Don’t Assume – Check!

Why not taking care can be costly at auction

How many of you reading this have been at one stage of their career have been an apprentice? I remember when I started out in the aviation industry I used to be a technician that serviced or repaired a lot of the black boxes that came out of aircraft. For those of you who don’t know, nearly all aircraft electronics boxes are black – only the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder are orange. Ironic that they are known as the black box!

The company I worked for was based in Thornliebank, Glasgow, but had an outpost at Aberdeen Airport where about 8 of us worked. Every so often, we’d get a visit from somebody in head office to see how things were going, and as the apprentice I would get appraised as to how I was progressing within the training syllabus. In an industry littered with acronyms there was always space for one or two more mnemonics, especially when training. Of course, many trainees in the engineering trades may have heard of the 7 P’s – Perfect Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance, but the one that is relevant to this article was a play on the word ‘Assume’.


Here’s one I fixed earlier (much earlier!) in my career…. former G-PUMI used to belong to Bond Helicopters, but was sold to Bristows and operated in Nigeria. It came to a wet end – I had flown in it the previous trip. The ship I worked on at the time is in the background (Siem Marlin) whilst in the Agbami field, Nigeria

The aviation trade discourages people assuming things, or not reading the manuals. Failure to read a manual by an engineer once saw a pilot sucked out of the aircraft windscreen due to the screws that were replaced being the wrong size. (Look at Wikipedia article on BA flight 5390 if you have a couple of minutes). So it was little surprise that I was told by the training manager that “To assume makes up an ASS out of U and ME“. I did listen, but how I wished I had applied it a bit more thoroughly in this story I am away to tell you. Especially in the ASS region – my ass in particular.

Eventually I found the aviation industry was not for me and started working offshore a couple of years after successfully completing my apprenticeship. I thought I would do this for a couple of years to be able to afford a flat in Aberdeen, but after that purchase and nearly 25 years on, not much has changed apart from more belly, less hair and still having to go to work on a ship. Anyhow, after buying my first flat, it wasn’t uncommon for me to sit on the toilet reading magazines as when not offshore there was rarely anything to be in a hurry for. In my bathroom I had repurposed some vegetable racks for storing magazines and assorted cleaning accessories. It was here here disaster was to strike.


The offending bathroom set up. Magazines removed as this photo was taken prior to sale.

I had finished my constitutional, and as I do love my bum in an Andrex way, I reached down to get the moist toilet tissue. Being Aberdonian I was too tight to get the proper box for the wipes, so I had mine in the packet sitting next to the toilet on the magazine rack. I fished a wipe out, did the needful swipe between the cheeks and that is where I found out something was wrong. Very wrong. You see, in my absent minded haste not to put down the magazine and look as to what I was doing, I had inadvertently picked up a Flash antibacterial wipe instead. That is definitely not suitable for sensitive skin. I must admit to it being a bit nippy on my keekywinker for an hour or two. but on a positive note it highlighted the need to strain a little less in the future and for the rest of the morning when I broke wind, it had a note of pine freshness about it.

Translating this to whisky, if you are using auctions, you have to be careful about what you are ordering. It is all to easy to get caught up in the moment, especially as an auction closes and last minute panic bidding mode kicks in. You really need to be sure what you are trying to capture is exactly what you want, and you have to have your eyes wide open. You cannot afford to assume a single thing.

And unfortunately that’s similar to what happened to my friend Nick. The first I knew about it was when I got a message asking for advice. I initially thought it was advice for his blog, Whisky, Aye! which is worth a read, especially if you appreciate a dog as a whisky companion. But no, this wasn’t the case and it was a sorry tale I know well from personal experience. He was on the search for a Hazelburn 8 year old first edition. He put in a bid on a bottle which while wasn’t a lot of cash, it would have resulted in him winning a bottle he didn’t want. The error was caused by the incorrect title being applied on the auction entry – the bottle in question wasn’t a first edition but the second. If you knew exactly what you were looking for then it was clear that something wasn’t right though it is easy to get caught out. Oops.


The mis-titled bottle (SWA)

Sometimes during the prep for large auctions, the entry may be copied and pasted to save the auctioneers the time of researching the same bottles time and time again. While the bottle on the picture was correct, the heading wasn’t. But Nick didn’t notice until too late. It’s unfortunate, but at the bottom of each entry is the disclaimer as in the screenshot below:-


Caveat Emptor (SWA)

An email was sent to see if the bid could be cancelled. To be fair to Nick, the mistake was the fault of the auctioneers, but in fairness to the auctioneer, they would have been justified by telling him that he should have checked as pointed out by their statement. However, fate intervened and Nick was outbid. Result – problem solved. Hopefully a happy result for everybody involved, but especially Nick.

To their credit, the auctioneer did say when they contacted Nick after the auction had ended that they would double check with the winning bidder to make sure that they were aware it wasn’t a 1st Edition as titled. Now that’s quality service from Scotch Whisky Auctions. Another Glasgow based whisky auctioneer could learn from this as they still have not responded to a query about excessive shipping charges.


The box that stops me going from clean and refreshed…..
…..to citrusy fresh

In auctions you need to be sure of what you are bidding on. This could have had a much different ending had the bottle been more expensive and the error wasn’t noticed until DHL delivered it. By that time it’s probably too late. Then you’ve the hassle of returning it to auction or drinking it, depending if you can afford to. But Nick isn’t the first one to have done this by not double checking, as I’ve fallen foul of it too, although in my case it was bottles I wanted, but the condition was sub-par. And twice I’ve had to suck it up when they arrived. Not the end of the world, as this is why you don’t over pay. I’ll hold onto the sub par condition ones as they will eventually be worth a good bit more than I paid.

And to make Nick feel even more warm and fluffy, I made a similar mistake to him at the same auction, as I bid on a lot with a damaged box. I never looked all the way down the page either. Ah well. I’ve hopefully sourced a new carton already. From Nick thankfully! Not checking carefully is an easy enough mistake to make, but don’t let a lack of attention rush you into an unforced error.

So, top tips for this week is to check, check and check again at what you are bidding for at auction, and keep your toilet wipes well away from your cleaning products. That’s a sheriff’s badge that will never be shiny, so don’t try.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

Auction Entry Photos – Scotch Whisky Auctions

Ditched Puma – saharareporters.com

All Other Photos – Authors Own


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