Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why I Now Avoid Auctions

Now this is a bit of a story but bear with me here. Last November Andrew and I were invited to attend a formal dinner at the Sheraton as a benefit for the Boy Scouts of America where the company had purchased a table. Who doesn't love a free meal?

We arrived at six and around the room were silent auction items, ranging in price from several dollars to hundreds. We put our names on a few things—so as not to look too cheap of course—things like a car lube, a gift certificate to Fred Meyer, things we would normally use but when the bidding went past what they were worth we jumped ship.

After a fine dinner began the live auction where they brought out the real prizes: a kid-sized snow machine, an ATV, a boat, furniture, guns, art work, jewelry, furs, Native art. We watched in awe as money flew around the room like it was loose in a stiff breeze. The guy at the table next to us bought a boat, a gun, an ugly eagle statue--he must have dropped fifty thousand (no exaggeration). But most of the items were going at bargain basement prices. The ATV sold for $2,000 and a Mediterranean cruise for two went for $3000.

A woman at our table who said she'd been a travel agent said the cruise was worth $10,000--as if we needed anything more to make us drool. We thought and watched and yearned then noticed another cruise was coming up--same thing, same description. We chuckled and jokingly asked each other how much each was willing to pay to get that second cruise. We had frequent flyer tickets that we could use to get there and we started thinking how fun it would be to get away, just the two of us, frolicking happily on some forgotten beach. We’ve never gone anywhere without the kids in 14 years of marriage and as the lust grew we came half serious. Then I said, "I’d pay $2,500." And the damage was done.

The cruise was up and we watched, paddle in hand, while the auctioneer's intoxicating chants droned in the heavy air . . . a couple across the room bid and suddenly our beloved trip was in the hands of strangers. So Andrew, with me jiggling his elbow, did the only thing he could do--step across the line with $1,800. Someone upped us and the instinct to protect what was now OURS flowed through our veins. So I raised his wrist and we bid again. The other table was determined and the shots kept firing until we were on top with $2,600.

It wasn't until the auctioneer began to chant the “$2600 once, $2,600 twice” that the sanity seeped back in and it dawned on me that we were going to have to buy it unless someone stopped us. Where was that other couple? Anyone? Surely there was someone out there who wanted a cruise for such a great prize. Why weren't they bidding? I waited . . . and the second stretched out forever as I prayed that they’d rescue us from ourselves. The second hung in the air and I held my breath.

“SOLD! For $2,600!” We gasped. We’d just bought us a cruise. We were shocked, I was shaking--couldn’t believe what we’d done. Were we drunk? It was so unlike us, I can’t think of something less in character--robbing a bank maybe? The thought of pretending that it hadn't happened streaked through my mind--could I politely explain to them after the auction that we hadn't really meant to buy anything?--just before a BSA official attacked us with the paperwork to sign right there at the table so we couldn't bolt on them. Dang! They'd thought of everything!

It’s not that we didn’t want a cruise it’s just that we’d talked quite a bit lately about how it’s not our time to take vacations together, that our money and time should be spent on family activities--for now. It wasn’t as if we didn’t have the money to pay for it, but we’re so tight with things that we wouldn’t dream of something so frivolous and I felt guilty and stupid and wondered how on earth we’d ever use it, I wanted it but I didn’t want it, understand?

We comforted ourselves with the thought that it wasn’t like gambling loses or paying to fix the car, we now owned a cruise—something that was actually worth something—which that used-to-be-travel-agent at the table said was worth at least $10,000. We could always sell it. Heck, we’d probably make a tidy profit.

First thing Monday I called a travel agent to get the details of what we’d purchased. Our certificate good for any "7-day cruise on Holland America" didn't work for the Mediterranean after all--our first choice--because Holland American doesn't have seven-day Mediterranean cruises, only Caribbean. Bottom line was that we weren’t the only ones drunk that night, our unemployed travel agent must be unemployed for a darn good reason as by every angle we could see those tickets weren’t worth more than $2000. The certificate was non-transferable and non-saleable--as in YOU’RE STUCK STUPID!

