Trend Watch: Tacky Tech?

Indianapolis-based BidPal Network and its handheld bidding devices for silent auctions are invading Atlanta’s charitable fundraisers—to the chagrin of some socialites. Last fall, events such as Jane Fonda’s G-CAPP It’s About Time benefit and Senior Citizen Services’ A Meal to Remember benefit for Meals on Wheels Atlanta used the gadgets in place of old-school bid sheets.
Without leaving the comfort of the wine service at their ballroom tables, bidders could monitor the current top price on that set of golf clubs or ritzy trip to the South of France and receive updates when they were outbid. Donors were immediately acknowledged and thanked on large video screens set up in the ballroom.
“I thought it was brilliant!” says veteran Atlanta fundraiser Lynne Halpern. “When you can raise $4,700 in six minutes for Meals on Wheels and put it up on a screen in real time and thank the donors simultaneously, that’s amazing. Who didn’t want to push a button and help the cause?”
But for those dumbfounded by smart-phone technology, the gizmos are an intrusion into an otherwise regal affair. “It was a serious distraction,” says longtime charity chair and A Meal to Remember attendee Sally Dorsey. “People were focused on a phone instead of each other. It greatly reduced the interaction and the fun for me.”
The bidding boxes had some older folks scrambling for their bifocals. Others had trouble navigating the iPod Touch technology in the darkened ballroom and asked younger attendees how to work the contraptions. (One veteran attendee even conceded to us that she lost her device under a table.) But whether the blue-hued boxes clash with your cuff links or not, it appears BidPal is here to stay. The company hopes to expand to all U.S. cities later this year.