WSVN — They were helping a friend get rid of her art so she could travel the world. They hired an auctioneer to sell it, but now they want the art back and are being told they have to pay the auctioneer. Why? It’s why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When Ray and Betty started selling things online, it was a way to make a little extra money.

Betty De La Riva: "We decided to go to garage sales, estate sales and post the items. People were bidding."

They liked it so much, they created a store on eBay, photographing their items and posting them and shipping them out.

Betty De La Riva: "We have from airplane parts, to fine china, to plush pillows."

Then, earlier this year, a friend was closing her art gallery and had 120 pieces to sell. She wanted to travel the world and asked Betty to sell the art. Betty is not an art expert, and so she contacted an auctioneer.

Betty De La Riva: "They wanted to take the pieces right away. And I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I just can’t give you all these pieces without anything in writing.’"

The owner of Stampler Auction signed a contract, giving himself a 25 percent commission from the sale of the art, plus $3,000 for expenses to advertise the sales. In a hint of things to come, the contract given to Betty to sign was different, saying the auctioneer would reimburse himself from proceeds from the sales. No amount was mentioned.

Betty De La Riva: "And they promised me within two to three weeks, they would have the auction online. And it literally took them three months."

Then the sales started, and Betty’s frustration grew because she says the auctioneer sold art far below the minimum price she had insisted on.

Betty De La Riva: "$3,000 is what a Coccerelle Collins piece sells for, and they sold it for $50."

Betty says more pieces were sold that were not even auctioned off.

Betty De La Riva: "He gave a piece to his friend for $75 because his friend has a nonprofit with children and he felt bad for him."

Patrick Fraser: "How much was that?"

Betty De La Riva: "$1,500."

Betty had enough. She hadn’t received a dime from the 20 pieces of art that were sold and wanted the other 100 back.

Betty De La Riva: "No, they are holding as collateral because we owe him now $2,500 for the overhead expenses."

Didn’t make any money for the woman who trusted her to sell the art, and can’t even get the art that has not sold back.

Betty De La Riva: "I feel like I let someone down, something that I don’t do."

Well, Howard, it’s embarrassing for Betty, but you have read the paperwork. Is it legal?

Howard Finkelstein: "Yes it’s legal, but — and here is the but — there are several areas of dispute in the two different contracts each one of them signed. And you can’t resolve this dispute from looking at the contracts. So you either have to compromise or go to court and let a judge settle it."

I spoke to the owner of Stampler Auctions. Harry Stampler told me he bent over backwards to help Betty. That he did everything properly. That the online auctions were a disaster and the pieces that sold for $50 were only worth what they sold for.

After doing the math, Betty said they owed Stampler $1,059 and were willing to pay that to get the 100 pieces of art back.

Stampler said no, he wanted $2,500 and was now going to start charging Betty $100 a day for storage until she paid him.

Howard Finkelstein: "Betty’s best option now is to file suit in small claims court. By doing that, she can put the disputed money into the court registry and let a judge decide. And in the meantime, she gets all her unsold artwork back."

Betty isn’t sure what her next step will be because she is stunned at how this turned out.

Betty De La Riva: "I’m not sure. I don’t know."

Patrick Fraser: "Tough spot. And all Betty was trying to do was to help a friend. By the way, Betty told the woman who gave her the art to sell what happened. Betty says she was very understanding and told Betty, ‘Don’t worry, things will work out.’ We will let you know how things work out."

Someone got you painted into a corner? Want someone to draw up a solution? Contact us. And make Howard brush up on the law. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
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