Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Little Auction Etiquette

The LIHS Annual Auction is nigh upon us or in other words the  auction will be here and gone almost before you know it. It is scheduled for the LIHS monthly meeting on Sunday June 7th at 1PM. As usual it will be held in the Conference Center at SUNY Farmingdale (directions and a link to a campus map here).

The auction is the main way that the LIHS funds itself now that we no longer hold an annual expo. The funds are needed to pay insurance and any other costs associated with running the society. We do pretty well at it but I have to say, I think maybe we can do better. The main ways we can do better is if folks who are bidding on items actually make decent bids and if people donating items donate things that are worth those decent bids. Remember that all items are donated by members (or others) who are trying to help support the LIHS. With that in mind, allow me to be so bold as to make some suggestions about bidding.

When used items are being auctioned, try to bid based on the condition of the item and what would be a fair price for it if sold used, that will benefit the LIHS. I am not saying to bid $100 on an item you believe is valued at $100 but bidding $5.00 on that item, even though used, is lowballing. True, the owner who donated it probably got his use out of it and does not need it any longer and it is probably of little value to him - but remember that person did not have to donate it to the LIHS. The item could have been sold via Craig's List or LI Back Page and put some money in that person's pocket or given him money to flat out donate to the LIHS. So make a decent bid, say maybe a starting bid of at least at 1/4 of the estimated value and work up from there. This will not only be better for the LIHS at this auction but will probably do more to assure that the same person donates something of value again next year as opposed to thinking it was not worth making a donation in the first place. As a bidder making a good bid, you still stand a chance at getting a good deal and will also have the satisfaction of knowing your money went to a good cause (and remember that is the reason for the auction - to support the LIHS).

The same kind of, sort of, just about goes for new items. However, 
with new items you should probably start your bidding closer to the retail value of the item. That is especially true if the item was donated by an individual instead of something donated by a corporation like Zoo Med. Why? Well, the person donating the item probably has paid for it out of his own pocket. If you bid $10 on an item that cost that person $100 why would that person ever have any incentive to again donate that expensive of an item to the LIHS for the auction. He could have more easily, and to higher benefit to the LIHS, made a monetary donation of $100 and left it that. Thus he would have saved money, time and effort that it took making the purchase and getting it to the auction. At the same time it would have given the LIHS 10 times the amount you would have bid on the item. It does not make sense to lowball, especially on brand new items. Yeah, it saves you some coin but can have an effect that is detrimental to the LIHS in that such items likely will appear less and less frequently at future auctions, bidders will lose interest if only junk winds up being offered, and the LIHS will have its main source of funding reduced over the long haul if the auction declines in quality. So, try to start the bidding around at least 50% of the retail value of new items donated by other members. Hopefully someone else will bid too and one of you will get the item for a good deal but much closer to the retail value than would be a lowball bid. Again, bear in mind, the auction is being held to support the LIHS.

Bidding on live animals or feeders is somewhat different but you still should avoid lowballing. The reason this is different is that many of the animals that are donated for the auction were bred by the person donating them. There is not as much of a cost involved for them; however, they could also sell those animals and donate the money to the LIHS. Try to make your starting bid at least 1/4 to 1/2 of what you think the critter is worth. Making a bid of $5.00 on a fairly high end snake that is worth $250 would be ludicrous but it has been done at LIHS auctions. I remember one member a few years ago who had several designer snakes, of a certain type, up for bidding. Some of them went for as low as $5 or $10. I bid some of them up and wound up having the high bids on at least two of them but at least the LIHS got more than a measly $5 or $10 in donations from them. I did not really want the snakes, I wanted to help the society and also to keep the person who donated them from feeling as if he got screwed and that it was not worth having made the donations. I think though, he thought the latter - I have not seen him at an auction since then. Again, this is to benefit the LIHS. Sure you can have fun bidding and probably get a good deal but the main reason to bid is to support the society.

As for people donating items, you too can do your part toward the goal of benefitting the LIHS. Make as many donations as you can of quality items on which folks would be willing to make good bids. If you are donating used items, say for instance a tank and stand, do a little work to make it more appealing - like cleaning it. Don't leave feces smeared on the tank sides or leave blue tinsel inside the tanks. Some of the enclosures that have been donated for the auction have been so disgustingly filthy that I am sure that is the reason there were no bids on them and they wound up in the dumpster outside after he bidding was completed.

Also, don't use the auction as an opportunity to offload your junk. If you have a glass turtle tank that has large cracks on two sides and is not water tight that you do not want - what makes you think someone else wants it? If you have an animal that you know is ill and want to get rid of it - don't do it at the auction. You are putting the future of the LIHS at risk by way of a tort claim if you do so and that animal transmits an illness to the new owner or her collection of herps. That does not mean you cannot or should not donate animals that may have slight deformities not due to a current illness. For instance, many a bearded dragon has had toes bitten of by cage-mates when young. They grow up otherwise healthy and surely healthy animals are what folks want.

As a person who is donating something, you may also want to consider placing a starting bid or a reserve bid on your items. I prefer to place a starting bid and not a reserve. In a 'reserve auction' the bidding can start at any price; however, if the preset reserve price is not achieved, the item remains unsold. If the reserve price is met, the item sells for that price or for the highest bid over the reserve. For an item on which you place a starting bid, the bidding must start at the minimum acceptable price you have set beforehand. If no one makes a bid at least as high as the price you set, the item remains unsold. If someone bids at the set starting price, the winner of that auction will be the person who matched the preset starting price or will be the bidder who bid the highest bid above the set starting bid. Of course, the person who made the donation can decide, after the auction end for any given item, that whatever bid was made was acceptable and thus the item in either a reserve or minimum bid auction may still be won by a bidder who technically came in too low.

Remember folks, the whole reason we hold the auction is to benefit our society - the LIHS. Let's try to do that as best we can while at the same time assuring that the auction will be held for years to come. Please donate quality items and bring plenty of cash for bidding. Let's do all we can do to keep the LIHS up and running.

All the best,
Glenn  B

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