Did You Say “Cockroaches?”

The voice on the phone was very shaky and distressed.  Through her tears, I heard her say, “Doing business with people in your industry is like doing business with cockroaches.”  A knife to my gut would have hurt less.  Those words were truly cutting and very upsetting to those of us in the industry who put our hearts and souls into assisting our clients.

This woman called my office to complain about an estate sale company, one which was completely unfamiliar.  I own and direct The American Society of Estate Liquidators® and complaints regarding our members, who uphold a Code of Ethics, are minimal.  When a complaint is made on our members, usually it is easily remedied, like replacing a widget that was accidentally sold.

Phone calls like this woman’s are starting to come in at an alarming rate, and the complaints are serious.  So serious, some of them are criminal in nature, and law enforcement and the court system become involved.

For someone like me who has done my best to pave the way for ethics, integrity, and high standards in the estate sale business, this is a massive black eye.  It hurts personally.  Some of the customer complaints include not getting paid after a sale is completed.  Liquidator complaints include clients who pull items from a sale, during the sale, when they see how low the prices are and don’t want to pay the liquidator’s imposed fees.

I could never defend estate sale professionals who run an unethical business and cause these people to fall to pieces emotionally.  This is not why the “good ones” went into the business.

We went into business to make a positive difference in the lives of our clients.  We strive to uplift them and their emotional turmoil.

However, I will defend the good estate sale professionals who work from a thorough contract, have explained everything to the client with the client’s agreement, and simply do their best to get the highest proceeds from the sale.

The estate sale professional has the right to earn a good living; the work is back-breaking, disassembling a lifetime of accumulation in just a few short days.  In some cases, the clients expect far too much.  They have not yet awakened to the fact that our economy is weak, despite what the news is promising.

The estate sale professional has the right to charge a fees or commission for items clients give away, take or remove from the sale, even though the clients have signed a contract that they will not do so.  This is taking income from the professional.  This leaves them with egg on their face when the public arrives and screams at them because advertised items are gone.  This is simply not fair.

Courtesy goes both ways!

When searching for an estate sale professional, or any professional service, the responsibility falls on the consumer to research them thoroughly and interview several.

Ask associates and business owners, such as estate planning attorneys and realtors, in your community.  Check Angie’s List and BBB.  Check professional organizations, if they belong to them.  Check references.  Do your due diligence.  Then you will select an estate sale professional who will do a wonderful job for you … not a “cockroach.”

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

2 thoughts on “Did You Say “Cockroaches?”

  1. Julie, Thank you. Very good article. I am still shaky after my experience. We had items taken that were ‘sold’ fm the rafters of the garage that was supposed to be offf limits. But, in the end I guess it didn’t matter. But I plan to follow your advise and do a little more research before hiring someone again. I had dealings w a couple of women who seemed nice at first, but became skepticle when they didn’t want to have a contract and started trying to pay me with out reciepts or paperwork. This was just regarding a lot of magazines. Then they started to ask about buying things. That was the red flag that caused me to end the relationship. The family hadn’t even made decisions as to what they wanted. Anyway, thank you for your advise and wisdom.


    Linda Kozel.

  2. At my last estate sale that I ran, the client not only removed items from the sale (both before and during), but also went around changing prices. AFTER the contract was signed and pictures were posted, she also decided that if the three best items didn’t sell, she wanted to keep them. I was fine with this until she then also stipulated that they have very high starting prices. My contract says I get to set the prices and also that we can discount, and I know I’m both reasonable and experienced at pricing right, but she felt she knew better. She stood by those items and refused all offers, and also complained loudly in the customer’s presence whenever I gave a discount on anything. I suppose I’m a wimp, though, for not standing up to her. I didn’t feel that I could just kick her out of her own home (it was a moving sale and she still lived there, and she was a little old lady who protested that she had nowhere else to go), but I swear that is the last time I let a client dictate terms that are different to what we agreed to. Maybe some estate sale companies are disreputable, but some clients are no better. I wish we had a better way to check them out before we agree to do their sale. I’ve been doing estate sales for over nine years, but I’m still a sucker for a good sob story, often to my own detriment. I don’t want to be hardened, but what can a good company do to prevent being cheated and mistreated?

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