Finance

Twitter is auctioning off its stuff. Should you buy that giant neon bird?

An auctioneer at the head of a crowd of auction house buyers.

Image source: Getty Images

What happened

Twitter is having a yard sale. Bidding opened Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m. PT for over 600 items the social media giant no longer needs, including electronics, furniture and kitchen appliances. The online auction runs until 10:00 a.m. PT on Wednesday (January 18). Registered bidders can pick up a range of items including industrial espresso machines, face mask boxes, beer dispensers and a neon Twitter bird.

So what

There is a certain praise for owning Twitter’s rejections. I mean, who doesn’t want to say their sofa came from Twitter HQ? But if you’ve never bought at auction before, there are some serious pitfalls to avoid. For example, there’s no warranty on the electrical appliances sold by Twitter, so if they break, you’re on your own. Plus, there are some hefty fees involved, and you’ll have to drop by Twitter’s San Francisco offices to pick up any purchases yourself.

On a practical level, Twitter Auction is only open to registered bidders. Sale items are more suitable for small businesses, offices and restaurants than individual buyers. Starting prices for many of the items were $25 to $50, but they had already skyrocketed in the first few hours of bidding.

If you’re wondering if Twitter is using the auction to fill some of the gaps in its balance sheet, a representative for the auction house told Fortune that the money raised will be a drop in the bucket. “They sold for $44 billion, and we’re selling a few chairs, tables and computers,” said Nick Dove, Heritage Global Partners. “So if anyone honestly thinks that the proceeds from the sale of a few computers and chairs will pay for a mountain over there, they’re a moron.”

Now what

If selling on Twitter has inspired you to enter the world of auctions, these tips might help keep the adventure from damaging your bank account:

  • Set a budget: Auctions are like sales, or really any form of shopping. The best way to save money is to know how much you’re willing to spend before you start bidding.
  • Plan your purchases: Look through the catalog beforehand to identify the items you might want to buy. A plan will help you avoid impulse purchases and allow you to focus on the things you know you need. It also means that you can research the appropriate price range.
  • Understand the fees: Auction fees can add up and trip up inexperienced auctioneers. For example, successful bidders in the Twitter auction will pay an additional 18% on the hammer price, plus 8.63% VAT.

Shopping at auction can be a great way to save money and find unusual items, especially if you love vintage pieces. Just be aware that there isn’t much in the way of consumer protection, you may not be able to earn credit card rewards on your purchases, and it’s easy to get carried away and spend more than you intended.

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