This isn’t a blog on how to dominate the competition, crush other bidders or score a new iPad for thirty-eight cents. It’s not about what we can get.
It’s a story about giving.
One morning while I sat at my computer scanning upcoming DealDash auctions searching for the next treasure to bid on, I realized there wasn’t one single thing I needed. That awareness created a dilemma. Two of my most important bidding codes are: only bid on items I really want and only bid on items I can afford to BIN on (Buy It Now) if I don’t win the auction.
I’ve been at the online auction game for a while and in all humility, I’m good at it – from lessons learned the hard way. (Is there any other way to learn?) But on this particular day, aside from a gas card or more coffee for my Keurig coffee-maker (won at a 90 percent discount), I couldn’t find anything that met my criteria.
My home was beginning to resemble a retail store with TVs, tablets, coffee makers and other electronics piled next to the closet. Like I said, I’m good at online auctions. But I had accumulated enough good stuff to see me through all upcoming birthdays, two Christmases, and several other holidays.
Was it time to back off retail therapy? Where’s the thrill in winning a new television when I have nowhere to use the five new ones still packed in their boxes? Do I want to risk being forced to BIN on a two-thousand dollar item because some jumper snipes me in what’s meant to be a “No-Jump” Auction?
Frustrated, I shut down my computer, distracting myself with other tasks.
Later that day, a friend called and mentioned a local charity that helped her family – a privately-funded drug and alcohol program for people of all ages with one thing in common: addiction to alcohol or drugs has made their lives unmanageable. The more my friend talked, the more I liked this program.
In a time when other programs charge outrageous fees for an addicted loved one to stay at what’s supposed to be a treatment center but in reality can barely make time for therapy groups between scheduling massages, manicures and private jet trips to China. The place my friend described sounded both affordable and effective.
Instead of sending our addicted loved ones home labeled “cured” 28 days, four pedicures and $60,000 later and then watching him or her start drinking that night or even worse, discover she used drugs the entire time she was in treatment, this center offers long-term treatment (six months or more) for $2,000 a month. For those without any resources but strongly motivated to stay straight, the program also offers scholarships.
They’ll save lives for free.
My friend then mentioned that this program was now preparing for a silent auction to raise funds to continue offering scholarships and all the other quality services they’ve offered since the seventies. I looked at all my DealDash winnings, many still in boxes. Maybe the program could use some of these treasures, I thought.
A few days later, I called the organization and told the nice but obviously busy woman who answered the telephone exactly what I had to offer, how I obtained these items (try convincing someone in three sentences or less you have thousands of dollars of new merchandise and electronics you won online by bidding) and I explained why I wanted to give these items to them.
“I’m sorry, but we don’t need any computers or TVs,” the woman politely replied.
“These are brand new, still in their boxes. Under warranty –“
“I’ll check with my manager and get back to you,” she said.
A week later, I called the organization again and repeated my story. The nice lady who answers the phone repeated hers. After several rounds of calling and being rejected, I wore the nice lady down.
“Okay, if these items are new, in the box and legally obtained, we can use them,” she said.
I loaded two televisions, a two thousand dollar computer, and boxes of pricey gizmos into my Jeep and headed to their office. When staff saw my DealDash treasure, they were thrilled. Some items found their way to the silent auction. Others will be used around the facility, either in the offices or where the clients live. All donations were genuinely appreciated.
But I wasn’t done yet. As the staff unloaded my Jeep, I pulled the program director aside. “Why was it so hard for me to give all this to you?” I asked her. “Why were you so hesitant to accept these things when I know you need them?”
She paused and then confessed. “You have no idea how much crap people try to pass off on us,” she said. “People re-do their houses and think that we’ll haul their junk away for free. They want us to come and pick up nasty fifteen-year-old sofas that the dogs peed on, broken chairs, stinky mattresses – and worse. Some people want to give us twenty-year-old DOS computers that don’t work at all, much less with any software programs and then use it as a tax deduction or to avoid paying toxic disposal fees,” she said. “We see everything in the name of donations now.
“We didn’t think you were for real,” she said.
Back at home that night, I logged into my Deal Dash account and scanned upcoming auctions through new eyes. I bet local charities could use a new coffee machine, a microwave for their lunch room, or maybe a new computer for the office.
There are limits to what I want for myself but what others need? Limitless.
It’s easy to find others who truly need something that will make a difference in their lives if we look for them with have the vigor we bid to win. An elderly person confined to home can get so much joy from a new television. Or an aging parent can feel not so alone when he or she can Skype with – talk to and see — a grown child or grandchild every week on a new iPad.
The next time you have a great win but you don’t need that terrific item, consider giving it to someone who does need it – sometimes desperately. While there’s a shortage of affordable long-term treatment centers, there are many good organizations and genuinely needy people in our communities and sometimes in our family.
Is there an organization near you that could use office supplies? Maybe they could use a gift card to reward a hard-working volunteer or a gas card to keep their company van fueled. Many local charities struggle with daily operating expenses and even the smallest donation means a lot.
My perspective changed. More than an online site where I can get more stuff for me, Deal Dash multiplies my charitable giving. I still follow my rules: bid only on items that are needed and only on that which I can afford to BIN if I don’t win. But my definition of “what’s needed” expanded from what I need to what others need too.
Years ago I learned I could move mountains if I had a valid reason. People can endure unbelievable pain if there’s a valid purpose for their suffering. People need motivation to do what they do and to do it well. While greed has become enormously popular, charitable giving makes a much stronger motivation and it’s a technique for winning too.
Now I don’t mean you should write in your bio that you’re trying to win a wine rack to help poor children in Third World Countries; that your sister is destitute and must have a new iPhone 5; or that you have no limbs, one year to live, and therefore need the latest Mac Power Book or you might die today. In some cases, the stories we read in bidder’s bios are true. Even if they are, telling sob stories to help us win doesn’t work. It annoys other bidders and demeans us.
One bidder ‘s bio said it best (I’m paraphrasing): I’m sorry your spouse died, you lost your job, your home was demolished and you’re now living in a tent, suffering from an incurable disease and trying to care for fifteen homeless kittens and puppies. And as soon as I’m done bidding in this auction, I’ll start praying for you.
Somewhere I read that a loving person doesn’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing – which is how I believe we should give. Quietly. Anonymously. No fanfare. Writing in our bio that we need a new iPad for starving children in Africa doesn’t make a good winning tactic. But using our motivation to help others and keeping that to ourselves can be one of the most powerful strategies for success that exist.
But don’t give to get; that’s trying to control the outcome. Give to give because that’s how we want to live. It’s important to be good to ourselves. But if we want to keep it, we need to give it away is more than a cliché. It’s a way of life that works no matter what situation we face.
Play fair. Bid hard. Enjoy your wins. And at the end (or beginning) of the day, remember to share your treasures.
Note to Readers: An old adage suggests keeping our good deeds private which is why I’m not using the treatment center’s or my name here. But if you need a referral to affordable and reliable treatment for a loved one, ask customer service and I’ll supply it through them.