I buy many lots through thesaleroom.com [sister brand of Antiques Trade Gazette] and make payment either through the site or directly with the auction house.
Of late, I have experienced several auction rooms refusing to accept payment of more than £200 on the telephone and instead ask me to do bank transfers via online banking. I don’t do online banking as I never remember passwords, and am too long in the tooth to bother to master it.
The world has changed and the saleroom world is almost unrecognisable. Why do most auctioneers refuse to take payment from my registered card? The stock answer from them seems to be ‘it ain’t legal’. But if I have registered and agreed to the terms and conditions of the rooms, then why would there be an issue with taking these payments?
The same can be said of posting and packing: some salerooms have a packer and offer this service, but many do not and fire off a list of packers and
couriers. These costs can be more than the lots purchased. I luckily purchased a Staffordshire figure for £25 recently against an estimate of £120-150, but the carriers wanted £65 to send it.
I am not a fan of eBay, but it has a fair postage policy and perhaps this is something all salerooms should learn from.
Helen Carless, chair of auctioneer body SOFAA and managing director of Lawrences of Crewkerne, responds:
Unfortunately, merchants (in this instance, auctioneers) are not covered for fraudulent activity on a card where the chip and pin is not used. In other words, the buyer has to be there in person if the auctioneer is to be certain the payment will be valid.
Most auction houses will ‘take a view’ and be prepared to, in effect, self-insure for small amounts – hence the £200 threshold mentioned. At the end of the day though, it is a commercial decision for individual businesses.
Regarding postage and packing, again this is a commercial decision for a business to take. But I do know that to do a good job takes time and an experienced packer. Having a packaging department is simply not a viable proposition for many auction houses, especially where space is tight.