Schemes active/complete: 31
Money made: £23.78
A popular scheme which came up time after time on the myriad “100+ so simple ways that WILL make you £££!” lists I consulted was the idea of attending the auctions of goods people didn’t necessarily want or choose to sell, such as lost luggage and items seized as police evidence. The prospect of bidding on the opportunity to snoop through the possessions of others, disdainfully binning some and selling the rest on for profit, has been made palatable and indeed glamourized by shows like Storage Hunters. Bald motormouth Sean Kelly knows it’s OK to take people’s things if they’ve lost them or forgot where they are or cannot get to them, firstly teaching this mantra to the States where tanned Californians in shades bid on storage facilities containing jet skis and pyrotechnic machines before, shamefully, taking the show to the UK to walk some toothless, beer-bellied Brits wearing shorts in the drizzle around Milton Keynes to squabble over the rights to a storage lot containing some VCR machines and half a bouncy castle.
Compounded by so many online sources and meriting a full chapter in one of my reference books, Scheme #112: Bid at a mystery auction had to appear on my list. Firstly I looked into lost property auctions – if you leave an untagged bag in an airport or underground station and miraculously it doesn’t elicit a bomb scare then it’s held for 3 months before being auctioned off to punters. There are websites which list the upcoming London send-offs of all the mislaid bags scooped up by Heathrow and Gatwick, but nothing local to me. Even if Bournemouth Airport is just a café strapped to a gravel track off which a toy-like plane will occasionally pootle to Malta, surely passengers still lose their luggage there? I’d have thought the rate would be even higher as the bag handlers of big Londinium airports must resemble amphetamined trapeze artists next to the slouched, chain-smoking luggage monkeys we have in Dorset.
When I called Swissport who deal with Bournemouth Airport’s misplaced baggage I reached a kindly woman on a desperately crackly phone line whom I think I could make out said that this is not practice among the smaller airports, and confirmed my fears I’d have to travel up London way if I wanted my paws on someone’s mislaid flip-flops and over 100ml liquids. In the meantime I looked at plan B, working with the cops.
Police lot auctions not only include regular lost knick-knacks but also items seized during theft and fraud cases, as well as impounded evidence. It sounded a superb place to pick something up at a low, low price simply as it was once appropriated to smuggle heroin or bludgeon a family with which I could then sell on at a major profit, and better still they are held fairly frequently at an auction house just a 20-minute bus ride from my flat. Hence today saw me out of bed at a pretty ungodly time for a Saturday (before noon), with Rowena, in Poole, as an absolute auction greenhorn, incongruously face-to-face with the metallic stegosaurus this auction house has as its decor.
Registering was a free and simple affair at the front desk and within minutes I was walking around examining lots alongside obvious auction veterans, trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing.
I quickly learned there were two auction halls and only one was shifting police lot goods, the other was trundling through bids for about 900 different sets of cut glass tumblers. A swift browse of the room containing items handled by the constabulary and I knew that my priority should be getting my hands on a cheap bike.
The bike lots weren’t due for an hour or so, with the auctioneer currently begging anyone to bid on a series of tat including a 1985 Cast of Eastenders Sing-Along vinyl, so I had to amuse myself for a short while. Watching a woman furiously reinsert coins into a vending machine oblivious of a huge ‘Out of Order’ sign literally right in front of her face entertained me briefly but even her suffering lost its allure eventually and I went to get a coffee and a bacon bap from the on-site greasy spoon.
With some time to kill I started playing around on the Double Dog app which has had me eating garlic cloves, banana skin and defeat on-and-off for weeks now as part of Scheme #125: Do some dares. I’ve fallen out badly with this scheme as people have cheated on dares which has lost me money, it has an insidious perverse vibe whereabouts girls are ‘dared’ to do the splits or slowly eat an oyster, and 9 days on I’m sure I can still taste some garlic residue from the clove I munched, however after a bit of experimenting I think I’ve discovered a loophole I can exploit.
If you’ll recall the currency of Double Dog is either good, dependable U.S dollars or the app’s pseudo-currency “bones”, either of which can be won or lost by setting/completing dares. Some players never stake their real money and just complete zany challenges for bones, but obviously these aren’t people with a 200-something-strong list of get-rich-schemes weighing heavily upon them. There are also companies which create Double Dog accounts and set self-promoting dares for potential bones – health food websites will set challenges to make smoothies and karaoke apps task people to sing, all as a marketing method. The way Double Dog works is that if you flip the dare back on whoever set it and they refuse to perform then you win triple the original stake, and I’ve discovered the brands who are using Double Dog to advertise never complete their own dare. In this fashion I’ve found a way of farming bones by double-daring the commercial users, and in just a few days have got up to over 1,000 (to put this in perspective just over a month ago I ate about 3 grams of salt which made me instantly vomit, all for 12 bones.)
