A Sunday night in Ponsonby revives the Bashford Antiques saga, with revelations it’s still unlicensed and still clamping – now for a scarcely believable amount. David Farrier investigates.
I was reminded of the Bashford Antiques Saga™ (you can find that here and here) when I was driving past Bashford Antiques at around 10pm on Sunday night. I could see the flashing lights of several police cars parked outside my favourite antique store.
“Oh God,” I told my friend. “He’s back to the clamping again.”
It had been months and months since I’d thought about the utterly bonkers Bashford Antiques. Since writing those stories about Michael Organ’s unbridled passion for clamping cars and asking for increasingly exorbitant amounts of money, I hadn’t exactly been in his good books.
The last interaction I’d had with Bashford Antiques was when I strolled inside to have a look around, a month or so after I’d written what I assumed was my final story about them. It was the first time I’d set foot inside, and thought I might get away with it as I’d never met Michael Organ or Jillian Bashford-Evers face-to-face.
I was hoping to find a nice bedside lamp, or maybe a nice taxidermied squirrel.
Immediately I could feel the cold hard gaze of Michael Organ and Jillian Bashford-Evers, who both operate the store (and reside in the flat upstairs). Jillian vanished quickly upstairs, while Organ rushed off to the store’s computer, where he began to type furiously. I glanced over at his screen, and saw my face popping up on a Google Image search.
Uh oh, he was onto me. Cover blown, I quietly slipped out of the store.
Then today, a new e-mail. I get lots of emails about Bashford Antiques – mostly from people who have had a bizarre clamping experience, then went and Googled “Bashford Antiques” to find out their experience wasn’t unique.
To my delight, this latest email was from the couple I’d seen clamped on Sunday night. I couldn’t believe my luck. They called their evening “a horrific clamping disaster”.
Twenty-eight year old Sharn and her 30 year old husband Jamie tell me they parked in the Bashford Antiques parking lot at about 7.30pm, before meeting their friends for dinner up the road.
“I thought it’s Sunday, shops are closed, it should be okay,” Sharn says. “But I immediately felt uneasy when we were in the restaurant. We had just ordered, and I thought, ‘Bugger it, I’ll go and move the car’.”
But it was too late. The buggering had already been done. Michael Organ had swooped, clamping their car.
“We could already see he was a little unhinged,” says Sharn.
“[Organ] said, ‘You’re already parked across two carparks, but I am willing to just charge you the $360”.
For some mysterious reason they didn’t have $360 in cash, so asked if they could pay by credit card or bank transfer. They say this conversation went on for some time, but it all kept coming back to cash being the only option.
Cash. Right now. Tonight.
“Then he started to make these really crazy accusations towards us. Jamie had had a drink, so [Organ] was like, ‘Well, I can smell alcohol on you so alcohol is clearly a factor’. He was trying to get a rise out of us! And we just said ‘Hey mate, we want to pay and go!’.”
She says it was about that time that Organ started to lecture them on various things, at one stage yelling, “NO, YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME!”
By this stage Sharn and Jamie’s friends had joined them outside, wondering why their friends had left them alone for 30 minutes. Defeated and cold, Sharn walked up the road to get out $360 in cash.
Luckily for her, by the time she returned, Michael Organ had put the price up to $760 and verbally trespassed them from the property. Frustrated and unable to return to their car, Sharn called the police. And waited.
Many of the e-mails I receive speak of Organ’s bizarre post-clamping behaviour, which usually seems to involve a combination of intimidation, strange claims, and lectures. All delivered in a monotone that slowly seems to erode the listener’s sanity.
For Sharn and Jamie, their experience involved Organ proudly proclaiming he’d clamped a man from Saudi Arabia and someone from Auckland Transport. He also claimed the police helicopter was circling above in relation to their illegally parked car. “When you make a 111 call… it’s linked… in real-time” he said, during one of his never-ending monologues.
At one point while waiting for the police, Sharn and Jamie go to the Z Petrol Station across the road to get a coffee. They ask the attendant if other people have been clamped and have to go through this bizarre dance.
Organ enters the gas station with Jillian Bashford trailing behind. I’ve seen some of the cellphone footage of the encounter, where Organ appears to be unhappy about something the attendant has said.
