Taking My Own Advice…
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 Belgian for a ceramic vase knowing that I would have to send a wire transfer. I asked the auction house for a shipping quote with full insurance. They provided me a quote and I sent the wire transfer (at a cost of $25) with an additional 25 Euros to cover any hidden bank fees). 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.
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 make second wire transfer. Again I sent the wire transfer (at a cost of $25) with an additional 25 Euros to cover any hidden bank fees.
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 French & English in the event there was a language barrier.
In this transaction I do not fault the auction house, but myself. I have witnessed 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. 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.