Caveat Emptor! By Trevor Plumbly

Traditionally, the people who attended auction sales were often more interesting than the goods on offer: you had the serious buyers trying to add to their collections, dealers looking for stock, Joe average trying to buy cheaper than retail, and the hoarders who just couldn’t help themselves. All of them trying to conceal any involvement in the bidding process, and all hoping for the ultimate prize: a bargain. The auctioneers who conducted this orchestrated little piece of theatre were as much of a motley bunch as their clients; the worst sounding like racing commentators, and the best able to convince you in quiet reassuring tones that the lot under consideration was going far too cheaply.

As a retired auctioneer, I am tempted to dwell at length on the machinations of the public auction, but it’s just as interesting to check out its successor, the online auction. Here the goods are stars of the show; just imagine owning a piece of toast on which the seller assures us that the image of Jesus appears. Cynics might call someone who almost had the Son of God for breakfast a fibber, but for the believers it’s available for $US200.00. I felt sorry for the owner of ‘the ghost in the jar’: despite the pains he must have taken to imprison the spirit, it failed to find a buyer.  An 18 year old British girl sold her virginity online to a businessman who paid but declined to collect the lot, so to speak. What a deal for the vendor: you’ve got it, you sell it, and you’ve still got it! That girl will go far. Then there’s Tina Beznec. This little Pollyanna decided to auction off a space on her bum for the lucky buyer to imprint a tattoo. Why her bum? God knows! Maybe it was her most attractive feature; but whatever the explanation, some clown paid $NZ12000.00 for this little bit of insanitary insanity. Hell, even if the buyer could view the artwork, the frame alone would be a testimony to how a few bob too many can increase some people’s stupidity.

I’d love to make a few bob from this electronic cash cow, but I haven’t got the body parts folks would fight to lease, nor do I possess anything truly collectable in the way of celebrity ephemera, as most of my schoolmates only achieved fame through the court news. I thought seriously about bidding on some of the goodies instead, but whilst the Saviour is quite welcome in our house, every morning beside the teacups might be a bit much. The vendor for ‘ghost in the jar’ assured us that, though you can’t actually see the spectre, it’s definitely in there. But if I bought that, I’d need the ‘Jesus on toast’ handy, in case someone without my faith in the vendor’s word opened the jar out of malice. It all gets far too tempting for me to resist, so I need to return to real life, but as soon as I can weave a gory or fascinating story around it, my computer will be offered online. Don’t say I didn’t caveat all you emptors out there!

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