August 21, 2012 by Ronn Ives, under The Antiques, Design and Art World.
I have people try to “weasel” free appraisals from me all the time. (It happens to everyone in this business.) Each person who tries “weasling” knowledge and time thinks their personal style is so very slick-n-tricky. Maybe they had a success which gave them the exhilarating feeling they’d stolen something without the risk of jail. I don’t know. I hardly care.
A friend (NOT in the business) and I were talking about this recently. She concluded she would end up broke by not being able to keep Business in its perspective, which is
An Issue of Survival.
Plain and simple, I own two major commodities:
For MY approach, one doesn’t work without the other. They are of equal importance and value. As an “antiquer”, I know everyone hopes to find “That Thing” WITHOUT its accompanying Knowledge (and correct price). This translates to “good deal” and “great story”. I have my own, of course.
“Weaseling” free appraisals from a professional – an expert – saves that “shopper” from that doggone pesky business of buying their own books (although I DO see people using retail bookstores as their sit-in library), having to read and understand those thick things, and “wasting” THEIR precious time on such lowly acts. “Let SOMEONE ELSE spend the money & time on crap like that.”
I probably average 25 weasels a week. I would say 40% are by email, and 60% are by phone. Less than 1% expect to pay ANY AMOUNT for expertise. I had one dope (this week) who tried hounding me (by email) for three days – looking for a freebie appraisal of his bicycle. Not only was he very unprepared to give proper information IF he’d been willing to pay, but once it was clear I wouldn’t work for him for free, he e-whined and called me “rude and inconsiderate.” What I’d done was: suggest he learn what he needed by purchasing the proper book, reading it, and thus, save money over my appraisal fee. How rude of me. In the time he spent trying to weasel me, he could’ve answered all his needs, and owned his very own book for future use.
Advice: NEVER piss off a potential appraiser. Do that, and s/he may decide to GIVE you your not-in-writing-freebie – intentionally SO FAR OFF the mark, it’ll do nothing but cause you embarrassment and loss of money down the road. You get what you pay for, and, if you’re nasty, you may get more than you asked for. You’re asking for it.
Much of this is due to what I call the “Taco Bell Phenomenon” combined with what I call “Antiques Road Show Fever”. You may have forgotten, but there WAS a time when neither fast food joints or restaurants gave free soda drink refills. EVER. Do you remember? Even restaurants held coffee refills to ONE. Then, someone at Taco Bell changed the world. They had a very serious tactics meeting, and decided to begin giving free drink refills… an incredibly risky and competitive move. This was before refill machines were put out on the floor. You went up to the counter and requested a refill. McDonald’s refused. They held out until they were literally all alone in the fast food / free drink world… and you KNOW by THAT time they were catching static everyday in every franchise location from nearly every customer for not doing what everyone else was doing… GIVING AWAY FREE REFILLS. McDonald’s eventually got in line and bent over.
“Antiques Roadshow” is the Taco Bell of P.B.S. tee-vee. It’s their best selling show… now, nearly an institution. (I am acquainted with a few of “their” appraisers… what goes on behind the scenes is material for another time perhaps. I have to consider legalities here.) Well, “Roadshow” succeeds by giving out free, entertaining, greed-fantasy appraisals… from which the entire nation can suck. (I picture Frankie & Annette sipping the same cola from two separate straws, tete a tete.) It didn’t take long before The Public began FEELING like “appraisals” were an issue of viewing rights not professional standing, and if they suspected or even fantasized they had something “old”, “unique”, or “collectible”, they deserved – DESERVED - the time and attention of a professional who WOULD perform a free appraisal for them (in an engaging-n-dramatic fashion… not to mention make them real daggone rich – overnight)!
Yet, since most people try to “weasel” the appraisal, this tells me they remain, somehow, deep down aware they are trying to pull off something that isn’t fair to the person trying to earn a living...
“I’m looking for a so-n-so. Do you have one? NO? If you get one, how much will it be?”
“I’m thinking of selling my so-n-so. How much will you give me for it?”
“Hi!!! How are YOU? Doing good? You look GREAT! Things going well for you? I LOVE your store. I tell EVERYONE I KNOW about this place! You’ve probably made A LOT of money from all the people I personally send your way ………… oh, uh, out in my car I have this thing that I’d like you to look at, and if you could, uh……. give me an idea on its value….”
Ain’t these the slickest weasels? Talk about opaque!!! They should join the C.I.A.!
Then there are the “just-stumbling-dumb-through-the-day” inquiries which are harder to hate:
“Hello? You an antique stoe? Yeh, well, I got me dis table where I be stayin’. How much it worth?”
“My gramma has something like that. How much is HERS worth?”
“When I was a kid, these cost 10 cents! Are you tellin’ me they’re worth 10 bucks now? Hell, I oughta find mine!!”
“You know anything about coins?”
“Lemme show ya sumthin’ ah gots in dis bag…”