How about $57?
This past weekend, Vonnie and I attended a benefit for her aunt who was recently diagnosed with cancer. There was a wonderful outpouring of support from the community through donations of items to sell in a silent auction. Vonnie, being her usual rock star self, visited business throughout our community and accumulated a dozen or so items to contribute to the auction. We also put together a basket of items we personally donated, and spent time helping setup and run the event.
Given the time, energy, and money we had already given, I personally didn’t think it was necessary for us to bid on any of the items in the auction. I meant to have a conversation with Vonnie ahead of time concerning her thoughts and decide our course of action together. But the days proceeding the event were busy, and some last minute changes in plans resulted in that conversation not happening.
When the time came for the auction, Vonnie bid $10 for an item called “Candy And Cash.” As the name suggests, it was a glass jar filled with candy, with visible bills of money rolled up inside of it. The estimated value was $50, so I assumed the rolled up bills accounted for most of that estimated value. We had an impromptu conversation at that point – I expressed that I wasn’t going to bid on anything, and she expressed that the candy jar was the only thing she would go for.
Perfect, right? Not quite.
Our conversation failed to address how much she would increase her bid. When the auction was over, she excitedly informed me that we had “won” the item.
I smiled, but inside I was was wondering what (besides the several alcoholic beverages she had consumed) would cause her to bid that much on a jar of candy, regardless of whether it had some cash in it or not. I held out hope that maybe there was enough cash inside the item to make it worth it.
We dumped out the candy and found four $1 bills.
Someone had grossly overestimated the value of this item. On one hand our purchase was essentially a donation to her aunt’s family, so it went to a good cause. On the other hand, we just spent $57 on an item that contained about $5 in candy and $4 in cash. I began to point out the time, energy, and money we had already poured into the event and how if we were going to bid $57 on something we could have at least chosen an item that was worth an amount remotely close to the bid. As you can imagine, we were quickly heading down the path of an argument. Not because either of us was right or wrong, but because we had differing expectations of the situation. Lucky for me, I realized that the conversation was not going to be fruitful, and just accepted what was done, was done.
Had we had a real conversation about what we were going to do that evening, we would have agreed upon our course of action. We would have shared our thoughts, and come to an agreement together as to whether we would bid on something, and what our maximum bid would be. Our expectations would have been in sync, there would have been no budgetary surprises, and no potential for an argument.
And maybe, just maybe, we could have avoided a $57 jar of candy.