Auction makes use of unclaimed lost items


Shila Farahani

An auctioneer stands amongst the bidders as he announces the prices for the items at the University of Texas auction on Wednesday.

Alexandra Klima

Lost items collected by the University that are not claimed within 90 days are sold for auction twice a year.

Hundreds of Austinites attended UT’s bi-annual auction at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in hopes of finding a steal amongst the piles of miscellaneous items UT-Austin no longer needs or wants, warehouse supervisor Edward Mann said. The Surplus Property unit of Facilities Services hosts the University auctions, which have been held for more than 20 years. Lost and found iPods, digital cameras and graduation rings were just a few of the many University items up for auction.

While the auctioneer shouted bids in the background, Mann told The Daily Texan that auctionable property comes from every department at UT, ranging from the rowing club to research laboratories.

“We even had a sailboat up for auction a few years back,” Mann said. “The UT Sailing Club notified [Surplus Property] that they no longer wanted a sailboat. Next, they delivered it to the warehouse themselves because we don’t have any trailers for things like that.”

Auctions always start with vehicles because bidders have the most money to spend at the beginning, Mann said. Yesterday, a 2007 Chevy Impala’s starting bid was $5,000. Pick-up trucks used by University officials usually run around $1,200, he said.

Once the auctionable property reaches the warehouse, Mann said he helps in organizing the items so when the auctioneers arrive, they can easily sort the items into particular groups called lots.

SWICO Auctions have been directing University auctions for the last 12 years, Mann said. The auctioneers number each lot so bidders and auctioneers can easily conduct the auction. More than 500 lots were present at yesterday’s auction.

Featured items such as vehicles and industrial equipment are placed on SWICO’s website 10 days prior to the auction so potential bidders can get a head start on finding the best deals, Mann said. In order for everyone to preview the items before the auction starts, a viewing day is held one day prior to the live auction, he said.

Procurement and warehousing manager Ben Reid attended the auction to browse, but said he was not interested in purchasing anything.

“Some of the items up for auction are actually from the University’s lost and found,” Reid said.

Departments such as Recreational Sports and the Division of Housing and Food Service are auxiliary departments, which means they are self-supporting and directly receive the money made from their department’s auctioned items, Reid said. Academic and administrative departments are state-funded, so their auctioned items go back into general University funds, he said.

Outside of auctions, if any UT department needs an item already sent to the warehouse for auctioning, UT staff can come on any given Friday to obtain items, Mann said. Outside agencies such as area-wide schools are able to come to the warehouse every Monday to obtain anything they need, he said.

Craig Long, owner of local catering company, Go Go Gourmet, attended the University auction and said he has attended a few in the past but never purchased anything until now.

“It’s interesting to try and figure out how all this archeology fits into the University and how everything was used in the past,” Long said. “At the last auction, the old sound system for the football stadium was up for bidding. It was huge.” At yesterday’s auction, Long purchased some equipment to be used at his future business venture, a cafe located in the University area, which he will open in the coming months.

Printed on Thursday, March 29, 2012 as: Auction makes use of unclaimed lost items