Something Strange Is Going On At This Silent Auction

David and his roommate attended an event over the winter holidays that included a silent auction for the benefit of charity. He and his roommate both bid on the same autographed item. First the auction organizers called David to let him know that he had won. Then they called his roommate to tell him that he had won the same item in the auction, with the next lower bid. They weren’t told while bidding that the item was one-of-a-kind, but something about this situation doesn’t seem right, either.

I had an experience that I’m not extremely bothered by, but my roommate found appalling. …We attended a event in [reacted] that also had a silent auction for a charity. There were several signed pictures and pieces of memorabilia on display. When we talked the next day, we found that we both bid on the same item, a framed signed picture of a celebrity. I had outbid him by $25 dollars.

Fast forward three days later, and I am contacted on my cell phone by someone from the charity. They tell me that I have won the silent auction for the price of $125, asked for my credit card information, and told me to expect a receipt and the package in the mail in a few days. I subsequently rubbed it in my roommates face that I was getting the item. Twenty minutes later, my roommate received a call on his phone telling him he had won the same exact item, but for $100. He was confused, as was I, and told the caller that he was not interested. He specifically asked the person on the phone if they had contacted me. The caller told my roommate that the name was not familiar and ended the call quickly. I received the item in the mail 3 days later, from a [different city] address that is a Sports Memorabilia shop.

It seems to me that the charity/sports memorabilia store had several of each item in the silent auction, then called all of the highest bidders. No where next to the item did it say “one of a kind”, only that the signatures were authentic. Still, this does seem a bit disingenuous. Aren’t these things supposed to be donated, not shipped from [other city?]

That said, I think this is actually pretty clever and a great way to raise money. The only way to get caught, is if the two people bidding on the item happen to know each other. We only wrote our names and telephone numbers on the slips, so they had no idea we lived together. But others I’ve talked to think this is unacceptable and would start a scandal if we wanted it to. I’m not interested in going down this road, but is this something that commonly done? And should I be upset? I told them I was willing to pay a certain price for an item and they provided that item. But I also wasn’t made aware that there are several other like it, decreasing its value. And could this just be a giant scam?

Charitable Consumerists, have you run into a situation like this, or run a similar silent auction that was not, in fact, a scam?

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