copyright Bettina Network, inc. 2013
Estate Sales should be staffed by psychiatrists and psychologists who are looking for material to use in writing a book about all of us.
At some time or other we all pass through – either an estate sale or a bed & breakfast. We pass through as a guest or as proprietor of a bed & breakfast (defined in the old fashioned sense of a private home which welcomes guests) or the owner or executor of items sold via some kind of estate sale.
Our goal, the Bettina Network’s goal, in this business as in our lives is to be truly responsible to the environment; to quality in all our offerings and the way we offer them; to diversity, acceptance, equality and especially respect of others.
That said – we would like to pass on to you some of the lessons we have learned – and we will certainly take them to heart and do our best to incorporate them in our lives going forward.
One incontrovertible fact – the estate sale, scattering sale, antique sale, moving sale, art sale are social events. Many people come to meet and greet; to see what is offered; to talk about themselves and their lives; to travel-in-place exploring the neighborhoods around the sales finding new places to eat – to visit – to enjoy. What has been obvious to us for decades is the fact that antique people, estate sale people, artists, bed & breakfast people have some very similar personality and character traits in common. So much so you can spot a ‘newbie’ in a few seconds. Interestingly, that ‘newbie’ gains experience and moves up in the ranks very quickly.
Estate sales have three kinds of merchandise – the ‘real’ antique and old masters art, the collectible items, the new stuff being sold so it can be replaced with more new stuff. Mostly, or should I say historically, those items are segregated into “classes” and sold separately in different sales. Our way of doing business is to offer them all at once so you have the experience of seeing what one person has deemed important and collected over a lifetime or over the time they have spent in a particular house or profession. One of our goals is to break those barriers and offer a Rembrandt and stainless steel spoon in the same sale. We now have enough appraisers, art historians, consultants who are expert in just about every item out there working with us to be able to do that with confidence. We hope as we move forward, you will gain enough confidence in us and in our ability to bring to you the best way of selling your art, furniture, collection, musical instruments, jewelry, cars, houses, stocks, bonds, other financial instruments and more, that we are the first and last people you call to engage to sell any and all of your earthly possessions.
Currently, the ‘real’ antiques and old masters art works are the joy of every collectors heart. They don’t even have to be able to afford the prices, they just like to look – to touch – to feel – to smell the items they have read about, would love to own but can be satisfied just being there to hear about the owners – where the items came from – how they were acquired – how they were taken care of, etc. These folks love a bargain, but will pay a fair price because they know what they are buying will only increase in value over the years and they hope it will become a family heirloom and their inheritors will cherish those items left to them and will pass the stories surrounding the items down through the generations. These are the dream clients.
The collectible items in sales appeal to a whole other group of people. These are the people who are looking for that big score. Finding that item for $1.00 which will sell for $100,000, but they will be content adding the 999th item to their collection of Disney, or old spoons, or interesting picture frames, or Victorian furniture which used to be in their grandmother’s house or….. These are good clients, but their conversation is very different and their approach to an estate sale is very different from those looking for that exquisite work of art. You don’t have a community forming with this group. That strong bond forms with those looking for the antiques and old masters art works. But you also don’t have the intense competition and extreme jealousies which can form around those looking for those antiques and art works even as their sense of community forms. You do, however, have a lot of bragging going on about 195 items collected with only 804 to go to have an entire “collection”. Out of this group can come those in whom a switch is flicked and the hoarder appears.
The third group is problematical – both those who own what is being sold and those who buy. These are the people looking to furnish and add some luxury touches to their homes and generally they want to do it as cheaply as possible. No problem with that, nor is that a negative. Some of the people selling have bought items for their own comfort and enjoyment and want to recoup some of what they spent as they move on. Others have done the same but want those buying this used merchandise to pay close to full price because they have their faces turned around and are so focused on ‘taking’ that ‘sharing’ is an unknown and unknowing concept to them. There is not often a two way street here and there is very little recognition of anything except their need to squeeze everything and everyone around them dry, leaving nothing behind and even taking from those who don’t have much to give. These tend to have bought and are selling poorly manufactured merchandise, have lived with it very hard so it can be quite damaged and want others to pay a lot of money for their – no longer new and well worn goods.
Once you walk out of that nicely decorated store with its offer of interior decorators to help you place the items, choose colors, materials, window treatments which they make and more, the value of what you have bought and are probably having delivered drops immediately in value by at least 50% and each year thereafter that you keep that new merchandise, the worth of it drops ever more sharply. The penalty for purchasing merchandise which is not beautifully crafted; not able to withstand the test of time over its design attributes; is poor material camouflaged to look like something it isn’t is the low price you get on the resale market.
