It is so easy to purchase an item online, that sometimes I forget the importance of logistics and remembering past mistakes. This is what happened to me last month. I placed an absentee bid with the auction house Uccle-St-Job in Belgium for a ceramic vase with the understanding that I would be required to send a wire transfer for payment. I asked the auction house for a shipping quote with full insurance. They provided a quote and I sent the wire transfer (including a $25 fee for my bank to process the wire transfer and an additional 25 Euros to cover the undisclosed fee by the receiving bank). I received an email from a staff member (their email correspondence was anonymous so I did not know who I was responding to) that insurance was not possible and that I should arrange shipping with FedEx or UPS. I found a UPS store in Uccle-St-Job and emailed the auction house if they could deliver the package there. I did not receive a response. I telephoned the auction house as was instructed to call back and ask for Isabel. I did so the following day. Isabel said that insurance was indeed possible and that she would send me a quote. After being told I had been misinformed that I could use PayPal to pay the additional shipping cost I had to send a second wire transfer. I sent the second wire transfer (including a $25 fee for my bank to process the wire transfer and an additional 25 Euros to cover the undisclosed fee by the receiving bank). Needless to say I received yet another unsigned email indicating that insurance was not possible and that the auction house would safely pack and ship the vase. Having little recourse I agreed. Luckily the vase arrived intact.
As a follow-up I emailed the manager of the auction house indicating my displeasure with the service and did not receive a response. I found this particularly distressing especially since the email was in English and translated into French. In this transaction I do not fault the auction house, but myself. I have seen the transformation of the European auction houses over the past 20 years. Some auction houses are entrenched in the past where customer service is either poor or non-existent. There is little or no effort to facilitate payment and shipping options. Email conversations are anonymous and misleading. If the auction house is at fault, they simply will not respond. Language is used as a barrier to effective communication. Unless there is a compelling need to do so, my recommendation is to purchase only from auction houses that accept online payment or accept credit cards, who provide in-house shipping services, or can recommend a reliable shipper that also accepts online payment or credit cards.