Rug "Auction" Sours Some Grapes
The flyer read, "PUBLIC NOTICE ORIENTAL RUG LIQUIDATION AUCTION ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY FINAL AUCTION." "AFTER 15 YEARS DUE TO THE BUYOUT OF ZCMI RUG DEPT BY THE MAY DEPT STORES CO., THESE ORIENTAL RUGS WERE RETURNED TO THE VENDORS AND OFFERED FOR PUBLIC AUCTION FOR 2 DAYS ONLY" Four times, in big black letters it posted "No Minimum - No Reserve on the majority of rugs - Regardless of Original Value."
(from here on out, quotation marks will represent ethically and legally questionable concepts)
The "auction" was held in Park City at the Gateway Center on September 23rd and 24th. Hey, if you're gonna "auction" Salt Lake rugs, do it in Park City where the rich people are, right?
There were in fact over 1000 rugs, as the flyer stated. Very nice people helped the 30 or so bargain-shoppers (who drove through eight inches of snow) to pick out the rugs they liked. These rugs would go up for auction.
In the middle of the room, one massive rug was "displayed" over a six-foot tall "partition." At least when the "auctioneers" placed the auction chairs on either side of this rug, it worked conveniently as a partition. (In other words, you could only see one-half of the people "bidding")
When the "auction" started, the only real person bidding on each rug was the person who picked it out. However, the auctioneer would pretend that "bidders" on both sides of the "partition" were bidding, that somehow the price would run up to an acceptable number, and the rug would "sell." Of course, few of the people who actually came to buy a rug bid the "minimum" required to win a sale.
This was confirmed when a legitimate cash-in-hand couple split up on either side of the partition when one of their rugs came up for auction. They noted that while NO ONE on either side of the partition "bid" on their desired rug, the "bidding" continued from the mouth of the "auctioneer" (as he toggled from one side to the other) at a feverous pace until it went over $1000; then the rug "sold."
This process took place on every rug-even rugs that real people were bidding on. About 30 rugs "sold," a few of them to real people (very small rugs). One nice lady bid for a rug at $1000; it was "countered" several times. She bid $2000, again "countered." Then she finally won the rug at about $2400.
Once the real bidders figured out what was going on, they formed an allegiance. They decided the "auction" might be on an even playing field if they all sat on one side of the partition.
The next leg of the "auction" went much differently. More people were there than during the first part. Even so, the auctioneer started saying, "we can't do this with so few people." When he started rugs at prices like $1000, people started waiving flyers and the "no minimum." The auctioneer's position was compromised. He also seemed quite disappointed as he looked over to the empty side of the "partition." No one was there to bid, not even his imagination. The jig was up. The people were united.
The total number of rugs auctioned on this round was less than 10. With people being onto the scam, most rugs were not sold, but dropped from auction because the auctioneer could not get two "bids"- in other words, no one would meet the MINIMUM.With no one bidding, the second round of the auction was over as quickly as it started. The auctioneer said that if anyone wanted to buy something, that they should talk directly with Alex.
People made all kinds of offers to Alex, 99 percent of which were denied. Alex told everyone that at very least the materials and labor needed to be covered to purchase a rug. When he was questioned about the "no minimum" flyer, he dodged it like a politician with a stained dress on his hands.
Turns out there was a minimum on every rug in the joint. Evidently, this group "performs" these "auctions" all the time on the Wasatch Front-let the buyer beware!