I stopped even thinking about them years ago. I was high bidder on some auction lots and they gave them to an under bidder. I wound up confronting Missy on the phone about it and it was comical- "I just don't understand what happened here." followed by no attempt to resolve. It dawned on me that I'd been used by them in a shill game. Never again.
What you are running into is the fact that they don't actually run auctions. Any listings at SAN, regardless of how they are worded, are NOT auctions. They don't take consignments, and they are just selling their own inventory. Aldrich does the same thing, although some of what Aldrich sells is in fact consigned material.
If you want to buy from Apfelbaum (I'm not recommending that one should or should not, caveat emptor), you should do so through their online storefront. Anything that they list on SAN is also on their website. That way, you buy it and it's yours. No "bidding" games.
I previously posted at length about my recent experiences with Apfelbaum after a nasty history with them in the distant past:http://goscf.com/t/55372
I want to restate and expand upon some things I stated in that post...
Buying from any of the "ethically challenged dealers" like Apfelbaum, Anthony's, Aldrich, Langs, etc. is NOT something to be ventured into lightly:
1. It is not for the novice or even intermediate collector. You need to know what you're looking at and able to gauge the legitimacy of what you are buying. If it's an item that would ever require expertization, avoid like the plague. If you don't have the expertise to evaluate authenticity on your own, do not buy.
2. Buying from these dealers is effectively gambling. If you cannot afford to lose, don't play. As in baseball, expect to strike out occasionally (hopefully you'll have a much better average than a baseball player would, so the analogy isn't 100% on point).
3. Expect that if you return things enough times, even for THEIR errors, you will be blacklisted. Their business model is predicated on throwing large quantities of crap at the wall and hoping XX% of it sticks. Repeated returns upset that business model. I have personally been threatened with being blacklisted by several of the dealers in question, and have been blocked on eBay
by one of them.
For those who enjoy the "thrill of the hunt" and "finding the diamond in the rough" it can be an entertaining and exhilarating pursuit, but if you don't have the stomach for that, or if you get annoyed/angered when something isn't exactly what it is claimed to be, then I would recommend that you avoid these dealers at all costs.