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Mon June 18 2012 13:12:25

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Sunday's EcommerceBytes Update article by longtime antique dealer Wayne Tuiskula, "Fair or Foul? Tips for the Antique Picker," recounted tactics he'd witnessed or heard about over the 20 years of his career. Some of them seemed fair enough, such as buying things they think are underpriced off craigslist, or eBay, and reselling them.

Others seemed downright unethical, such as the story of the two pickers who on a cold winter day saw steam from the sun and the heat of the house coming off an old lady's roof, whereupon they convinced her they should investigate a possible fire. Having done this bogus damage control, they were able to finagle her into selling them the contents of her attic.

Where do you draw the line with barterering, or what techniques have you witnessed over the years which you think are sketchy? Personally, in my consignment business, I would never mislead a client into thinking something was less valuable than it was. You want to inspire trust and repeat business.

But at yard sales and estate sales, I have heard all kinds of horror stories. One man running a large yard sale in his yard said he had to call the police because people were outright stealing things. And at estate sales I have heard of customers who ambush the person behind the jewelry case with requests to look at fine pieces, whereupon the case-handler gets confused about who has what and how many items, and people simply pocket one of them and hand the rest back.

In general I think underpriced things at yard and estate sales are fair game, as is anything in a thrift shop, auction, or on craigslist. But with Freecycle, the spirit of the site is not intended to give business to resellers, from what I know.

How about you? Have you heard any horror stories of pickers taking advantage of people? Or where do you draw the line in acquiring inventory, if you do? Post a comment here!




Comments (10) | Permalink

Readers Comments

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Mon Jun 18 16:01:09 2012

I agree the sources you mention are fair game if items are underpriced. If it is a bargain & you don't buy it, someone else will. On eBay, I do try to warn sellers if I notice a mistake in the listing that may get them negative FB, but I feel asking or starting price is their responsibility.

Estate Sale & Auctioneers with names to uphold should NEVER be unethical if they want to stay in business. Actually no one should take advantage of another person like the old lady & the attic, but when money or TV exposure is involved, there always seem plenty that are willing to get in on that action. On the other hand - with so many hoarders, I would think there would be plenty of STUFF to go around from those sources. Their family would probably welcome a pack of pickers!

The original non-internet formats like garage sales, estate sales & especially auctions are survival of the fittest. Don't even bid at an auction if you don't know what you are doing - I've seen people removed from the building by the auctioneer over CHOICE of Barbies. ''But I thought I got them ALL'' . Estate sales can be like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Internet shopping can be SO peaceful if you think about it!

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

This user has validated their user name. by: Spartacus

Mon Jun 18 17:53:43 2012

The whole antiques market seems rather shady to me. I have no clue how dealers value/price antiques. I see stuff that looks like old junk and it ends up being valuable. Other times I see something I think would be valuable and it's not.

On the other hand, some old lady with junk in her attic probably wouldn't have the connections with collectors to get full sale value a dealer would so it's really not a matter of ethics but buying low and selling high.  

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Mon Jun 18 19:31:15 2012

We can't assume older people are going at full capacity  - we also can't assume they are not. It would probably be best to make a relative or friend of the owner aware of the plan & have them be present before anyone goes ''cleaning out anyone's attic'' in the tactic described by Julia.  If the owner is alone, IMO it would just be too risky to gain access to their home & go through their belongings  without a responsible party made aware of it. Get the relatives / guardian / friends involved in the decision.

Unfortunately, in the USA, elderly and developmentally disabled adults and their property seem to be thought of as easy prey for anyone wanting to clean them out financially. If they even have someone, their guardian, relative, or one who oversees their finances does not always live with them. Professions like home health, maintenance, and anyone who has access to the home are in an easy position to take advantage of these folks.  Of course most of these are honest people, but unfortunately this stuff happens at a far higher rate than we ever hear about. It is not a ''sexy'' news story, so it is ignored by the media except for a blurb now & then. Losses can be devastating for the individual involved - it can be the difference between living independently, placement in a care center and even homelessness.