But we were stupid enough (a well-established fact by now) to figure we could sell it anyway as it wasn’t yet registered in our name and I jumped onto ebay. Three hours later after jumping through innumerable irritating flaming red-tape hoops, just as I was completing the last step toward the sale a message flashes up on the screen saying that I am not authorized to sell a cruise on ebay without a travel agent’s license. Period. Nothing else to be done. No sale.

It would have been smarter to have bought that stupid snow machine or ATV, it would be something we could actually sell. By that time I started losing it a bit. I cried till I was dehydrated, moaning about how stupid I’d been and whatever had possessed me to do it? Normally with Andrew and I if one of us ever gets crazy like that the other is there to sane-them-up. But this time it hit us both and that was our undoing.

After regrouping and doing more thinking we decided on a new tack. Andrew approached the no-way-she’s-a-real-travel-agent woman and her best friend and offered it to them for $2000—since that’s all it was worth. But she wasn't interested--I figure she was probably a BSA plant at our table to drive the bids up--curse her--and work us into a frenzy (like we needed any help).

We looked at taking the kids with us but that really would have been pricey. So after we calmed down and came in off the ledge we realized that maybe taking a trip together wasn't that weird--heck, people seem to do it all the time--and figured out a way to actually put the whole thing into action.

So here we are, a year later and next week we're heading off to our first non-child vacation since our honeymoon. Belize, Guatemala, Mexico all the food I care to eat and--despite the FDA warning labels now required on all stingrays--snorkeling with the sharks and rays. The more I think about it the more I'm having a hard time sleeping at night for excitement. And the kids? Well, we're turning them over to the state for the 10 days and will pick them up, none the worse the day after. Kidding. No, that worked out well too, Andrew's Mom is coming to watch them--she's happy, they're thrilled to see Grandma, everyone is good to go. Why didn't we do this sooner?

Oh! I almost forgot! When I booked they gave us a nicer room than the certificate called for which meant that the trip is actually worth $3000 rather than $2600. That settles it, with a deal like that I'm in heaven--or soon will be in a week.

But never again will I ever attend an auction (Bidders Anonymous anyone?) Especially for the BSA, though they're a fine organization I'm sure. In fact a month ago we got an invitation--a personal one delivered to the house--to this year's fundraiser. Thanks but no thanks. We'll be on our cruise.

Edited to add: After reading this Andrew wanted me to clarify (for those who may be afraid that we're living La Vida Loca full of nights of drunken debauchery) that no, we were not in fact drunk at the fundraiser. Whew! Got that squared away. Unless you count Dr. Pepper. Now THAT'S a different story. . .

29 comments:

Annie said...

Oh, totally priceless! It's a story you'll tell your grown children someday and they'll look at you and say something like "Mom, you're KIDDING!? You and Dad waited that long to go on a trip together without us!?" and they'll remember this time with great fondness as will your MIL. Have a spectacular time! I'm terribly envious!

Jennifer said...

oh gosh, the auction sounded like a nightmare! But the cruise! You will have so much fun!! We went on one when I was 8 months pregnant with #4 (booked a year in advance..murphy's law!) it was the longest we had been away, alone without the kids-and we has such a good time together. Take lots of pictures!! How wonderful grandma can stay with the kids. Enjoy every minute, and eat lots and lots.

Jenny in Ca

Darla said...

I can so picture myself doing this exact same thing. I hope you have a great time on the cruise. A WHOLE WEEK! I'm looking forward to the travelogue when you get back (you will write one, won't you?).

Loralee Choate said...

Man! I am really hoping that this trip is awesome because you do not need to kick yourself any more over it!

Have FUN!

soccer mom in denial said...

Enjoy! I firmly believe parents need to get away for an adult-only vacation. Fortunately my auction stories ususally involve odd shapped purses or bright paintings that no one else would bid on. I would feel bad for the item, as if it had feelings.

Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" said...

THAT...my friend is exactly what would have happened to me...However, I do NOT have the guts enough to actually go on the trip. I'd just let it expire and be out the cash. I still can't go away without my daughter...I am the one who stays away from events like that...

gail said...

So funny! And I would have felt so much better too when your room was upgraded and the trip is worth more than what you paid. Hope you have fun!

mom2werogers said...

Oh I have bidder issues just when I use ebay. I can only imagine the rush that possess you at a live auction! Seriously, you will have a great time. A parents only vacation is required now and then. If only to recharge the batteries before returning to your little ones. Have a great trip!

