Now you can bid on a bag of groceries

Bag filled with groceries

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: With record job losses and a stalled economy,
these are times of frugality. And this is a new sound of grocery shopping:

Auctioneer Kirk Williams: Well here, we've got a bag of potato chips. It's $3.49 retail folks, right there on it, it's all fresh and in date. So let me have dollar and a half, dollar and a quarter . . .

Auctioneers have seen demand for other items drop. Not so much interest in baseball cards or estate jewelry anymore. What do people want to bid on? Food, toilet paper, candy bars.

Kirk Williams owns Colonel Kirk's Auction Gallery in Pennsylvania. When he held his first grocery auction last month, hundreds showed up. So, Mr. Williams, welcome. What gave you this idea?

Kirk Williams: Well Steve, we were doing new merchandise auctions, and my consigners were bringing snacks and chips and candies and stuff like that. And they were doing very well at auctions, so I said to my haulers gee, if you guys could bring frozen foods and meats and cheeses and cereals and stuff, I think we could have a grocery auction. So finally after three years of kind of salting the oats, they decided to bring it all together, and now we're having grocery auctions.

Chiotakis: But why an auction for groceries? I think of cars, I think of homes . . . groceries?

Williams: Yes, well, you know, there's a lot of groceries out there that are close-date merchandise, that the warehouses have no idea how or where to get rid of them. And this is exactly what we're doing -- we're taking frozen foods out of the frozen food warehouse, bringing it on a 10 degree below zero refrigerated truck right to the site and handing it out to the people, we're selling it right direct to the people.

Chiotakis: So people believe they're getting a good deal on this, they're obviously OK to forego the dates, the dates, best buy dates and all that?

Williams: Well, a best buy date is merely a date when it's at its peak of freshness. For instance, let's go back three or four years ago, where we only had best buy dates on milk, bread and eggs, and now we have best buy dates on water. Now come on, now we all know water doesn't expire at a certain date. It's not an expiration date, it's a best buy date.

Chiotakis: So there's nothing unhealthy about this.

Williams: Absolutely not -- we're all, you know, we're inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, you know they've given us the green thumb on it and we're good to go.

Chiotakis: Sounds like this is a pretty good stimulus package for you. How lucrative is this for you?

Williams: Oh it's wonderful, I mean it's held my auction business considerably, it's added additional auction staff. We've go into an area, we'll run fire halls and social halls, and put money into the area also, and there're rentals as well as the food concessions. We're bringing together about 300, 400 people an auction.

Chiotakis: Well, auctioneer Kirk Williams from Pennsylvania. Kirk, thank you so much for joining us today.

Williams: Thank you.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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