Sold to the gent who wears the stunned expression"
An Auction is happening, people are bidding in sensible increments and then, all of a sudden, someone puts in such a high bid that no one would dare bid against them. This can be an escalation of a bidding war or a total newcomer. The correct name for this kind of tactic is a Jump Bid and it can be very effective, or it can land you paying far more than you needed to. Used primarily for dramatic effect, either to highlight the value of the item (particularly if it was previously considered of low value or it has a secret use) or to dramatically introduce a character to a scene. Nothing says "I am rich and powerful, look this way" like doubling the bid for a teapot when the last bidder had just got to £900,000. Also very common in Bachelor Auction setups. A similar setup can occur in gambling, where a gambler tries to scare off the other gamblers with a huge wager. (Often called 'buying the pot' in this case.)
Depending on the format of the auction this may or may not be possible in Real Life.
- In the Sabaody Archipelago arc of One Piece, a friend of the crew is captured and auctioned as a slave with a starting bid of 70 million Berries. The crew is confident that they can buy her back because they have 200 million Berries, but before they even get to speak, a Celestial Dragon buys her for 500 million, crushing their hopes. Of course, once Luffy gets there, he crushes HIS hopes. And his face, and the entire auction house...
- A slight variation occurs in Slayers Next when Lina and The Rival are one-upping each other bidding on an item Xellos (who doesn't want to sell) has, where Lina only raises her bid by one every time. When a flustered Xellos responds with the bid of 300! 301! that it's worth 300.000.000, Lina instantly accepts. The Whammy-part of that bid hits the auctioneer in this case.
- Alex does this in Last Exile during the auction of a very important Plot Coupon. As it happens, the Big Bad is also bidding on the same item. The result is a series of escalating Whammy Bids that takes the price from 1 Million to 50 billion. Alex would have bid even more if it weren't for the gun pointed at his head.
- A pretty straight-forward example in Gallery Fake. Fujita doubles the price on a Monet from $10 Million to $20 Million, despite the fact that he had a budget of $10 million.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
- In A Cold Bargain, Scrooge McDuck ups the bid for the ball of bombastium from the low billions to one trillion dollars, driving one bidder out and forcing the remaining bidder to add five kitchen sinks to the bid. Scrooge then wins by adding a sixth kitchen sink.
- In one story, Scrooge and Flintheart are competing to buy a historical banknote. Scrooge only bets in small increments, though Donald tries to help by announcing larger bids, until Flintheart finally yells "TWO BILLION DOLLARS!". Scrooge doesn't follow, but a week later, reminds an extremely smug Flintheart that the banknote was historical because of its worth... one billion dollars.
- In one Archie Comics story, Mr. Lodge is holding an auction. Archie overhears Lodge mentioning his hopes to make some serious money on his prized aircraft, and assumes he's talking about a model on his desk. Unaware that the gathered rich men are bidding in the thousands of dollars, Archie joins in on the auction, bidding his pocket money. With Lodge absent, no one knows Archie is just an average teen, and Archie wins the bid. After signing the official forms, he takes the model, leaves, and Lodge suffers a stroke when he learns that Archie bought his prize airplane for less than ten dollars.
- Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire provides the page image. As can be seen, the titular character places it and the seller (who was covertly selling military secrets using a computerized bid recorder that apparently lacked a "dump last bid" option) gets pissed off at him for it.
- Slightly different in that Buck had no intention of winning the auction or paying his bid, and no one thought he did. He was just wrecking an illicit automated auction while pissing off the auctioneer.
- In Groundhog Day, the winning bid for Phil in the climactic male auction is one of these made by Rita, the girl he's chasing, for the entire contents of her wallet at the time.
- Hudson Hawk. At the auction of the da Vinci Sforza:
Auctioneer: We'll begin at $20 million...Thank you, sir. 20.5...Darwin Mayflower: Waldo! 100 million clams!Auctioneer: $100 million to Mr. Darwin Mayflower.
- Oklahoma! (1955): Will Parker (somewhat inadvertently) bids $50 for his girlfriend Ado Annie's picnic basket (which was a lot of money at the time the story was set). The previous bid was 90 cents. He's then immediately outbid (It Makes Sense in Context) and doesn't pursue the picnic basket any further.
- Happens in the 1947 Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. film Sinbad the Sailor, with the twist that Sinbad has already discouraged any bidding by depicting the ship being bid on as "cursed".
- In North by Northwest, the main character so violently insists upon his whammy bids that he gets arrested for disorderly conduct. Which gives him a police escort out of the place, safely away from the men in the crowd who wanted to kill him.
- Played for Laughs in that the whammy bids were ridiculously low for the objects being sold.