Blondie said...

My very wise Ma always told my sister and I when we were little (and still today) that she and Pa needed Alone Time to make their marriage work, be strong, and continue. I bet you are going to have a wonderful time with your hubbie. Have fun!

sunShine said...

Have fun on the cruise. Every couple needs time away from the kids.

J said...

YAY! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. :) That's a wonderful story.

We paid $600 last year to have one of the teachers at Maya's school teach us how to make Russian food. I don't really LIKE Russian food. ;) It was fun anyway, but boy, I could have done a lot more with that money. I'd rather have a cruise.

Ocean Lady said...

It sounds like y'all are gonna have so much fun! All of the adventures and the sunshine! (-:

Addie said...

I trust it WILL be worth the wait. Enjoy it and be sure to post about it ... not forgetting the photos.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and offering to take away my blues. So sweet of you.

Goslyn said...

Oh, I hope you have a WONDERFUL time. The Caribbean is lovely this time of year. It's the best season to be there.

But be careful with the stingrays. I am a liscensed SCUBA diver and have snorkled and done diving around them, and they STILL freak me out.

Lisa Marie said...

I used to go to an annual fundraising dinner for an organization a friend works for...I know of what you speak. All that bidding excitement...it gets contageous so quickly. I think that's why the hold them because they know people will feed off each other's excitement. I've purchased some odd items that way that I'd never buy otherwise. :} Enjoy the cruise! Sounds like it will be a great trip!

Waya said...

We are so similar in that way where we don't splurge on things that are not family related. The college funds etc...You so deserve it, after 14 years without a trip alone?! We just had our weekend getaway in 6 years w/o kids and it was heaven, although I couldn't sleep at all b/c I was thinking about the kids the whole time, while my hubbie snored like a fiend! Enjoy the time together with each other. The kids are in good hands. You'll be all refreshed afterward! Have fun!

Sarakastic said...

If anything my parents set a good example by occasionally going away together, showing us that they were in love & their marriage was important & we got to eat Captain Crunch for dinner, so it was a win-win situation. You deserve this!

Damselfly said...

So you'll be thinking of the scouts while you swim with the rays?

Anonymous said...

Wow...14 years since a vacation alone together? I bet you are excited. Have an absolutely wonderful time and enjoy yourselves!

Ruth Dynamite said...

Even if the ship never leaves the harbor, you're going to have a blast! Enjoy! Relax! Be safe!

Cagey said...

Don't be too hard on yourself.

Been there, done that. The first time I attended an estate sale, I got caught up in the Fun Frenzy of bidding and way overpaid for several items.

Loralee Choate said...

I don't drink but I often wish I did...I would make some of my mistakes a little easier to justify in my head!

(I'm so bad!)

:D

Blondie said...

PS: I heard today that Oprah is looking for Alaskan moms. If you like Oprah, you should look on her website under "shows we are working on" or something like that. A link is listed there.

Heather said...

My first time here. I could not have picked a better day! I, too, have auction issues. Please let me know if you start a support group. I am the idiot that flew onto Ebay days after the Cars movie came out. I am the idiot that paid over $40 a car for this little die cast nothings. I am the same idiot who bought every character, even the ones I did not remember from the movie. I am the still the same idiot who found the exact same cars at Walmart for $3 apiece. While my purchases don't exactly add up to what yours did, at least you are getting a trip with your husband. I have over $300 worth of cars for a three year old who will probably end up playing with them once. Ebay is EVIL....and WONDERFUL...all wrapped up in one package. Love the blog!

The Wooden Porch said...

That is freakin' hilarious!!!!!

Have a great trip.

allysha said...

I hope you have a wonderful time! I think you got a double bonus, some away time with your husband and a good story to tell!

Anonymous said...

it's soooo easy to get caught up in those things, isn't it? But can you at least take heart in the fact that it may be tax deductible?

svea said...

I absolutely LOVED this, it was somthing my husband and I would do and then think " We never do things like this" I laughed out loud. Go enjoy the cruise, lap up every moment of luxury food and sun ! Can't wait to hear about it.

suki said...

Holland America has cruises in EUROPE! But yeah, that's a hefty sum to pay for any cruise...