90-year-old woman short changed in online auction - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

90-year-old woman short changed in online auction

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

An elderly Spokane woman says everything she owned was sold for just $150. She, along with her children, opted to hire a company to sell her property in an online auction. It's a decision many of us may face with our own parents. But what should you do to make sure the process is a smooth one?

90-year-old Ruthie Harshman never though 500-some square feet could feel so right.

"I didn't think I'd ever live in anything this small, but I love it," Harshman said. "It's the social aspect."

The social aspect is something Harshman constantly takes advantage of.

"I walk down the hall to the reception area, the little cafe..."

She says she's the happiest she's been in months, except for one thing.

Back in July, Harshman's children set her up with a company to sell nearly everything she owns via an online auction. She says it looked like the perfect solution. They clean out your stuff, prepare it for sale, and put it out there. The Hashman family believed it was the most convenient way to make this downsizing a reality.

"My daughter thought she was doing her mother a favor and now she's so upset," Harshman said.

In the end, for everything she owned, Harshman said she got just over $100.

The total revenue from the sales came in at $628.50. But with a variety of fees including the company's 35 percent cut, photos, trash and transfer station bills, she was left with less than a quarter of that.

"I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought there should be another zero there," she said.

Harshman said she felt blindsided, and says the process was never made clear to her.

"Not knowing that they were starting the bidding at $1. That was a shock," Harshman said.

She said she was desperate for someone to just make some clarifications and explain things, but... "They wouldn't return my calls I'd call sometimes twice a day and they wouldn't return my calls."

That's when she reached out to KHQ. The company called back and said they tried to connect to Harshman without luck. The Better Business Bureau says that communication issues aren't that uncommon when it comes to estate sales.

"What we really see in these situations is when the communication and things wasn't done in writing," said Kirstin Davis with the BBB. Davis confirms Harshman did file a complaint about her experience with them. She says the whole thing serves as a great reminder to always be thorough when searching for a company to do a job this personal.

So how can you prevent someone you love from the same heartache?

"We always suggest people get references, do their research," Davis said.

And read the fine print.

Harshman says she wishes she would have simply asked more questions, and hopes because of her story, you will.

"I don't want anybody else to be taken advantage of like this," Harshman said. "I could have opened my doors and given it away and felt better about it."

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