- In Paint Your Wagon, a drunken Ben Rumson (Lee Marvin) sees a beautiful woman (in what had been a males-only gold mining camp) and promptly stumbles into the auction selling her. As soon as he figures out what's going on, he bellows, "Whatever the last bid was — double it!" and passes out. This leaves the auctioneer to quickly convert the complicated previous bid (in cash, powder gold, tools, supplies, and livestock) down into a single amount and hit up Ben's Pardner (Clint Eastwood) for the payment.
- In Once Upon a Time in the West, a widow's farm had been put in auction. The bids were in the hundreds when a five-thousand-dollar bid was made. Instead of paying with money, the bidder brought in a wanted man for which a reward in the bid's value had been offered.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Holmes makes one of these, in order to get the attention of everyone in the auction house so he can warn them of the fire that's just started behind him.
- In Batman & Robin, Batman and Robin are hypnotized by the seductive Poison Ivy. Batman and Robin then both start bidding on her, but then Batman bids a whopping $7,000,000 on her, with the help of…A BAT CREDIT CARD?!?
- "Never leave the cave without it."
David Uzumeri: GOOD THRU FOREVER.
Chris Sims: Complete with a “ka-ching!” sound effect. This is another thing that people hate and I love. Because in this universe, why WOULDN’T you give Batman a credit card? It ain’t like he’s not good for it. Keep in mind, this is after Ivy all but actually says “I will, no joke, f*** whoever bids the most.”
- "Never leave the cave without it."
- Happens at the start of the third The Librarian film. Flynn partly does it, as he's arguing with his girlfriend on the phone, who promptly dumps him after the auction anyway. Meanwhile, Charlene nearly has a heart attack, as he goes way over the budget allocated for the auction. The final bid is £1,000,000. He then promptly smashes the "priceless vase" to reveal a pouch with the Philosopher's Stone. After returning to the Library, he is chastised for spending too much. Charlene then scoffs at his suggestion that they use the stone to turn something into gold and sell it cover the costs.
- Happens near the end of MouseHunt, where a wealthy art collector bids $17 million on the house, just before it's destroyed by water damage. The same guy previously tried to buy the house prior to the auction for a much lower sum (though still in the millions).
- In Old Chicago: The auction for a charitable performance from Belle starts at $5 and goes up to $6. Dion then bids $100, an absurd amount in 1867, and wins.
- In The Halfblood Chronicles, Shana is being auctioned off by the elves. She's about to be sold for 200 gold pieces when a new bidder in Lord Dyran's livery bids 300. Twisted a bit, in that the real reason no one counter-bids is that no one is suicidal enough to cross Lord Dyran. Twisted further, in that the bidder isn't one of Lord Dyran's men.
- Inverted in Soul Kitchen. After the underdog hero's limit of €200,000 has been easily matched by the evil property developer, a break in his concentration allows the hero to win with a ridiculously low increment of €15.
- Into the Void by Nigel Findley (The Cloakmaster Cycle) there was an item among others at a Nimbral auction that turned out to be mostly useless, but historically valuable artifact of Precursors. Then the Arcane entered and reminds everyone that the near-monopoly on spelljamming stuff made his kind obscenely rich. He counters current 600 (which is already too much for thing most humanoids cannot even use as a normal sword) with seven thousand gold pieces. What, someone's ready to buy it for 7,500? T'k'Pek just answers with 10,000.
- Ostap Bender attempts to purchase the eponymous The Twelve Chairs with one, for no other reason than his love for dramatic effects. It bites him in the ass when it turns out his partner squandered half their money and they don't have enough to pay the commission fee.
- Happens in Song in the Silence, when the winning bid for a good mare is half again what she's worth.
- The Boxcar Children: In the book The Mystery Bookstore, bidding on an old bookstore and its contents starts at 50,000 dollars and, in just seven bids, quickly hits 80,000. Then a final bidder outdoes everyone and wins by jumping the price to 100,000 dollars. It's Grandfather Alden, who bought the bookstore as an investment and hires one of the earlier bidders, who happens to be a friend of his, to run the place.
- Happened on an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where Q bid a million bars of gold-pressed latinum during an auction of Gamma Quadrant artifacts. Whether he would have actually paid up is a matter for conjecture.
- A more conventional example took place when Jake and Nog were bidding on a lot of artifacts including a 1951 Willie Mays rookie card that Jake wanted to give to his baseball-loving father. Nog's entire life savings amounted to five bars of gold-pressed latinum, and when the bidding goes up to four, a mysterious stranger wins the auction with a bid of ten. Jake and Nog wind up having to perform a series of favors for the entire crew to get the items they need to trade for the card.
