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Markus Anecdotes - Catawiki: the experience

Written by Markus

Having traded on Catawiki for over a year, I’ve bought and sold many items, including antique furniture, jewelry and artwork. Here I share my personal experiences with this auction platform.

Catawiki is an international auction platform selling the higher end goods, ranging from fine wines to old timers, from artwork to collectables and from jewelry to movie props. Seen their range is wide, the website provides easy navigation between the categories.

It really is an auction, meaning that the auctions are conducted under notary review and they have experts that review every posting.

I’ll describe my experiences as both a seller and a buyer.

As a seller:

- Posting a new listing takes time. First you submit your advertisement that needs to include many details and proper pictures. This is then reviewed by their staff. It is then scheduled for the next upcoming relevant auction. The auction itself takes around one week and then you wait a few days till payment is made. This whole path can take a couple of weeks in total.

- Payment is made by the buyer to Catawiki. They hold your payment until the buyer has received the item and then a few days have passed, allowing the buyer to raise any issues. It then takes several weeks until money arrives at your account.

- There’s a hefty 12.5% seller’s fee. If someone has bid 100$, you’ll get 87.50$. They also charge a buyer’s fee.

- Not all items you submit are accepted for auction. This makes sense as they want to keep the selection on offer maintain a certain quality and value. It becomes odd though if they reject items that should be accepted, for example items you’ve just bought on the platform. Understandably there also is a difference in requirements for certain categories, for example the value needs to be higher for a premium jewelry category than a vintage category. What should not be the case though is the difference between individuals who asses your submission. Some may accept and some may reject the same item. If your item is rejected, not to worry. Just try again a few weeks later with another submission to another staff member. For example one may require a fully white back ground while another may accept any neutral colored background.

- Once the item has been accepted by the buyer, you always get paid. Though it takes time, they have never missed a payment.

- If you have an issue, call them. Their phone service is good and hands-on.

- As this is an auction, you never know what price you will get. Factors such as auction ending date, final category it is placed in, and so on, you cannot influence. After 1.5 year I still cannot predict if something will sell for a lot or for a little. You can’t cancel the auction if you do not like the price. You need to get lucky by having multiple potential buyers bid against each other. You can put a reserve price, but auctions with reserve prices never run well.

- As a seller, you do not give feedback. Only buyers can leave feedback.

Overall as a seller I can’t complain much. Though things often move slowly, they are following clear procedures and result in correct payments.

As a buyer, I did experience a few issues, but also scored quite a few good deals. In fact, if you time it right, you can get a good deal and then a few days after having received the item, you can sell it on the same platform with a profit. You can also time it wrongly and run a loss.

As a buyer:

- You pay a 9% auction fee that comes on top of what you’ve bid. So bid 100$ and you’ll pay 109$.

- You also need to pay for shipping. Though you can claim back part of your shipping if you found that less was actually spend on shipping by the seller, some shipping costs are very high. This is due international insured shipping, the shipping method and company used. So before you bid, check the shipping cost. And keep in mind that your own country may impose taxes as well. So include these cost into what you want to pay, before you bid

- If you receive an item that is not as described, you can return it and get your money back, as Catawiki did not yet pay out to the seller yet. Keep in mind, you only have a few days after having received the item to do so.

- You may be confronted with private sellers and commercial sellers. The difference is important as cancelling or returning an order to a private seller, is much more difficult. You need to come with proof that the item is not as described and this proof may cost you money. Think for example of a jeweler confirming a gem is not real

- Items for sale are assessed by Catawiki staff based on pictures. If certificates are included you can be quite sure it is real, but several times I bought items that surpassingly are confirmed to be real, but they are not. If bought from a private seller, it is troublesome to get your money back.

- If you timing is right, you can get great deals on true high end items. But if your timing is wrong, you end up in a bidding war and may end up paying too much.

- As shipping always is done with insurance and track & trace, your shipment, once mailed, is easy to track internationally.

Before giving you my most challenging story below, I do want to state that I can recommend this auction house, but with the side note that you need to be careful:

- Keep in mind the 9% buyers fee and shipping fees

- Don’t get sucked into a bidding war. It is always nice to win, but most items re-appear frequently so just try again later

- Don’t feel guilty if the price is very low. The seller took a gamble, and you won.

- Check if you are buying from a private or a commercial seller, as turning back the buy is more troublesome if buying from a private seller

- Check the feedback, but note that any neutral feedback is probably adjusted negative feedback.

- Check the item thoroughly and quickly one you have received it.

Though I have done many successful and very smooth deals, some just fall between the cracks. Below my experience in one of those cases.

I bought a high end diver’s watch from a private seller in another country. I paid 1000 euro, but knew I could with ease re-sell it for 1500 or more. The watch was supposed to be in working condition.

Once received, packaging was very bad and it was a miracle it arrived at all. Once checking the watch, I found it was not running. I contacted the seller about this and was told the battery is empty. It seller was aware it battery was dead, but believed replacing the battery is the responsibility of the buyer.

Replacing a battery in a diver’s watch is not cheap, as it requires the watch to be professionally sealed again. Additionally, if replacing the battery doesn’t solve the issue, seller can claim it is my fault and broke the watch when replacing the battery.

So I objected to Catawiki and wanted to cancel the buy as it was not as described.

Then to my surprise a discussion of almost 2 months erupted between me and the seller, but also between the Catawiki staff in my country and the Catawiki staff in the seller’s country. The main argument was that I, the buyer, should replace the battery, even though I bought it as fully working. Additionally, he overcharged for shipping more than 200%.

Finally, after a long period and many calls and emails, I was allowed to ship back the item. This costed me 25 Euro that I was supposed to get back as well, but no means were offered to actually get this back. Worst is though, that the seller supplied, through Catawiki, the wrong return address. A few days after I shipped it, he contacted my requesting to correct the address. I contacted the shipping company and they would try to deliver to the new address, but could not confirm it. Sadly, it was delivered to the “old and wrong” address, that came out to be a building site of a large city center building.

The seller became more and more aggressive and blamed me for sending it to the wrong address. He felt that the price I paid is less than what he thought it was worth, I am responsible for making the watch work and am responsible for correcting an address on a parcel already mailed out.

More than another month passes and after many more calls and emails, Catawiki finally closed the case and paid me back most of it.

All in all, I’ve lost about a total of 8 hours in total on writing emails and having calls and waited close to 3 months to get my money back on an item that was clearly not as was promised.

But lessons learned: Careful when buying from other country and from private sellers. The price may be lower, but this is for clear reason: more risk.

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