Thrift and Auctions

There are two ways to do a charity auction – live and silent – and while I’ve had limited experience with live auctions, I’m noticing a growing trend with thrift shops and Silent Auctions

Accordian - sold at Silent Auction at the MCC Furniture and More shop in Abbotsford

Accordian – sold at Silent Auction at the MCC Furniture and More shop in Abbotsford

A number of thrift shops that I frequent set aside items that are unique, antique or collectible and create a silent auction space in their shops. Shops do this in varying ways – some have the auction run for a month at the end of which the last bidder gets the loot and the shop replenishes the area with new stuff. Other shops have a system by which a silent auction can go on indefinitely as long as someone keeps bidding within a certain time frame. Either way, it takes certain items out of the general sale area of the shop and is a way for the shop to potentially raise more money for its charity.

Standing globe - sold at Silent Auction at the MCC Furniture and More shop in Abbotsford

Standing globe – sold at Silent Auction at the MCC Furniture and More shop in Abbotsford

One of the questions I have about this is why does this work? Why is it that, if an antique dresser is on the floor and priced at, say $500, people balk at the price and say it’s too high but if it’s in the silent auction and sells for that or higher, people don’t bat an eye? Is it simply because we have a different attitude to auctions than we do to sales, that something up for auction is simply fair game in terms of what it will sell for? Is it because there’s always the possibility that it’ll go for way, way less, in which case you feel like you’re getting a fabulous deal?

I have friends who have confided to me that they are discouraged by the Silent Auction process in their favourite shops because they feel it has brought in antique dealers whose purchasing power automatically prices items out of the average person’s range.

Antique wardrobe - sold at Silent Auction at the MCC Furniture and More shop in Abbotsford

Antique wardrobe – sold at Silent Auction at the MCC Furniture and More shop in Abbotsford

Having worked for a charity that benefits greatly from its thrift shops, I completely understand the desire to do what you can within reason to raise funds for your shop. If an item could get twice as much at silent auction than it would on the floor of the shop, then why not sell it that way and thus enable your charity to do more of its good work?

What do you think? Should thrift shops hold silent auctions or stick strictly to floor sales?

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2 Responses to Thrift and Auctions

  1. Ann says:

    As a shopper, I have to say that I never stop to look in those areas. Not sure why – maybe because they’re at the side and with kids, maybe I always dart in to the most essential places? As a giver to thrift stores, it kind of makes me feel better that if I choose not to sell something more valuable on Kijiji and donate it, that the thrift store will have a sense of value and at least make some money on it. (If I feel I’m just giving things away for nothing, I’d rather give it to friends who appreciate the items). So I’m okay with stores selling certain things for the money they are worth as it’s all for a good cause anyway. And if I want it badly enough, I’d make sure to bid what I feel it’s worth to me.

    • i can see how silent auction areas would be less than fascinating to kids! but i love your perspective on giving. it’s how i feel about the things i give too… i think that no matter what you give, once it’s given, it’s not yours anymore anyway, so as you say, if it’s going to a good cause then it’s great if a thrift shop has the opportunity to increase its ability to do good work – as long as there’s still enough stuff in a shop to let the rest of us feel like we’re still getting a good deal!

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