To not recognize that fact and want others to pay for your enjoyment of goods you purchased which are not worth what you paid for them in the first place and which you have worn hard is a very unrealistic place to be and is either a naive or ignorant expectation. This group is usually made up of those who are up-from and who turn a hard cold face to the world – responsibility and respect are not attributes which can be used to define their character.
And then there are the customers. These are the ones who make psychiatric history. Some of the antics we have observed should only be in books – fantasy books, unreal books, novels when one needs to create drama, or really – Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
The customers who are most intriguing are those who come in to a home, find what they want, take out cash – usually about 10% of the price of the item – and wave it around in front of your face saying something like ‘look, I have cash money for you right here, right now”. I am never sure of their expectations. Is the response to that supposed to be one where you put your tongue out as you hyperventilate because you are so eager to grab the cash you will do anything? Are you supposed to follow their waving the cash around with longing looks in your eyes? Do you faint on the spot because you are so close to cash and its affect is so overwhelming you just lose all control and all consciousness so they can rip you off before you can recover? Or maybe you are expected to dance around them excitedly because they are so willing to pay so little to get so much? Whatever the expected response, what they are showing are the really negative character traits we all recoil from and what is so, so sad – they don’t even realize – the emperor has no clothes and his/her real ugliness, rudeness, arrogance, disrespect of self is showing and neon signs are flashing out all kinds of messages for the world to see.
It gets even better! An estate sale is the place to go to understand what large retail corporations have done to American Society and to other societies around the world in the name of competition, branding, marketing, advertising, selling strongly to people who don’t need what you are selling -can’t afford what you are selling – have lost the ability of discernment in things they think they need and struggle to buy and don’t know about the secrets some retailers are hiding behind those fancy packagings. The need to bring non-profits into the picture, which is so commonly done today, blows smoke into your eyes. You need to gain back that lost discernment, but not yet – this feeling of your giving to those in need while buying what you think you want continues to cover the emptiness in you with the money you are spending for so very little in return. The non-profts, in return, are losing their soul and their mission in that same process. Their real, direct contributions drop. The number of people knowing about their mission, committed to it, working to help bring about their goals drops dramatically in this process, but the mirage has been created and we all fall for it like 16 year olds whose hormones are raging.
It is at the estate sale where the customer goes to project upon those selling their feelings of anger, anxiety, being ripped off which they acquire when they are buying retail. Some go to the estate sales to gain back the power they have lost in the greater society by parading around like the great and powerful of yesteryear, treating others as though they are the servants and have the job of mopping up what they leave behind. It is to the estate sale we go to crap on the people selling because we can’t do the same to the large multi-national retailer ripping all of us off in the name of making a profit, because we don’t have the strength of character to be able to put blame where its due.
At the same time, the loveliness of shopping happens at estate sales because they are very personal and at the sales are the customers who have beautiful spirits and share some of their lives. They share who they are, what they are looking for and why and who want to stay within their budgets and pay as little as possible but also want you to thrive and make sure, as best they can, that what they are buying and what they pay for what they are buying seems fair to all. Sometimes, they share some of their dreams and visions of the future, what the world could be like, their problems, their great families, their ungreat families who have sent them out to strangers to share what’s in their hearts and I could go on for quite a few paragraphs.
Accordingly, having learned these lessons and a whole lot more, we are responding in a way which lessens the pressure on those selling with us (our staff) and which makes our days in this business much less stressful:
1) We have established a “watch list”. No we aren’t watching for thieves, they are the least of our worries. We put on our watch list those who are ugly in spirit and want everything for themselves and enjoy ripping off others to get it. They can’t do this in a larger context because it would be defined as a criminal act and they would have penalties to pay through loss of their freedom. So we will use our “watch list” to exclude them from all future sales; spend no time with them and discourage them from coming to Bettina Network Sales.
2) The only people we will put on our ’email’ list, a list of those to whom we send notices of our sales – invitations to special events – invitations to previews of sales before they are open to the general public – will be people who are fully human; who understand and promote equality and diversity; who have reasons for buying other than to hit the jackpot by ripping off others. How will we know these people? Experience. Work an estate sale for a few hours and you will also know!!!
3) The last day of our sales will be split in two. The first half, items left will be half-price to those who have previously purchased items from our sales and the second half will be entertainment, refreshments and what is left given free to those who have receipts for having purchased previously or who have checked with us about people they know who are in need and who could use some of what is left.
4) As time goes on, this list will get longer. But for now it is a beginning. We hope it is a beginning of the Reformation of retail in this world. I can’t say in this American Society because it is not limited to the U. S. A., it goes across the world and is getting stronger. An ethical, responsible, strong and good character is what is needed to overcome the greed, avarice, jealousy, obscene profits, now driving this and other industries. If that is what you have – join us! We would love to manage your sale; house your travelling guests; be a lifestyle reference.
Want to join us? Have a home that you want to open to become one of Bettina Network’s Hedge Schools? Call us and lets talk – or email us.
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