There were some hot deals to be had at the Winnipeg Police Service unclaimed-goods auction Sunday.
The key word being "hot," as the majority of the items available for public purchase at a discount ended up at Associated Auto Auction via the five-finger discount.
More than 425 items were listed for the annual police sell-off, goods ranging from hockey cards in near-mint condition to heavy-grade tools to packages of women's lingerie to scuffed-up Guitar Hero guitars to a small scooter that has seen better days, and all came with one small caveat -- buyer beware.
"You didn't want one that worked, did you?" auctioneer Jim Todd jokes after someone just bought an industrial spotlight for $10, underlining the no-guarantee sales policy of "Where it is, as it is."
'I used to be surprised at some of the stuff that came in here, but not anymore'
Imagine the biggest cluttered garage on your street. This was it.
Incomplete sets of golf clubs? Yes.
A large sign that reads "Hot Soup To Go?" You bet.
Harley-Davidson retractable dog leash? Uh-huh.
Winnipeg Jets lighter? Of course.
An iPhone 4, box only? Seriously. No headphones, no charger -- just the box. Item No. 356 on the docket.
"I used to be surprised at some of the stuff that came in here, but not anymore," said Jeff Noiseux, owner of the auction house. "People will steal anything. The only thing that does surprise me is how do they carry some of this stuff away? Some of it seems like it would be more of a hassle than anything.
"That's probably why they got caught."
About 300 people were on hand for the start of bidding, and they could shake down a decent deal if they did their homework beforehand. For example: a Bostitch nailer and case, which retails for over $200, sold for $95 Sunday.
Some holding winning bid numbers were getting away with murder, so to speak.
"There is some good stuff," said Barry, who like many bargain-hunters had little interest in speaking with the press and therefore didn't want to give his last name. "If you came looking for a jigsaw or something like that, you'd be happy with what's here. You might be able to get something like that pretty cheap."
As one might surmise, the vast inventory comes by way of police investigations. The goods are seized when police collect evidence and for whatever reason the items are unable to be tracked back to the original owner.
Police spokesman Const. Eric Hofley said what typically happens is someone will experience a minor break-in -- say, maybe a toolbox or a DVD player is stolen -- the owner won't report it, so when the police catch up with the thief on an unrelated call and see the toolbox or DVD player among the goods, they encounter a recovery surplus.
Hofley references the unclaimed-goods auction as a teachable moment for the public. You don't want to be the guy who will never get his VHS copy of Bowfinger back or the woman who has to carry on in life without the greatest hits of Midnight Oil playing in her CD player.
"Another popular scenario is when people have something stolen but don't have the serial number of that item on hand," Hofley said, adding the money raised from the auction goes back into the police service's coffers. "We can't really track the item, and it often ends up at the auction. That's why taking down serial numbers is important."