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Mon Jun 18 19:59:21 2012

Someone in a Facebook group I'm in told me they felt free cycle was fair game; the main idea was the item not going in a landfill. I can't remember who but someone was griping about people reselling  stuff from there..of course, I don't know how they'd police this. Doesn't seem like a huge deal to me, but what do you think?

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Mon Jun 18 20:25:01 2012

regarding freecycle: if it is considered your property you should be able to do whatever you want with it. If you bargain for an authentic Faberge Egg and you want to make a chia pet out of it, then that is your right & and one da*ned fine chia pet. Then you can sell it on eBay.  

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 19 00:01:50 2012

The "fleecing" of the elderly is of course wrong.  And I have seen it first hand.  While the "thief" was a neighbor and got into the victims house by doing errands and housework they then told her that a bunch of her out door equipment was worth nothing but scrap metal prices--it was NOT--and walked off with several THOUSANDS in tractors and gardening/farm items.  

However---if some one puts something out at a yard sale---and doesn't do their homework---or puts it on ebay ditto--have at it.  I have also done the same as another poster and alerted sellers that their items might be worth more---but I have bought plenty of bargains and re-sold at a nice profit.  Do I see this as immoral?  Nope.

Several re-sale charity shops around here have signs telling you that you are FORBIDDEN from buying something from THEM and then re-selling it.  Aside from the enforcement side of this---they really cannot legally tell you this. Once you have plunked your cash down the item is yours to keep;  sell;  donate or burn.  

I have also seen "pickers" send in a double team--one set knocks on the door and pose as religious missionaries to scout the place and the next set shows up knowing exactly what to try and get.  Saw this actually work but the woman scammed was so upset when she realized this she ended up in the hospital.  

If it feels wrong--it probably is wrong.    

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

by: JoyfulA This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 19 03:49:38 2012

As far as FreeCycle, I abide by the lister's wishes. Many say ''not to sell,'' and I don't ask for the item if I intend to sell it; others have no restrictions or even say ''great for yard sale'' or the like.

I never care what a recipient does with items I list. Often, people gratuitously lie through their teeth, however. If they weren't so insistent that they plan to ''enjoy it,'' however, I'd tell them I'd already researched the item and found it unsellable.

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Tue Jun 19 07:00:41 2012

It is a bit Big Brother-ish to tag conditions on how to use an item once it exchanges ownership. It would be like buying a vase for someone and telling them they MUST sit it on the left side of your fireplace mantle. Sheesh!

Unless in a rural area where they might be scarce, charities & thrifts that put those signs out may be overestimating their individual importance. The numerous charity shops at places I've lived shows there is definitely an overabundance of ''stuff'' in America. It looks like a ''loaves & fishes'' thing to me as it seems like there is plenty to be had for all, and then some. Also, given the Lexus, Mercedes & new cars in the parking lots along side of the older cars & bicycles, well-heeled folks are shopping there on a routine basis, too. Charities these days should be glad to get the money for their cause from whomever walks in their door, given that I've noticed they have re-sale competitors on just about every other corner. Isn't that the idea behind most of these stores: to financially support their cause?  

     An eBay seller told me once that she did not like to sell to other eBay sellers that might re-sell the item. Shoot, I'll take eBay sellers for customers any ole time! And if they turn around & re-sell the item, good for them & they are even welcome to use my photo. If I buy an item for myself from another seller and it does not fit or work out for me, it generally goes in my eBay store. Would they rather I p*ss & moan about it and want to return it? Really?

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

by: UgottaBkiddinME This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 19 09:47:25 2012

In my humble opinion when someone OFFERS something for sale anything goes as far as what the buyer does with it. However when "pickers" use any type of deception to gain access to goods IE: "fire inspection" They no longer are "pickers" as they certainly cross the threshold into the realm of certified "CON MEN"

What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?   What's Fair and What's Evil in Antique Picking?

by: AngelaTC This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jun 19 10:07:33 2012

Is Freecycle fair game?  Depends on the local rules. I am a long time Freecycle moderator, and the reseller policy varies from group to group.  Practically speaking, it's impossible to enforce, because a "gift" is supposed to be given with no strings attached.  Many groups ask that resellers state their intentions, but surprisingly most people just want their stuff gone.



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