In 2010, it auctioned off a signed first edition of
But in recent years, the company, which dates to 1830 and is the second-oldest auction house in the U.S., has been facing complaints -- and lawsuits -- from angry customers who said they were never paid for the items they consigned.
The troubles have escalated in recent weeks with more customers reporting receiving bounced checks. And then last week, about half of its remaining staff defected to start their own firm, saying they could no longer do business for a company that was not paying their clients.
The exodus apparently led the company to halt its normal operations. Its offices were closed this week. And its phone number, which typically is answered by an employee, has been going straight to voice mail.
But he did not address the bounced checks or why the firm has not been paying clients in a timely fashion. And he did not respond to a follow-up request for comment.
One of the firm's jilted customers is
"I kept calling him," she said, referring to Ivey. "He kept saying, 'Oh, I sent it. Let me try to track that down. Maybe it got lost.' There were lots of excuses."
She did finally receive a check in January that she said was post-dated for a week later. She deposited it. She heard back from the bank a couple days later that it had bounced.
That's what happened to
But he had a much bumpier experience last year. In December, he received a
"Every time I called Malcolm, he said, 'I'll send you a check in a couple of days,'" Jacklow said. "The last time I talked to him was a week before last. He said, 'I'll send you a check on Monday.' ... I waited the whole week. No money came."
Some consigners were able to get paid eventually, but only after they went to the police or contacted the BBB for help, he said. Others went to Ivey-Selkirk's offices in person.
"In some cases, they went and sat on its doorstep until they received payment," Smith said.
The BBB has spoken to Ivey about the complaints. He's blamed the economy for the delays and the extended time to receive payments from online bidders from abroad, Smith said.
Ivey bought the auction company in 2002. It was previously known as Phillips-Selkirk. The Selkirk family, which ran the business for six generations, sold it a couple years before another company in 1998.
She and other employees had become increasingly concerned about clients not being paid. Asked why the company was not following through on its obligations, she said she couldn't say.
"There wasn't a lot of communication with the owner and the staff," she said.
Ivey-Selkirk was sued four times last year for not paying customers for their consigned items. In one case, a
The most recent case was filed in December. It involves more than
After repeated requests to be paid, the consigner did eventually receive a check. But according to the lawsuit, it bounced.
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