- This happened on Arrested Development when Buster came in late and put in an obscenely high bid on a date with his mother Lucille. Unfortunately he didn't realize that his mother wasn't up for bid at the time, it was next door neighbor Lucille II. She thought it was a romantic gesture to show how much he cared for her.
- And in a later bachelorette auction, GOB also pulls a whammy bid... and also uses it on Lucille 2 instead of his mother.
- In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, when the villains are auctioning off the Pink Ranger's quassar saber, Astronema (actually, Karone) announces her presence this way. Then she immediately ups her bid to "all of you get to live".
- The Reality TV show Storage Wars has this as a tactic employed by the star bidders, usually, but not always, Dave Hester.
- Mark Balelo first appeared on the show by making several whammy bids in quick succession.
- Allen and Ton on Auction Hunters also use this method at times.
- In both of these examples their plan is to scare other bidders off when the smaller incremental bids would eventually go higher anyway.
- In Angel when Cordelia's eyes are being bid on due to their prophetic powers, to stall she goads two bidders get into a war with each other, until eventually one kills the other. Then a Wolfram and Hart lawyer who'd been on the phone with her bosses presumably gets permission to bid, and wins the auction immediately.
- In the 2 Broke Girls second-season premiere, "And the Hidden Stash", Max puts in a $200 bid, $75 above the current bid at the time, for the loving cup she has convinced Caroline her father hid money in.
- Cutthroat Kitchen can have this with its sabotage auctions. Each contestant gets $25,000 to bid on sabotages that start at $500 and must be topped by at least $100 — and the winner of the competition only gets what they haven't spent at the auction as a prize. Nevertheless, contestants routinely top bids by $1,000 or more (usually justifing it by saying they want to con the other bidders into blowing their money). There are also cases of contestants starting out with a whammy bid if they really want to avoid a sabotage; the current record for an initial bid is ten thousand dollars.
- All Creatures Great and Small: In the episode "The Pig Man Cometh" James engages in a series of whammy bids for a house. Played with in that he knows he cannot afford to pay out, but he is trying to run up the bids for the benefit of the widow who is moving out, and he knows that the other buyer is a noted bad tempered old miser who has intimidated most of the other locals into not bidding themselves.
- Zig-zag: Any contestant on The Price Is Right who, in the One-Bid round, bids $1 less than the previous high had made a Whammy bid, unless the contestant is trying to get the item's price exactly right. Otherwise, if a contestant bids $900 then the next bids $899 and the item is $850, the second contestant still loses because the objective is to not go over the price.
- Person of Interest. In "One Percent" the POI is an eccentric billionaire, so Reese spends ten million bidding on some handwritten letters by Albert Einstein just to get his attention, much to the alarm of Harold Finch who's actually paying for this (Finch himself has spent more than that just to get access to a POI, but it's his money). Then Reese finds the POI has done a runner, so tells the auctioneer he can keep the letters and rushes off.
- Big Wolf on Campus has Tommy take part in an auction for charity where a woman his age slams a $5000 bid on him. It turns out she's a female werewolf from an entire country of werewolfs (and even pays in their currency, which is how Merton figures her out to begin with), and her plans for Tommy are entirely amiable and good natured.
- In part one of the Cabin Pressure two part Grand Finale "Zurich", Carolyn is forced to sell GERTI. She's about to go for £8,000 to a scrap metal dealer, when Carolyn's hated ex-husband Gordon suddenly appears and bids £15,000. Carolyn then urges Douglas to bid 20 thou, saying they'll sort it all out later, and the bidding gets up to 90,000 before Gordon bids a quarter of a million. For a moment, Carolyn is prepared to let even Gordon have her for that kind of money, but Arthur isn't, and shouts TEN MILLION POUNDS! Later, when Carolyn is explaining to the auctioneer that Arthur is a idiot Manchild who doesn't have ten million pounds, she claims that the same goes for Gordon and the last real bid was the scrap dealer.
- You can do this in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Betting about 10% or more of the current bid will make all the others betters shake their heads for several seconds. It's the most effective tactic to keep opponents from bidding at all.
- In Final Fantasy VI, there are certain items in the Jidoor auction house that you just can't win, no matter how cool they seem. You know you're looking at these items when a kid in the audience keeps piping up, demanding his dad get the item for him. No matter how much you bid, you'll eventually be beaten out when the kid's dad puts in a last-minute Whammy Bid, to the shock of everyone at the auction. Even if you have enough money to match the bid (which late in the game is entirely possible) you won't be given the chance. Fortunately, these items (such as a scale-model airship) are never useful in any conventional RPG sense, so completionists need not worry about the loss.
