Thursday, August 10, 2017

Auctions, Car Boot Sales and CRAP

(Wedding dresses for sale at John Pye Auctions)

One of the joys of moving into a new house is that it allows you to start again with making your home just how you like it.

In our case this also coincides with a tip from a friend about the auction house

John Pye

John Pye is a company that takes surplus or returned goods including Furniture, Home Electrical Goods, Building goods, truly awful cars,  and auctions them back to us: Joe public.

This is a mostly philosophical post in that we attempt to lay down the framework for sensible auction bidding.  Overall the objective is

Don't fill your house full of total crap!

If you have a short attention span and don't remember anything else that I say here, remember that.

How Does it Work Then?
John Pye is just one auction house but I will use them as a reference.

- Before the auction you visit their Internet site and check what is available
- You make a list of potentials and wait for the viewing day
- On the viewing day you go along and check out your potentially interesting purchases
- You leave and make a Bid online
- If you win you come back, pay the money and take your item
- If you win and can't be bothered to pickup your item you still need to pay.  You can pay online and tell them you are not interested and they take your money and put it back into a new auction.
- If you win and simply don't pay you will get banned.

Car Boot Comparison
In the car boot sale you face the owner of goods and face to face evaluate if goods for sale are suitable and worth it at the price from a seller.  Car boot sales have a reputation for retailing old crap.  An auction house by comparison is often the channel for larger items  (that don't fit in a car boot), plus return items from online seller who are obliged to take customer returns due to UK law distance selling regulations.

And back to Auctions
So here are the real world cautions and words of advice that will save you from spending your life savings on 'a load of total crap'

The Impulse Buy
Never go into an auction for an Impulse buy for something which has more than a trivial cost.  Trust me,  just don't!

Being Beaten
Most of us have seen TV documentaries where bidders have gone to any lengths to outbid a competitor.   It's the dark side of human nature where we feel the need to 'win', and in this case 'win the auction' to prove a point, that you can.

Set yourself a maximum bid ahead of time and never go past it.  Because once you do it is a slippery slope to 'must win at any cost'.

Knowing The Value
Knowing the new, best retail cost of an item is key.   In the above auction the price of this Huawei P9 lite phone reached over 60% of the cost of a new unit.

And today the P10 Lite is available.  And this unit is without any Power cable, charger, the SIM reader was untested (so could not verify sim-unlock status).

If the total auction price (including taxes and commission) begins to approach retail price then think again. Buying online retail gives  you will have a 14 day no quibble return guarantee (in the UK), a warranty, and after sales service, so if the auction price is almost comparable, IMHO you must be nuts to bid.

Does It Work?
We found this Nexus 5X phone at about 40% of best retail price.  Not bad I thought.  But on closer inspection the fingerprint reader was missing.  So even if it works as a phone, it only really partially works.

And this is a pretty good example.

Here is a set of audio equipment, none of which could be tested at all.  Only the Audio Technica headphones were clearly physically broken.  Is anything else broken too!?

But It is a Bargain
This is a Vitesse electric bicycle.  I found it on Amazon  for about 1000 GBP  But it is on auction here for 200 GBP at the time of writing.   What a bargain.

Except: By my analysis this is a 2016 design, very heavy (28Kg), women specific product with average to below average components.

A bargain it might be, but although we would like to buy (another) electric bicycle this is about as far away from what we are looking for as is cyclically possible!

I already have X, so another X

It's really tempting if you own something great to think that more of it could be worthwhile.   So these Global knives seems like a potential addition to our household.  But wait!   We have a full set, they last a lifetime, and the current set are working fine.

If you have X, and don't need another X, smile and move on

Some Fun
We are not opposed to some fun.  We are seriously considering bidding [low] on this giant inflatable duck and inflating it in our Castle Pond.  We think that the humour we generate might just outweigh the outrage of the few :-)

It Probably Works

You may not be able to determine if something works.  In this case the device would not power up at all.  But this has not stopped somebody putting down 500GBP on a laptop  which had a few scratches and a note on the box saying 'slight flare in the screen'.  Personally I'd want to see that before putting any money down.   But not for some!

