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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Worst. Auction. Ever.

The other day we went to the worst auction we have ever been to (for a number of reasons)...  and I super hate to make you endure even a percentage of what we went through that day, but it's an epic story that must be told.

Usually auctions are bad because of one of the following reasons:  1) it's really hot and miserable outside (but hey, that comes with the territory and we will never complain about that... out loud)  2)  it's super crowded with either people we hate who always bid against us or 3) it's super crowded with newbies ,  4) the auctioneer or facility owner/management are complete morons,  5) nothing is listed correctly, or 6) the stuff up for auction is all complete garbage.    They say 6 is the number of evil and I totally agree- because on this day we were 6 out of 6 on these reasons!

Let's start from the beginning.  When a unit goes up for auction, according to Louisiana law, there must be an ad posted in the paper.  You already know this if you read our blog (congratulations for being so smart and awesome),  but if you don't-- the advertisement has to tell you the time of the auction, the name of the tenant, the location of the auction, and the number of the storage unit as well as what's inside.   Some facilities cheat by just putting "miscellaneous household items"  under every single unit, but they really aren't supposed to. Not saying they're supposed to put a line by line commentary "one red sock and one dirty brown sock,"  but they are supposed to briefly look at the contents and list the big ticket items.   Here's a sample of one of these ads:

Notice of Sale On Thursday August 4 , 2011 at 9:15am and after, in accordance with LA RS: 4759, Storage Post, 10259 Airline Dr, St Rose, La 70087 will sell at Public Auction for unpaid rent to the Highest Bidder for CASH ONLY, the following storage units A066 Gilda Gaulden Bxs, chr, drsr, mtrs, lmp, clths, bgs, hhgs. A113 Timothy Smith tls, pt, chpsw, arcomp, tls, const. unit. B238 Randy Lambert bdg, chr, lmp, drsr, bxs, micr. A070 Melissa Burnam tts, bk, bgs, bdg, bxs, mir, hhgs. B189 Melissa Burnam constr. Itms, chr, wshr. A126 Bryan Williams whls, atvs, bedfrm. A013 Bryan Williams filcab, comp, bxs, ofcfrn. B217 Steven Pitts elesctr, mtrs, bgs, wshr, bxs, hhgs. And if they be not bids, may itself purchase the items for the amount sufficient to satisfy claim or donate to charity. SOME MINIMUM BIDS.

You should notice a few things about the above ad.  1) Time and place,  2) LA RS:4759, which is the statute of Louisiana law which allows them to sell the items to recoup some of the storage facilities owed-rent, 3) the unit numbers and descriptions, even though shorthanded here,  and 4) the part about SOME MINIMUM BIDS.  This is pretty important and is supposed to be in an ad where a unit has minimum bids.   Now, let's look at the one from the AUCTION FROM HELL:

Public Auction: Pursuant to La. R.S. 9:47569 & 4760 American Mini Storage, LLC, 480 Wall Blvd. Gretna, La. 70056 (504)392-1300 Auction on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 10:00 A.M. Unit #334 Gabriella Hart, #277 Rev. John Brooks Sr. #274 Richard F. Tierney Jr., #126 Michelle A. Landry, #199 Robert Seal, #222 John Allisson, #124 Kendra R. Lane, #105 Sandra H. Bartholomew, #97 Amin A. Jouden, #76 Debra F. Maxon, #21 Sawsan McCloskey. Units consist of household items, furniture, tools & Misc. items.

You'll notice a couple of things about this one.  1)  The statute RS:4759 is typoed, that should have told me to stay away right there-- they also added in 4760 which is rare  2)  The units don't have any descriptions, they are only lumped together at the bottom (which I've never, ever seen before).  

We already knew that this wasn't a storage auction that would be facilitated by an auctioneer (because we know all the auctioneers at this point and we're on their mailing lists)... so we figured it was a small "Mom and Pop" owned facility (which is usually better for us, in many ways)...   We also realized it was a place that we had for some reason never been to before (they must only auction once every few months)...  so, going in, it was all signs of a great auction day-- but we were not expecting anything like what we ran into! 

We arrived to find a big crowd waiting outside.  They weren't letting people going into the office but were passing a clipboard around outside.  This is a BIG red flag whenever you go to auction and they will not let you enter the office.  It usually means (in our experience) that they are either stalling waiting for a tenant to show up and pay (or a bidder who is a friend of theirs to show up and bid) or they are doing things that they don't want you to see them doing (like looking at pictures that they've taken inside the unit or discussing items they found or moved).  Whenever we have been locked outside of a management office we have noticed something fishy happening that same day.  We make it a point to look for fishy things when we are locked out and to be super alert and careful.

