Target 11 investigates auction that left woman with $289

by: Robin Taylor Updated:

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A Canonsburg woman hired an auctioneer to sell everything inside her home, but things didn’t go as planned, and that’s when her family contacted Target 11.  Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor has this cautionary tale.

The lesson: before you sign a contract, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.  If you don’t, you could end up in court.

Shirley McCoy, 77, moved to Texas earlier this year to be closer to her family. 

She had lived in a modest house in Canonsburg for 42 years and decided the easiest thing to do was to auction off her things.

Patterson Auction Service was to sell her car and household furniture and keep 15 percent, plus expenses.

"They over stepped their bounds, and they just ran roughshod over her," said Linda Kent, one of Shirley’s closest friends.

The Pattersons were trusted friends, but that friendship quickly soured when the case ended up in court.

"I don't want a story," said Patterson of Patterson Auction Service to Taylor as he rolled up his vehicle's window.

Shirley McCoy's, Leslie McCoy Scott, drove all the way from Chicago for their day before local magistrate.

"My mother had an auction, and she was horribly wronged, and I'm here to make it right," said McCoy Scott.

The Pattersons had auctioned the car and the furniture, but all Shirley McCoy got was a check for $289.  The Pattersons cut was $2,826, minus expenses.

Asked if McCoy would have been better off giving everything to Goodwill, Mary Jane Patterson, the wife of Raymond Patterson and the auction service’s bookkeeper said, "She sure would have."

An itemized list showed that much of the money had gone toward expenses, such as $533 for advertising, $946 for labor and $175 for renting the auction hall.

The contract stated those expenses would be paid by the seller but didn't spell out how much they would be. 

Asked if someone hiring an auctioneer needs to know there are costs involved, Raymond Patterson responded, "That's right.  And you cannot assess them."

The judge ruled the expenses were valid.  A small clerical error meant McCoy would get $45 more, bringing her grand total to $335 for the sale of all of her things.

"Oh well, we tried our best, and maybe this might help somebody else," said McCoy Scott.

Minus all of the expenses, the Pattersons' the Patterson’s profit from the sale was $336.

Taylor suggests before entering into a contract, make sure all of the expenses are spelled out so there are no surprises.

In this case, Shirley would have been better off donating her items and taking a tax deduction, rather than holding an expensive auction.