Thursday, September 14, 2006

Going the Extra TEN Miles

Antique bridle rosette pin or brooch, horse head Yesterday I had an interesting email from a close friend. She's an antiques dealer who sells regularly on the Internet through a well-known non-auction webstore site.

She'd sold several items to a customer and shipped them. One of the items was a matted and framed picture, which she placed in it's own separate box and marked in very big letters on this box "PICTURE ENCLOSED". All the items to this customer were shipped in one large box.

The customer received the package, and emailed the dealer, asking when she'd be receiving the picture. The dealer emailed back explaining that the
picture was with the other items in the large box, and explained in detail how she'd packaged the picture in it's own box marked "PICTURE ENCLOSED."

Apparently, the customer has tossed out that box. The picture was gone forever.

The dealer thought about it a bit, and decided to refund the customer's money for that picture. She certainly wasn't obligated to do so; this was a mistake made by the customer, who admitted she was probably more responsible than the dealer for this mistake. (I'm not even going to address that statement . . . )

The dealer had done a good job of packaging, including clearly marking the internal packaging. She'd gotten the entire purchase there safely and in good condition. Her decision to refund the customer's purchase price on this lost picture was something few dealers would have done, since it presented lost income. Not just money lost from the dealer's original investment in that picture - since she refunded the entire price, she also lost the profit that thrown-away picture represented.

It wasn't an expensive item. Still, most dealers would have just told the customer that they did something really dumb, and sorry, but it was your responsibility to not throw away your purchases. But my dealer friend recognized that honest mistakes happen, and was sympathetic enough to commiserate with the customer and return her money.

My dealer friend asked me two questions. First, what would happen if the thrown-out purchase had been worth a much larger sum? And second, what would I have done in the same situation?

I told her my opinion, for the two cents it was worth. I would have done what she had done, and chalked it up to the "Customers Doing Goofy Things" file. Had it been a purchase worth a lot more money, I would have handled it differently. I would given her my condolences, and would have tactfully and politely explained that I was sorry for her loss but that I could not be responsible for a customer throwing away an item that I'd carefully marked and safely delivered. And, no, I would not have refunded her purchase price on an expensive item.

However, my dealer friend had gone the extra TEN miles for this customer (a new customer, I should mention). By doing so, she had forever has impressed upon that customer that she was buying from a VERY reputable Internet dealer who understood human error happens occasionally. My dealer friend had responded in a very kind and decent way.

That refund cost the dealer some money, yet made a very big impression. Shortly thereafter, that same customer purchased two more items. She's probably a customer-for-life, and - if she's a really, really nice person - she'll tell her friends and family this story.

If you would like to know more about this dealer and see what kinds of things she sells, go to her website.

Meet my good friend Dexter. I am so proud of her, and am honored to share a wonderful friendship with her. She is truly a gem.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Funny Signs

Okay, I just couldn't resist - these signs were all sent to me by my daughter-in-law, and they are sooooo funny!! Thanks, Shannon, for sharing these!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Auction Action in Maine - Kaja Veilleux

So many auctions, so little time! Nearly any day of the week, somewhere in Maine there's an antiques auction. It might be a weekly Sunday morning local auction, or a bi-weekly consignment auction, or an on-site once-in-a-lifetime old family farm auction, but it's not difficult to find auctions to attend in Maine.

Dealers love auctions. Not only is it an opportunity to buy fresh stock, but it's a lovely way to spend a day socializing with other dealers and catching up on news (and gossip
). It's pure good luck if you come home with something new to add to your inventory, since buying is super-competitive, and it's possible you may spend an entire day at an auction and buy absolutely nothing. Attending auctions is just part of a dealer's life, and if the gods are smiling and your wallet isn't too tight, you might actually be successful.

One of the premier auction houses along the Maine mid-coast is the Thomaston Place Auction, which only offers about a half-dozen or so sales a year. The quality is some of the best to be found in New England, and auctioneer/owner Kaja Veilleux - known locally just as "Kaja" - knows his trade well. He consigns early New England furniture and decorative accessories, folk art, marine-related antiques, high quality jewelry, toys, dolls, paintings, and similar good antiques, all designed to bring in the heavy-hitting buyers. It's a formula which works well for him, and over the years he's built a well-recognized auction house based on his ability to accomplish strong sales prices.

I previewed his most recent auction a couple of weeks ago and took a few photos with permission, since I was writing a free-lance story for an antiques trade paper. Take a look at the photos and prices, and you'll know why Kaja has such a large following of dedicated auction-lovers who want rare antiques.

The quality was there, and the antiques appealed to big-ticket buyers. There were plenty of items sold at much less money than shown here, but I thought you might like to
see what some really good old stuff sells for at auction in Maine.

In the middle of the page, the 42" tall, circa 1870s, hand-carved from wood figure was made by an unknown ship-builder. She's Lady Liberty, and is all original surface, with outstretched hands holding books. She is fabulous and one of a kind - and was truly appreciated to the tune of $35,000.

At the top is the stack of three 19th century boxes in old blue paint, which sold for $1800 as a group.

And the rare leaping 19th century stag full-bodied weathervane, in beautiful original gilt paint, was estimated to sell for between $18,000 to $22,000, and brought $25,000.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Funny Signs are my favorites

By now you know that I just love funny signs, as you've seen others in my blog. Here's a new one I've added to my Funny Sign collection. I don't know where this was taken, but I can surely appreciate sitting in a long line of traffic, just hating the guy who wrote this sign!