point: A bidder in a camouflage jacket and ball cap, too enthralled to talk, went home with both a Starbucks whipped cream maker and a gasless wire-feed welder. Such an eclectic juxtaposition doesn't make Folkerts do a double-take. He's seen it all.
"I've sold TVs where they could've bought it at the store for less money than at the auction, but it gets to be a competition out there," he said. "People do things they wouldn't normally (do)."
Take Brett and Dorothy Mason, of Granite Bay, who came just to watch and went home with a case of Gold Eagle Fuel System Cleaner and a Bodum battery-operated milk frother. They needed the stuff, really. Brett often flushes out his cars' tanks and Dorothy could use the frother to make smoothies at work.
Besides, they were such deals.
"We may end up buying one of those $20 baskets to get all the stuff home," Brett Mason said, sipping on a Budweiser and trying mightily to abstain from bidding on that carpet cleaner he'd been eyeing.