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  1. #1

    I think an auctioneer cheated me

    What is the name of your state? New York

    My mother passed away in November 2006. Being an only child, I was left with a ten-room Victorian house, the contents of which, I wanted to liquidate. I tried unsuccessfully to contact antique dealers, estate liquidators and auctioneers, but no one was interested. Finally, my aunt recommended one auctioneer. She said her sister sent some books to his sale and received hundreds of dollars for them. Encouraged, I contacted him and he came to the house. On his first visit he just observed and decided what he wanted to take to his auction. It was then he indicated that his commission was 30%. He returned several days later with a van and a small trailer. He then added that he had forgot to mention that in addition to his 30% commission, he would also have to charge me a $200 “trucking fee.” He and his crew proceeded to fill his vehicles with furniture, books, framed art, jewelry and much miscellaneous items. This was in the middle of April 2007. His first auction after this I attended and was very disappointed in the price he received for my items. An eight-foot solid oak church pew with a green velvet cushion went for $20. The pine plank dining table with six ladderback chairs fetched a low $35. A bentwood rocker brought in a paltry $7. Mother’s entire collection of jewelry was sold as a “box lot” and went for $3.

    His next auction was held in a different locale, but I didn’t see any of my items there for sale that day. I didn’t stay for that sale. The summer progressed and I didn’t hear anything from him, so I called him around the middle of August. He then indicated that my consignment “just wasn’t selling” and he said that I could come and get it anytime or he could take it to the dump for an extra fee. I encouraged him then to try and keep placing my things for sale. Then he mentioned that some of the furniture had fallen apart. I was aghast at this announcement, but we agreed that after his last sale of the year I would pick up ant items that were left over.

    Early in November 2007, I did received a phone call from him asking me to come and get my “stuff” or he was going to take it to the dump and charge me for doing that. My aunt, who recommended this auctioneer, volunteered to help me retrieve my property since she had a pick-up truck. We went to the building that he uses to store the items consigned to him for sale and loaded the truck. I was shocked at the condition of my property, especially the furniture. One drop-leaf table had all the legs broken off and the leaf braces were broken. The auctioneer said it was only “good for firewood.” The Victorian bed frame was splintered and hand many scrapes and gouges in it. I could see why nobody wanted to buy these. I also noticed that some of the things he returned were definitely not mine, but he insisted they were (music box, microwave oven, anniversary clock, as examples). I wondered than how much of MY unsold items were mixed-up and given back to other clients if his.

    He presented me with a check for $527 and the tags from the items he had sold. When I added up the tags, it came to $12 more that his receipt indicated. I also could not account for many items he took and weren’t included in the list of sold items or were returned unsold (a pair of crystal chandelier lamps, an antique collar crimper, my father’s watch, etc). His defense in this respect was that a great deal of stuff was sold as a “box” or “tray lot” and not listed individually.

    Of course, being the trusting individual I am, did not suspect that he would return the unsold merchandise in that deplorable condition, nor can I prove the condition of it when he took it. I also cannot prove what was sold in "box lots." Would I have a case against him in small claims court?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    In the good old US of A
    Did you have an inventory done while or before he took the items for consignment sale ?

    If he returned items that were broke or cracked as you state ( or the ones otherwise he says are junk ) , compare prices on the interned and sue him .

    If as you stated , he selected what he would take for consignment , a reputable auctioneer would not even take junk .

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Here is something I know about.

    What did the conract that you and the auctioneer signed have to say about the terms and conditions of consigning your items?

    As the OP seems to know little or nothing aobut the items consigned [nor their condition when consigned] they would be little value to them 'checking prices on the internet' and using said values to press suit.

    If these dealers and auctioneers that were called before the subject auctioneer took the consignment, it would make sense to me that the items were not really worth very much. If this is 'upstate' New York these prices though seemingly low could represent fair market value IN THAT AREA. A box lot of jewelry selling for 3.00 sounds like the stuff was not worth very much and very likely in poor condition to boot.

    On the face of it, you wanted the items sold and they were. If there were things of true value then the opthers would have been fighting for the chance to sell it.

    The market for this stuff is not great right now. Good merchandise does fine. Mid market and below is suffering.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Was the will officially probated and were you the only heir?

    You have grounds for a small claims suit but the problem is you don't know how much you have been financially damaged, since you did not take a video or photo inventory of all items that were to be sold. A reputable auctioneer/appraiser would have put post-it notes on each item showing estimated sale value and would also have taken a video or photo inventory of the items BEFORE he left your home so there would be an official record of what the items were to be sold.

    You made some other mistakes to your detriment--not checking out this auctioneer with the Better Business Bureau and by not getting a signed agreement from him.

    Chalk this up to a bad experience in which you have learned your lesson and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau about your experience so that perhaps other people will be less likely to be victimized in the future in the same fashion.

    DANDY DON IN OKLAHOMA (tiekh@yahoo.com)

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