Auction at Ritz-Carlton leaves little to be desired

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2008, 12:00am

Bidders who aspired to own a piece of Ritz-Carlton history were angry and disappointed that many of the objects they fancied were sold before they arrived at a much-touted auction yesterday.

More than 300 bidders arrived at 10am for the auction in a third-floor ballroom.

They were packed in like sardines only to discover that about 2,000 of the 8,000 pieces originally displayed - many of which had been earmarked as preferred pieces by bidders who had already inspected them - had been sold.

Angry bidder Lois Lee said she was upset that her favourite pieces had been presold.

'This system is terrible,' she said. 'I'm very disappointed. I marked all the items that I wanted [last week], mostly the cabinets. I'm here for them, but when I arrived, they were all sold.'

She said bidders had been misled by a system in which pieces for preview were sold before the auction.

Some non-Chinese bidders were disappointed that only a Chinese-language catalogue was available.

A Mr Jones and his wife, who live in Hong Kong, said they could glean little from the catalogue. Mrs Jones said some detailed information in English should have been provided, at least on the relevant website or through inquiry hotlines.

She said she had been interested in certain paintings and could not understand how they had been presold. She thought the auction had not been run very professionally.

There were also angry buyers at the auction. Some were initially horrified to discover delivery charges of HK$6,000 on cabinets measuring 1.8 metres and up, although the auction house later explained that it was a typographical error.

In fact, the delivery charge was about HK$600.

Then winning bidders discovered the 'delivery' charge related only to transport of the cabinets to the ground floor of the hotel.

Many said that, because they had not been notified before, they were not willing to pay the charge.

However, not everyone was unhappy. Bidder Mr Wong from Jiangsu province , who owns a hotel and a club, was enthusiastic enough to splurge nearly HK$3 million on pieces, including chandeliers and paintings.

An auction spokesman said some bilingual services had been offered at the auction. Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

The five-star Ritz-Carlton closed at the beginning of the month after 14 years in Central. The building is scheduled for demolition to make way for an office tower.

A new Ritz-Carlton will open in West Kowloon's International Commerce Centre in two years.