Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The End of the Rebate

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that Sotheby's had announced that it was done with guarantees. Now Christie's too says it will "for the most part, give guarantees only in 'exceptional circumstances'" . . . and also announced it will "not be rebating any of the buyer's fees back to the seller."

Felix Salmon has an amusing take on the latter announcement: "I wonder whether [Christie's chief executive] Edward Dolman is one of those people who, long after they've left home, casually drop into a conversation with their parents that they've stopped smoking cigarettes -- having never admitted, in the prior years, that they were smoking cigarettes. ... Until today, I've never seen anybody from Sotheby's or Christie's admit that the seller's commission -- which has always been negotiable -- might ever have been negotiated all the way down past zero and into rebate territory."

He adds that "you can be sure that if and when the market starts heating up again, the auction houses will restart [the rebate practice]."