Here's a video I shot of the crowd.  My apologies-- all of the videos are super upside down and crazy-like, but I was trying to subtle-ly pretend I was checking mail on my phone and not to alert anyone I was videotaping (you really aren't supposed to most of the time):

The auction starts at 10am and we move to the first of 10 units.  The owner (who is acting as auctioneer, which is fine)  announces the opening bid to be $200.  At this point, I thought he had gotten a bid from one of the newbies who had been watching too much Auction Hunters and wanted to "jump the bid" (throwing out a high bid out of sequence to scare others off).   I had no idea that he had basically started out at $200 (a minimum bid), which was a no-no because he did not list minimum bids and he did not let us know before he opened the unit that there would be a minimum bid.    And for the record, before he announced the bid of $200, Brian and I decided that the most we'd be willing to pay for this particular unit was $200.   So we were shocked at the $200 bid, and even more shocked when the newbies started going back and forth between $200-$425.  

Displays of testosterone are totally common in this business, especially for new guys who are trying to prove themselves, and the more new guys there are, the worse for everyone else.   In retrospect, I think one or both of them may have been a plant by the auctioneer, but I don't know that for sure so in fairness I can't allege that.   But what happened next, was RIDICULOUS.

The auctioneer gets a bid for $450, and at this point, all of the experienced bidders are huddling in a corner discussing what it is that we've missed.   We all come to the conclusion that we didn't miss anything, and we're trying to figure out what the crap is going on.   I think I might have loudly announced that the bid was $280 more than it was worth, but that's neither here nor there ;)     The auctioneer should have kissed the bidder's hands and praised the heavens for his luck, but instead he turns around and says "I'm not giving this unit up for less than $500."    I am not kidding you when I say that there was a GASP throughout the entire crowd.    Someone shouts "you can't do that" (totally true), and he (he had a ridiculous used car salesman shirt on and a ridiculous straw hat with a feather in it so from now on we will call the auctioneer/owner  StoragePimp)...   StoragePimp says "the tenant owed $750 on this unit and I have a responsibility to get at least most of my money back and I won't let it go for less than $500."     One of the experienced bidders shouts "that's not OUR problem that you let them go several months without paying"   and rather than agreeing with her or just saying it was his prerogative, he starts rattling off the Storage laws in our state.    I wanted SO badly to tell StoragePimp that if he was REALLY familiar with the laws in our state he would know that he is not allowed to up a minimum bid in the MIDDLE OF AN AUCTION, but I kept my mouth shut.  There were still 9 units and I wanted to see what was left.   Brian asks him why if the minimum was $500, did he start the bidding at $200 (excellent point!  I was so proud of him.  I think you can hear that on the video).  StoragePimp says there is some really good things in there that make it worth it (which he's not supposed to do), so I asked what was inside that made him set the minimum so high (usually they will tell you that it's a TV or a printer or whatever made them make that decision) and he tells me he's "not allowed to say".    I'm getting really annoyed now at his misrepresentation of the law ONLY when it's convenient for him.  Grr.   I'm talking/typing a lot now, so just watch the video of the crowd's reaction to this whole situation:    (There are two videos... watch them in succession, top to bottom):

If you look closely you can probably see AuctionPimp himself!  If you listen closely, Auction Pimp keeps referring to this "piece of paper" he gave us that has the rules and regulations of the day on it.  It's not uncommon for storage units to hand out this piece of paper, but it was obvious when we got there they had more bidders than expected because they ran out of stick-on numbers.   They also ran out of sheets, because neither I, nor Brian, nor anyone else we know got one.   AuctionPimp asked me if I got a piece of paper, I said no.  He made no attempts to give me one.

If you looked in the unit, you probably saw a couple of Sterilite bins, a couch that was in okay condition, a few mirrors, 2 chairs (but no table), and some type of hutch desk,  the thing on the right hand side was a basketball goal in box, or rather the BOX for a basketball goal (if the box has been opened and you can't see inside you always have to assume a possibility that the thing is not inside).    Realistically, we would have sold the desk for about $80-$100 at a garage sale, the mirror for $40,  the basketball goal if it was there for $50 or so, the chairs would have gone for $20 a piece, and the miscellaneous items would have probably amounted to another $100.  That means about $300-$400, which means we're only willing to spend between $150-$200.   There's no point in doing all the work if you can't at least double your profit. 