The Guarantee

Items are sold as seen.  It is Cavet Emptor, buyer beware.  If you get it home and it does not work as expected you cannot return the item.

Dominant One Gambit
For us the time and cost to twice return trip to John Pye  (once for inspection, second to pick up any won auction) means we have a strategy.  It is
- Choose one or more expensive items whose 'cost saving' will justify the trips
- Choose other  'nice to have' auction items
- Only if the expensive items are won do we follow on with bids on the other 'optional ones'
- Then in the ideal scenario we make one return trip and pay and pick up our winnings.

What is available cf what you Want/Need/Desire
For Marcus and Agata most people know we are very particular people.  We research exactly what we want and are not apt to make compromises on second best or almost what we want.

If I bought a cut price speaker system, that I might likely keep for 5 years plus, then every day I might sort of regret having the compromised though bargain priced model instead of the one that I researched was best for me.

In principle buying from an Auction is a great way to help save the planet.  In the sense that unused items goto scrap / landfill.  And so if you can use them, then you are saving the global manufacturing machine producing another new one for you to buy.

However the note might be that it should precisely fit your requirements.  Why should you compromise on what you have saved up for and deny yourself something that is only half right / 'almost what you wanted'.

Mathematically Challenged
(and hidden costs)
In the case of John Pye, auction goods attract VAT at 20% and then a 20% commission.  So you need to add 44% to any winning sale, plus for us about 30GBP of petrol money.  And then there is the cost of your time to go and inspect once and then on a different day to return and pay and pickup.

Example: When you are bidding for a Smartphone that retails at 500GBP then this means that any bid above 335GBP is actually costing you money.

So really, work out what your maximum bid is well before the auction goes live. Anything else and you are a dope.

Just Fair Value

With all of the risks involved, and the palava of having to inspect and then go and get the goods you need to have something that is better than fair value.  It really does need to be a bargain!

The above hard disk sold for 75 GBP.  I can buy a new one for 90 GBP.  But this one could be 'knackered' or old and tired.  Fair value is not good enough to me!

Minimalism & Clutter
Marcus does have need for this kind of device, but only today and not tomorrow.  So where on earth would I put it!  Do I really want to fill our new house up with gadgets I might use once a year?  No, not really.   Consider usage and storage as part of a +/- buy case for any item please.   A house full of crap benefits nobody.

Auction Mongoose Effect
Just because somebody is selling, or that other people are bidding don't get into a hypnotic state that you must also bid.  Is it right for you, and is it at a price that you can comfortably pay?  Not at a price that might outbid and win against any other.

Auction houses sell goods like the one you fancy every week! If this one slips away because the spec or price is wrong, then chances are another will present in some short future.  So be patient and wait for an opportunity.

Modern Manufacturing

One precursor to an Auction House even being feasible are the low error rates of modern manufacturing.  In practise this means the low error rates of Chinese manufacturing and then shipping to Europe.   Contrast this with the facts of buying household appliances or furnishing in England in the 1970's.  Failure rates in some market segments would be above 10%.  Today, the fact that goods are likely to have manufactured without defect means 'the chances are good' that the item you want to buy is not defective.

Social Comment
Wandering around a modern auction house can be a sobering experience.  When I see massive surpluses of products I am in horror not awe of the modern manufacturing system.

A system that in 2017 relentlessly churns out million after million of often unwanted products.   That are then bulk bought and sold off by Auction houses.   Or shops who offer no quibble return policies who have goods returned on mass by stupid, indiscriminate consumers who could not be bothered to evaluate the suitability before buying.  And return it, forcing said items to the scrap or auction channel.

It's mind boggling but not in a good way.

With all that said
Marcus and Agata are about to bid on this weeks carefully selected and best efforts tested 'bargains'.   We promise to obey all our rules and recommendations.