If you’re thinking “but Matt, what good are valueless bones to you, besides titling you with that unsavoury moniker of Bone-Farmer?” then I totally appreciate where you’re coming from, and could not have phrased your concerns better myself, but hear this: once you have reached 1,000 bones you unlock the ability to write your own dares! Until now I’ve been hamstrung by Double Dog’s idea of what’s challenging, but now I can craft tasks unbelievably specific to myself which no-one has a chance of completing. For instance, thanks to this project I am now the owner of 3 notes of Yen (Scheme #164), 4 ‘No Parking’ signs (Scheme #233) and 22 empty toilet roll tubes (Scheme #126), and I can set a dare to accumulate all these items, pile them up and dance around them in a Hawaiian shirt. Anyone would balk at handling that assignment within 24 hours, even Jack who snorted a cotton bud for two of my dollars, so naturally they’d instinctively double-dare me back. But bad news motherfuckers, that was a custom dare I wrote and for me such an exercise takes just 5 minutes of my time, money please!
The dare I decided on is below, a simple errand for me as I have all the necessary components, but for someone lacking them surely an impossibility:
I decided to begin on just $2 to test the water, and also because knowing my luck this dare will be picked up by a Mexican vert skater in a Tiki bar band; it’s currently still floating around waiting for an unknowing sucker to see the dollar payout and hungrily accept. The sooner I’m done with this scheme the better, it’s been nothing but torment, besides a dare to do the water bottle flip challenge the other day for a couple bones which I landed on just my second attempt. That was pretty satisfying, but you don’t want to see that do you? Oh, you do? But we have the auction to get back to! What’s that, you insist? Well, OK, you are the guest to this blog after all, I guess I will acquiesce.
Anyway, back to these impounded bicycles. Rowe and I were stood in the middle of the throng with our phones out searching how much each of the bikes on sale were worth, and a good few go for thousands when new. I could tell our technological wizardry wasn’t winning us any friends in the crowd – we were the youngest there by a good generation, and Googling the price on one of those there Apple gadgets was probably seen as poor sportsmanship, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
A couple crappy BMXs came and went before a scarlet Wilier race bike was clumsily announced by the auctioneer (I quote “next we have a, well my screen’s not loading Dave so how am I supposed…. well that’s not doing anything either. Sorry about this everyone it’s… no Dave it’s not… well, everyone, it’s a errr bike, alright?”) This was the lot I’d been eyeing up, my chariot into riches, valued online at several hundred quid second-hand; I could only hope that between Dave’s cock-up with the auctioneer’s laptop and the crowd anesthetized by hours of drill bit and cutlery lots I could sweep up a bargain here.
“Let’s start at £200!” the flustered gavel-clown eventually spat out.
A crushing blow – I couldn’t afford to lay down that sort of capital, and worse still I felt I wasn’t able to express my frustration with a wild gesticulation of the arms in case it was misconstrued as a bid. However after the Wilier went for something silly the next bike began at £45, much more within my spending limit. I didn’t know what type this one was but I was still reeling from losing my Wilier so I shot my bidding card into the air with gusto.
“£45 thank you sir!” our auctioneer acknowledged. “Anything else, anything else in the room? Going once…”
I looked around. No-one was fucking bidding, no-one was doing a thing. I was about to buy a bike, a bike I hadn’t even seen before.
This was madness, I’d walked into this building, been given a handwritten piece of paper, stumbled into this room and held up my hand, and now I was buying a murderer’s mountain bike or the conveyance of some other miscellaneous criminal!
“Go-.. ah another bid in the room yes please £50! OK, and £55, yes! Online bid now coming in at £60, yessir, £65!”
Before I knew what had happened my police lot bike, a heartbeat away from being mine for £45, had climbed to a couple hundred and was as good as gone. I half-heartedly bid on a couple more two-wheeled lots that followed but they looked in great disrepair and it was obvious the cost of replacing tyres and repairing chains would outweigh any sale profit. Within moments all the bikes were snapped up and we were back to lots of Peppa Pig rucksacks and the auctioneer imploring “£10 in the room? £10? £5 in the room then? Well I’ll even I’ll buy it it at £3, so, £4? £3? £1? £1 anyone? £1? Dave, the screen, it’s gone again, look!”
All in all it was jolly exciting and one of the only schemes thus far I’d actually experience again outside of the harsh demands of the project. I probably will attempt this again in a month or so now I have a little more experience, when I can hang out with the old boys who get there for sunrise, admiring the incarcerated array of bikes on offer with nuggets of small-talk like “d’you see the Wilier they had here last month? Ooh yes, she was a beauty, phwoah yes. Say d’you know who the auctioneer is ‘ere today, it’s not that girl with the Dave sidekick is it? You chaps don’t have any receipts going spare do you?”