At this point, we have been on this first unit for over 15 minutes.  Usually it only takes 2-3 minutes tops per unit and that includes walking time to and from the unit.   We realize that we're going to miss our next auction, that's at 11:30.  We don't know if we should stay or go.  Sadly, we decide to stay.

It was more of the same foolishness.  For each unit, bidding started abnormally high.  Bidding limits are announced in the middle of bidding, and only if there is more than one person bidding.  Each time we go to a unit it's full of crap and completely covered in dust, BUT there is one "amazing item"  that's displayed in front, beautifully and perfect, and in mint condition.  One unit had a collection of 3-4 Barbies, in the boxes, sitting on the top of a dresser, facing out, standing upright, as if they had been put out in a storefront.  Who packs a storage unit in cardboard boxes taped up but puts their Barbies on top, facing the door?  It was so blatant and ridiculous.   

I will say that one unit was SO full of crap that I remarked "if there was a rat inside the rat would be the cleanest thing in there"   to which the crowd laughed but StoragePimp gave me a dirty look.   I said "what, at least the rat would have gotten to go in and out of the unit!"  -- He wasn't amused, but I didn't care.  I was even blatantly filming at this point because I did not mind being kicked out one bit.

Also, the auctioning for each unit was taking FOREVER.  We spent at one point (I had my stopwatch turned on)  17 minutes at one unit and still had not concluded bidding.    We were so bored.  We were talking to our competitors (which we usually try to avoid as much as possible),  and at one point I went and exasperatedly just sat down in the shade and tried to take a nap.  I was sitting there for about 15 minutes, and Brian snapped a picture:

We also encountered a young family with their child (what is with people bringing infants and toddlers to auction???   That reminds me of another story I need to tell you, where I accidentally cursed out a baby, but that's for another day!)  At least the kid had a good point:

The auction continues as miserably as possible and there is only one unit that's worth bidding on, at the end, because it has an antique wardrobe, an antique desk, and that's really it.  The clothes have been soiled, and the boxes contained MREs (anyone living in post-Katrina New Orleans knows this term, but for those who don't it's a military Meal Ready to Eat) and food so that rats had totally ripped it to SHREDS.  It has clearly been there a super super long time.  But, I want the hutch and the desk, and know that the rat bodies and feces will discourage other bidders, so Brian agrees to bid on the unit for us.

This is how bidding goes:
Brian:  $5
newbie: $50
Brian:  $60
Newbie: $75
StoragePimp:  Can I get $100?
Brian:   No way.
Me:  It's worth it.  Plus, it's a Mom and Pop so we'll probably get a little longer to clean out.
Brian (to StoragePimp):  How long do we get to clean this unit out?
StoragePimp:  Did you get your paper?
Brian:  No.  How long do we get and can we use your dumpsters?
StoragePimp:  There's a city dump next door.  Do you have an ID?  Do you live in Jefferson Parish? Brian:  Yes.  How long do we have?
StoragePimp: You really need to get a paper and read over it.

(it's TOTALLY obvious to me how each unit has taken over 20 minutes at this point... we kind of stopped paying attention on each one after the bidding got too high to be believable)

StoragePimp:  We always hand out the papers and it's important for you to know the rules and read it.
Brian:  You couldn't have just told me "48 hours", sir?
Me:  What a douche (referring to StoragePimp, not Brian)
Both of us in unison:  Let's go.   At least we cost him $25.

We leave, and tell the lady in the office (through the snowball stand / drive-through type window she had opened for us)  that she can remove us from the mailing list.  She says "we don't have a mailing list."  Figures.

We learned a great lesson, and as much as we don't like certain auctioneers or facilities for whatever the reason, we try not to burn any bridges because you never know what types of treasures you'll find there. It's not worth losing money over pride.  In this case,  I don't think there will be any money to be lost, and we'll never be returning.  StoragePimp is lucky I didn't report him to the state.     If you guys are truly interested in these laws (and you should be if you want to get into this business), I'll post them in a later post.

Oh, and the best part??   That antique wardrobe that I wanted?  We got for free a day later when Brian found it in a trash dump.   It's valued at $1000.  Read this post if you want more information on that whole tale.

Here are pictures of the wardrobe.  At least we got something out of this nightmare!  And for free!


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  2. nsurprisingly, the reviews I've found on this place have NOT been so hot!

    One lady even said that the owner is seen frequently in bars bragging about the nice things taken out of the units before auction. This is all rumor, but it's still pretty interesting that it ended up on the internet!

  3. kim and i remember this ass hat very well. to this day i really wish i had left at the start. was that the same day at Pasternack's(sp) in new orleans? another sham of an auction



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