NBC 5 Responds

A switcheroo illustrates why not everyone's sold on vacation art auctions

Viewers contacted NBC Responds with problems and regrets after spending serious cash at vacation art auctions. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself, before your next bid.

They are a popular summer attraction on cruises, resorts or around in the neighborhood: art auctions. They can be a fun way to dabble in collecting, but one case illustrates why not everyone’s sold on vacation auctions.

They’re advertised as auctions for regular folks, but beware before you bid, as some viewers had ugly brush-ups that required NBC 5 Responds’ intervention.

Watch the full story on NBC 5 News at 4:30 p.m. or click here to read more from NBC Bay Area Responds.

No matter where you find an art auction, if you’re not experienced, experts in the field say you need to protect yourself.

“More often than not, your viewers would be doing this as an impulse purchase,” said Lance Fung, a former art gallery owner who now teaches art classes at San Jose State University in California.

Fung says if you have an empty wall, a stuffed wallet, and you’re comfortable, go ahead and bid on an art piece.  

But if you’re new to art and not sure who’s who or what’s what, while downing free champagne and feeling pressure, he has a one-word recommendation: “Pause,” Fung said.

“There is absolutely no urgency in buying art on a cruise ship or on holiday,” he said.   

If you think you’re investing in art, do some research online before you bid.

Find out who the artist is and how their pieces are priced outside the auction, and fact check the auctioneer. 

“The cruise is like a week or two weeks. You have plenty of time to do your research,” Fung said. 

Fung says another safe way to find art for your walls is to look locally – no auction required.

Ideally, you can take home what you buy that day. If an art dealer has to ship it, Fung says to demand a detailed receipt that proves you will get what you bought, not a copy. 

Also, have your camera ready: Take photos of the artwork you’re buying, as well as the back of the piece and any barcodes or information detailing where the work came from.

You can also pay with your credit card to protect yourself. If something goes south, open a dispute with the credit card company to get your money back. Here's a video showing you how.

Have a consumer complaint? Call 1-844-NBC-RESP or click here to let us know, so we can help.

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