- Devil Survivor games can have this happen during the Auction of Evil if enough money is bid. This is particularly visible in Devil Survivor 2 in Special Auctions, where it is almost a necessity to ensure you actually acquire that rare demon.
- This is in fact the entire point and plot of the Oddworld game Munch's Oddysee; the protagonists must make a hapless glukkon absurdly rich by stealing money from other glukkons, then mind-control him into buying a can of eggs from an endangered species with one such Whammy Bid. And the whammy goes both ways, as the sum is effectively all of said glukkon's new fortune.
"THREE MILLION MOOLAH!!"
"I can't beat that! I can't beat that..."
"Lulu takes the bid at three million moolah!"
(Mind control wears off) "Wha-? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!"
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has you attend a Nopon-run auction with Adenine, who wants to get her hands on a rare book. She directly recommends exploiting this trope by going large to stun the other bidders, but hilariously enough even the minimum bid you can place will achieve that (Nopon merchants are notorious for their penny-pinching).
- Family Guy has this happen in the episode where Peter is brainwashed into being cultured.
Brian: Oh for goodness sake. $500,000!Auctioneer: We have $500,000 from the man who doesn't quite get how auctions work.
- Lampshaded in the Taken parody episode where Meg gets kidnapped in Paris. Stewie and Brian disguise themselves at a slave auction, with Stewie being the "girl" put up for bid, and Brian was the bidder. For the sake of ending the bid early, Brian bids a much higher price than everyone else so far.
- During an auction for anchovies in Futurama, Fry tries to one-up Mom with a bid of "one jillion dollars!", to the surprise of everyone. Except the auctioneer. "Sir, that's not a number." Fry gives a replacement bid of fifty million dollars, which still wins the auction.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, an artifact of power once belonging to Morgan Le Fay is mixed in with an antiquities auction. Jason Blood, the human host of the demon Etrigan, and Klarion the Witch Boy (dum, dum, dum) have a brief bidding war ending in the low six figures when Blood is forced to concede defeat. Bruce Wayne, who knows Blood, wins it for him with a sudden "One... million."
- Subverted in "Harlequinade": A really big bomb is up for auction. The gangsters bid increasingly absurd amounts for it. And then they hear The Joker's voice: "How about nothing? That's right...I'm talking zero, zip, zilch, nada."
- Superfriends: Several villains wanted to make a bid for a piece of Gold Kryptonite, which had the power to permanently render Superman powerless. Darkseid then caught all of them by surprise by offering one bleen. (The currency they used.) Despite easily having the money to make a better offer, no other villain would defy him. Then imagine his shock, when a group of criminals (actually Super Friends in disguise) suddenly bid one million bleens and the New God has to seriously compete. (Amazingly enough, Darkseid eventually swallows his pride and backs down, figuring he can far-more easily steal it later.)
- Hurricanes: When Stavros Garkos tried to acquire a McGuffin at an auction, he instructed his proxy to start with one of those.
- The Simpsons: Homer left Bart and Lisa to keep his spot at a DMV line. In retaliation, when it'd be his turn to be served, Bart and Lisa auctioned it. After several people made bids, Fat Tony offered a lollipop for it. Being a mafia boss, his offer was quickly accepted.
Homer: Five dollars!Mr. Burns: Five hundred.Homer: Five dollars cash.Auctioneer: Sir, the promise of cash is not an endorsement. The current bid is $500. Going once, going twice—Bart: Dad!Homer: Five hundred and one dollars!Mr. Burns: Ten million.Homer: Objection, Your Honor!Auctioneer: I'm not a judge, but, overruled.
- Another episode featured Bart and Homer trying to find a very rare penny for their coin collection. They find one at an auction, but are up against Mr. Burns.
- eBay discourages this by displaying the second-highest bid instead of the highest bid. This can and has been exploited by savvy bidders.
- A few of these were made in Yoshiki Hayashi's auction of a piano for the March 11, 2011 Japanese quake and tsunami relief effort. They took the price well into the millions of US dollars (billions of yen) before the auction was taken down. The bidders were all Trolls, and the piano actually sold, when the auction resumed, for under $150,000..
- Happened in another charity auction of his as well, and is so expected now that if he is auctioning ANYTHING and a bidding war begins between two or three bidders, it's best to wait until someone looks at it and the trolls are banhammered and prices reset.
- Some of these were placed when Pope Benedict's old car went up for sale on eBay, again running the price over a million dollars before the bids were cleared. When the auction was relaunched, though the previous high bids were not reached, the hatchback still sold for over $240,000.
- Google made such whammy bids for some patents some time back. The whammy part is not because of the huge bidding amount, but because the numbers are mathematical constants, including pi.