“Are you afraid at what you’ve done?” Organ scolds the attendant. “You know it will cost you your job.”
By now Sharn and Jamie have given up on dinner. They just want the police to arrive. “It was such a waste of their time, but we just needed help dealing with him. We couldn’t deal with him. The manipulative way he talks is just… it’s chilling.”
Many people clamped at Bashford Antiques end up calling the police, completely confused by Michael Organ’s behaviour. Most people just want to go home.
And on Sunday night, it was the usual story. The police arrive and talk to Organ. The police tell Jamie and Sharn there’s nothing they can do: They must simply pay whatever figure Organ is currently asking for.
Sharn walked back up the road and got out another $400.
In total she paid Michael Organ $760 to remove the clamp.
“I won’t say where it goes to,” said Michael Organ tells her. “But it goes to a charity.”*
They’d parked at around 7.30pm. They finally drove away from Bashford Antiques at 10.30pm.
Listening to Sharn and Jamie’s story made me curious about something I’d started to look into way back in March. I had been doing some digging into Bashford Antiques, because while their main business appears to be clamping – they do still own and operate an antiques store.
One of the things I discovered is that to operate an antique’s store, you need a second hand dealer’s licence. Surprisingly, an Official Information Request to the Department of Justice back in March found that neither Jillian Bashford or Michael Organ of Bashford Antique’s held a secondhand dealers licence.
Back then, I was curious how a second hand dealership was operating and selling goods without a licence.
It’s up to the police to police it.
I asked if the police planned to investigate or prosecute Bashford Antiques. The statement I got in return was pretty short. To their credit, the Police Media Comms team appeared to have a sense of humour, prefacing the official statement with “Brace yourself, it’s a big one”. The official statement bit read:
“We are in discussion with the business around the need to obtain the correct licence and these discussions are ongoing.”
Now – memory jogged by Sharn and Jamie’s story – I wondered how those discussions with police were going. It appears not very well.
Over six months later, Bashford Antiques still hasn’t gotten a second dealer’s licence (you don’t even need to do an OIA request, you can look here for yourself).
I was sort of amazed, so put a call into the Secondhand Dealers & Pawnbrokers Licensing Team to check I was using their website correctly. The confirmed that Bashford Antiques doesn’t possess a secondhand dealers licence.
I got back in touch with the New Zealand police seeking comment on why the store is still operating without a licence almost six months after I spoke to them.
They said they’d get back to me.
In the meantime, Bashford Antiques – with its 1.3 star customer rating – continues to do its two favourite things:
- Clamp cars
- Sell antiques they’re not licensed to sell
I’m left with a few questions:
I understand if you’re clamped on private property you have to pay up. But… surely there’s a limit. If Organ is allowed to increase the fee from $360 to $760 on a whim, what’s next? A cool thousand? 10 grand? Why not make it a million and be done with it?
And even if the police are powerless to stop Organ demanding between $360-$1,000,000 (or whatever figure he dreams up for the next poor clamped soul), why are they letting this store continue to trade without a licence?
Meanwhile, as I talked back and forth with the Secondhand Dealers Licensing Team and the New Zealand Police, Sharn and Jamie made their own wonderful discovery:
Someone had keyed their car the night before.
They’re scratching their heads as to who could have done it.
I decided to call Bashford Antiques. I wanted to ask Michael Organ why he or Jillian don’t have a secondhand dealers licence. I wanted to ask how he arrived at the clamping fee of $760. I wanted to ask if the police choppers were still circling overhead.
“Hello Jillian speaking,” said Jillian.
“Hi Jillian, it’s David Farrier calling from The Spinoff, is Michael available?”
“Who is it?” said Jillian.
“It’s David Farrier, I’m a journalist from –”
“– David Farrier?” said Jillian
“Oh,” said Jillian.
“I was just wanting to speak to Michael.”
“Just one moment,” said Jillan.
[inaudible mumbles from Michael Organ in the background]
“No, thank-you. Bye,” said Jillian, and hung up.
* I’m just taking a wild stab in the dark here, but the $760 probably doesn’t go to charity