Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Auction

It's not everyday where you get a eye-opening experience and so, when an aquaintaince of mine ended up getting into some trouble with the law today, I found myself hanging out at the scene of his troubles so that I could find myself indulging in a bit of voueristic pleasure at someone elses humiliation. I was, as the Singapore government is so fond of saying "Educated" in the way the due process of the law works and into an exciting world of vulture trading.

The saga began when a businesses asssociate of this aquaintaince decided to take the bugger to court for non-payment of loans. The clown decided to "Talk" things over with his business associate who was clearly in no mood to talk and so the guy's restaurant ended up having a "Writ of Seziure" issused against his restaurant. As luck would have it, this was the day that the court had to decided to auction off his "goods."

Actually his goods were more like "Bads". The man runs an Indian restaurant and catering service somewhere near the end of little India. The word is he caters for some of Singapore's more dignified people but has at the same time employed two parasites who were busy pretending to be sympathetic. Anyway, the bads that were to be auctioned off involved several steel tables used for chopping and a fridge that looked large enough to store a body ..... well at least it looked like it should have been storing bodies because the condition it was in made bodies look like a picnic in the park.

Anyway, the balifs were late and so the gang that attends these auctions had plenty of time to assess the goods on offer. Its an interesting group of people who attend these auctions. Many of the crowd had brought their own lorries (Cash and carry-same day delivery).

Like in all things capitalist, the Balif Sales Gang is multi-racial, mostly a good reflection of Singapore's ethnic make-up - majority Chinese, a few Indians and a Eurasian. Non of them look gentle, especially the women. But as long as you keep a respectable distance, nobody disturbs you.

Auction itself is pretty straight forward. Non of the glamour of the Keenland Yearling Sales or Southerby Auctions. But non the less, the process works on a similar principle. The regulars are quite sharp and seem to have a nose for value. Most of them walked out of the auction when it was clear that the price was going to be more than what they could have got on the resale value.

Outside of Geylang, this was capitalism at its naked best. You see people as they really are and you appreciate that the real economy of Singapore is not run by clowns with degrees but by sharp nosed traders with a good nose for value and relationship building (The Balif is obviously familiar with the usual gang).

I always had this fantasy that I could create a viable business going to baliff sales. Well, my fantasy was always at a slightly more elegant level, dealing in fabulous cars and watches of captured drug dealers and bankrupt movie stars. Never had the capital to get into this. Never had the guts to actually study and execute how this could be done.

But having seen todays auction, I'm intreagued. Its not that I plan to give-up my world of intangibles but somehow seeing street traders in action has excited me into wanting to have a decent side line. Perhaps its just me but I seem to think that Karang Gunni men (Rag and bone traders who by junk and sell it for more) are one the best things that keep Singapore running.

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