First, the tip. StorageHeroes Tip #1: BE THOROUGH. It's easy to buy a locker and just quickly ransack it like Barry Weiss, throwing things left and right until you get the one or two things you see that you really want. But unlike Barry, most of us are not unconcerned with cash! We spend a lot of our hard-earned money on units and need to recover all of the $ we can... or we're capitalist pigs like Brian. :) This means two things:
1) Don't throw away or donate items that seem like they aren't worth a lot. Garage sales were invented for a reason. $1 doesn't seem like a lot, but when you have 50 $1 items (books, clothing, etc) -- it adds up! Don't take the lazy way out. AFTER your sale(s), if you still have items left, then you can donate them.
2) Look EVERYWHERE. This one has three parts to it. A) Places that don't seem like a good hiding spot for you may seem like a stellar hiding spot for other people. So far we've found a $20 bill in a Bible, items inside a hollowed out book, and safe combinations taped to the bottom of drawers or written on a piece of paper tucked inside a Playboy magazine. It's called HIDDEN treasure for a reason-- people just don't leave it outright or in a box marked "valuable treasure", well, UNLESS they're leaving it in a unit that "Storage Hunters" is filming for their TV show.... did I say that out loud?
B) People forget about things, just like you forget about things. I want each of you to think right now about how many Christmas presents you have that you've never used inside your house. or how many gift cards you have that are still in your wallet, or how many gift cards that you've used once or twice, but might still have $1 or $2 balance and are sitting in a junk drawer somewhere because you didn't think it was worth it to go home for them when you were already at the store. Probably a bunch, right? Check out the picture below of the gift cards I've found just in the last 3 weeks alone (not counting the $160 one to Cheesecake Bistro or the $100 Marriott hotels gift card, not to mention my entire Wheel of Fortune outfit was purchased using a JC Penney gift card we got in a locker). In the last 2 units we've opened, we've gotten giftcards from Starbucks, Subway, Blockbuster, Mervyns (RIP Mervyns), JC Penney, Victoria's Secret, Walmart and McDonalds. They add up! Some were only $0.52 (McDonalds) or 1.84 (Walmart), or $1.97 (Subway), but that's over $4 we didn't have to spend-- wouldn't you use a $4 off coupon? Gift cards are so easy, all you have to do is call the number on the back to check the balance. You should have heard my squeals of delight when I discovered that the Victoria's Secret contained $41.50 and the JC Penneys contained $30. The giftcards:
Pockets are another big deal. People take off jewelry all the time, put it in their pockets (or just cash/change in their pockets) and forget about it. I have found 10 and 14 karat gold pieces in pockets worth hundreds of dollars. People don't tend to forget about $100 bills, but earrings and rings tend to get stuck in the corners of pockets and forgotten about.
Finally, C) People sometimes don't even know what they have in the first place - I open every single piece of mail I find. Most of it is junk and needs to be thrown away, some of it is sentimental and needs to be returned to the owner, but every once in awhile we find something that was unopened or forgotten about that yields great things. We have opened envelopes with savings bonds, greeting cards with gift cards, and greeting cards with cash. The other day, I was in a unit I still need to blog about (it was cigar/alcohol/art unit) and I saw junk mail that had the "do not bend" stamp on it, and some handwriting in the upper left hand corner. I opened it, thinking maybe I would get a picture of wildlife or a calendar or bookmark, and ended up with a letter that said "Dear Customer, we hope you will try our business. Please accept this $5 Starbucks gift card as a token of our appreciation. Have a latte on us!" -- The tenant probably had no idea it was there because who would expect a gift card in junk mail-- but that's the thing, you have to expect the unexpected. I actually found pictures of the junk mail that I took inside the unit, and here they are:
A couple of months ago we were cleaning out a unit next to a fellow bidder who was cleaning out his unit. He'd hired a crew of guys to help him and they were kind of just picking up things and throwing them in boxes and into the moving truck he'd rented. I knew he was on a time schedule (unlike Brian and I) because he was renting labor and a truck, but I still told him that he was being a little haphazard with the way he was doing things. He had an entire pile he was throwing away and I asked him three times if he had gone through it, and three times he said yes. I pointed out a really nice leather briefcase/ man-bag thing and he said he didn't want it, I could have it. I went through all of the pockets, and found some change, and more importantly an MP3 player. I handed it over, and did the right thing, but more importantly- he saw that I know what I'm doing and that it pays to be thorough. He could not hide his embarrassment.
Second, the story: Everyone makes mistakes, including us, and today I almost made a big one. The unit we bought last week was amazing-- we paid $350 for it, and we had several pieces of antique furniture, including two cool record players, an 18 piece art collection (most signed and numbered), an entire bar full of unopened liquor, and a slew of cigars. Tons of office supplies, recordable cds, and a cute little radio as well. We definitely made our money back and it was a good unit. I put the cigars up on Facebook, and a lot of people expressed interest, but no one committed to buy (why no one wanted to buy a $30 cigar for $8-$15 is beyond me, but I digress), so today when I happened to pass a cigar shop while running an errand in the French Quarter I stopped in and asked the owner if he'd be interested in them. He said yes. I went home and grabbed the 3 boxes of cigars and went back. He agreed to purchase most of the cigars, and 2 of the 3 boxes, but did not want the third. I was trying to talk him into buying the third box, and he was trying to show me why he didn't think the box was worth anything, and he took the box apart to show me it had some damage in the bottom of it. (I had taken the cigars out and looked underneath, but it had never occurred to me to take the box apart). There, in the crevice where the box splits open, was a small gold ring. I thought maybe it was a piece of foil or cigar wrapping paper at first, but I picked it up, and examined it more carefully (someone else might not have done that), and low and behold, it's an 18k gold and platinum wedding ring, engraved from our tenants first marriage (he was married in 1996 and divorced in 2002). I took the ring back, ended up selling the box to the man for $3, and went on my merry way.
Moral of the story-- had I not taken the box to a professional who had taken it apart, I never would have known it was there. Although, I COULD have taken it apart myself had I been more thorough. It wasn't a difficult thing to do. I always can go one step further than even I think I have gone. The other moral of the story is that if someone would have purchased that box of cigars from us (or if the man would have just bought it outright for the original $10 I tried to sell it to him for), they'd be approximately $300 richer. I have not weighed the ring yet, so we're not sure of it's exact value, but last time I checked 18K and platinum were in the $1700-1800 an ounce range. We also could have ended up holding on to the box for a year in the warehouse while we sold the cigars off one by one, and eventually might have sold the box itself at a garage sale for just a few dollars. it's funny how these things work--- it was definitely a very serendipitous day for me... next time though, I will be even MORE thorough.
Pictures of the ring: