At Labor Day auctions this past Monday, the amount of people was INSANE. At least 60-65. We're used to 8-12. It was raining a lot because of Tropical Storm Lee, so I guess BBQ's were out, but I also thought people would be relaxing. I guess for them playing real life Storage Wars is a pretty good way to spend a day off:
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate newbies. I spend hours and hours of time in forums like StorageTreasures and StorageAuctionForums.com helping people who have questions. I was there once myself. But just like I go to the mall and see the teenagers dressed like skanks and making a total disturbance at the movie theatre-- I have to say to myself "I don't ever remember being THAT obnoxious." TV is making auctions more populated and prices go up-- we all knew that would happen. But at the same time, I'd be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I badmouthed the shows because I love them, and watch them, and that's a big part of why *I* started. There's just gotta be a balance.
When the Auction Hunters producers came to New Orleans and were following us around with videocameras, a lot of the fellow bidders (our competition) were really upset with us for participating. They kept reminding me that my participation in a new show would bring even more competition to the auctions. My points in return were that a) if I didn't do it, someone else would, so I might as well enjoy all of my potential business opportunities and they should as well, and b) that there's a whole part of it that they're missing.
This business is exciting. It's magical. People love it. People love watching the TV shows and reading blogs like this one (thank you) and they're in this fascinated love-at-first-sight stage right now that is ridiculously sweet. Because of that, it's a lot easier for me to have my blogs read than say, someone who is writing about technology, or engineering, or llamas. Whatever floats your boat. This business is difficult enough as it is (although fun) and if something is making people curious about us, then so be it. It's bringing more people out to the auctions, but it's also bringing more people to our garage sales, thrift shops, and more people are responding to the eBay/Craigslist ads. Hopefully the veterans continue to remember this and show newbies some courtesy (notice I say courtesy and not respect). We can be super thankful because for whatever the reason they've (the old timers) finally embraced Brian and I. We went through some hazing at first, and there is still some dishonesty that goes on with just about everyone (people who have known each other for 20 years still lie to each other about what they find in units or about who really bid against them), but that's to be expected, I guess. At least now people don't give us rude looks or snarky comments and they actually make small talk with us while we're waiting for auction. We have many of their cell phone numbers stored in our phones and they buy from us. The other day I caught myself having so much fun that I had to remind myself that these people who I'm making plans to go out and have a drink with are actually my competition. I'll never be FRIENDS with them and I'll never TRUST them, (Brian I'm sure never even considered these things for one second, but he's a way better businessman than I am), but at least we can be civil and have some fun at auction. And it's helpful to know that I have them to entertain me when Brian isn't around!
With THAT said, newbies need to do their part and stop being jackasses. Last week we saw the # of bidders at auction increase from approximately 12-24. This week I showed up on Labor Day and was greeted by a crowd of 47. I almost passed out. If you guys are going to start coming, you need to obey the Newbies Code of Conduct (yes, I just made this up tonight.) But you still need to obey it or I will punish you somehow. Here are each of the points you need to follow with an actual real-life example where this happened in some cases:
So, without further delay, here it is,
The StorageHeroes Newbie Code of Conduct:
1) Do NOT bring children to auction. I don't care if they are doing a project at school about the storage business or if you have to breast-feed them. I don't care if you can't afford a baby-sitter. It affects me not. You should NOT be at auction if you cannot find someone else to care for your child, and your child CANNOT be at auction, period. Besides the fact that most facilities and auctioneers post this rule in their legal notices/listings, it's common sense. You're going to be in crowded, tight spaces, with a bunch of sweaty, smelly, strangers. In some instances it might be over 100 degrees inside of a hallway. There are going to be a lot of unscrupulous people around. Unit doors will be opening and rats, roaches, dust, or even in extreme cases-furniture are going to be flying down or on top of you. This is NOT a place for children. Don't think I'm wasting my breath, either, because this is common sense. I need to say it because I have seen at least 10 children at auction over the past few Summer months.
I know this post is getting long enough already, but this is the perfect time to tell you about the time Brian made me curse out a child. Yes, he did. It IS his fault. We were at auction and it was a week before my Wheel of Fortune contestant appearance. I was trying unsuccessfully to put my contact lenses in, that I had just gotten the DAY before. (I got them so I could see the letters on the board). I was frustrated and mumbling curse words to myself. Brian reminded me (at the worst possible moment) that people were watching me through the window of the car (they were all waiting like idiots in the 95 degree parking lot and not in the air conditioning of their vehicles) and that I had to look put-together and not stressed out for our competition. This TOTALLY set me off. I started screaming "I don't care what those people think! Most of them are stupider than me, they're ALL worse dressers than me, and I'm a better bidder than everyone here! And you shouldn't be telling me ANYTHING right now!" He started getting angry and was about to tell ME something when I continued on, after spotting a one year old, unattended, toddling around with his blanket and his sippy cup, "Look at this shit! They are so stupid they have f---ing BABIES at auction! Who brings a BABY to an auction? He can barely walk! And he is toddling around with a blankee and a SIPPY CUP, for Christ sake!" At this point, the ENTIRE auction crowd turns and looks right at me, and I realize that maybe the windows in the Corolla are not as sound-proof as I might have once thought. On the bright side, Brian burst out laughing at my bright-red cheeks and diatribe, and I soon followed. We've never seen that little family again, but we have seen their friends, and they haven't talked to me since that day.
2) One or two questions is okay. I am not going to sit here and reveal all of my business secrets to a total stranger. Learn it yourself. - Pretty self explanatory. It's one thing to ask "oh, does this facility allow you to use their dumpster?" or "do you have a store?" -- that's fine. I didn't ask those questions in the beginning, neither did Brian-- we figured it out on our own because we wanted our competition to respect us. Most of it was relatively easy to figure out. But, if you have to ask a question and take the easy way out, that's okay. For the love of all that is holy though--- learn when to stop. The last couple of times I've been asked questions it's gone on and on "how do you make your eBay listings most effective?" "how do you upload your photos?" "how much profit did you make on your last unit?" - It's rude to ask about money and you should know that -- would you walk into a party and ask everyone's age, weight, and salary? Probably not, so don't ask intrusive questions here. The only person I'm going to give all of my secrets to is my business partner. Unless you want to pay a lump sum to become a full partner, stop wasting both of our time.
3) Nobody wants to buy your stuff - We don't care if you have your Grandma's sewing machine or your daughter's hand-made art. We wouldn't be at AUCTION if we didn't like to buy FROM AUCTION. If we wanted your garage sale crap, we'd either have already found you on Craigslist, or we'd have shown up at your garage sale.
4) Nobody wants to sell your stuff - The reason we are at auction in the first place (besides that we like to buy at auction) is to cut out the middle man. We like to buy stuff cheap, and sell it for hopefully more than cheap. We do not need to give anyone else a percentage. If we wanted to do that we would have just started at a Wholesale supply or someplace like Big Lots or the Dollar Store. Or Craigslist. We're here because this is the easy way for us. Buy a bunch of stuff at once and sell it as fast as we can. We do not need to be bogged down with payment arrangements, pick-up arrangements, contracts, stories, explanations, photos of items, or arguments over appraisals. Which brings me to...
5) Don't ask us to appraise your stuff for free - Some of us are experts on some things, some of us aren't, but just like you wouldn't go into a makeup counter and demand a makeover and not even buy so much as a mascara, it is rude to ask us for our professional opinions unless you are planning to sell us this item or give us a cut. The ONE exception is if you are not a newbie. Auction goers who have developed a repertoire with other auction goers can do this as much as they see fit- but they will do it with extreme caution because asking your competition for an appraisal also means that your competition knows exactly what you've gotten, and the buying power you will now have.
6) Do not bid against us just to bid against us for fun - A lot of you have been coming to auctions, bidding against us, and then after we eventually win the room (because you know we will if we really want to) have been making comments like "I just threw a bid out there to see what it was like" or "I've always wanted to do that" -- maybe you were just saving face because you lost the unit, and I guess that's possible, but I have seen people with their friends just messing around. This is business to us. If you cost me an extra $50, you better not be heard bragging afterwards about how it was a bogus bid and you didn't really want that unit. If you ever wondered why people "dropped units" on rookies, (bid and bid and stopped when the newbie had the bid, forcing them to buy the room at an elevated price) this is a huge reason why. On Monday, I had a unit that should not have gone for more than $75. I started the bidding at 20, watched it go to 40, and then to 70 (my bid). Everyone stopped bidding. Then, all of a sudden, right after the "last chance for bids" I hear some bozo egg his friend on, and then before I know it, it's up to $115. I backed away when it crossed 90. I doubt seriously the unit winner even knew what he was bidding on. And it really bothered me because that unit has been up 3 times in the last 3 months and has never been sold for whatever reason (pulled because tenant showed up, or ad in the paper was incorrect, or whatever)--- and I really wanted it, and now because someone is playing Storage Wars I lose it. But, it didn't make financial sense to buy it at that price, so I had to back away.
7) Don't bid against us and then ask us for help - There is kind of an unwritten rule at storage auctions. You don't bid against certain people. It's certainly a business, and you can't let friendship or friendliness get in the way, that's for sure, but sometimes you need certain things from certain people, so you have to let them get units here and there. It never goes unnoticed or unreturned, and if it is, the favor is not done at a later time. That's only happened to us once. For the most part, you comment to the other person "I let you have that one", they know you are genuine, and they help you get another unit later on that you wanted more than them. It's kind of a Brotherhood. Newbies don't understand this yet, and while I don't expect them to because it's complex, there are also some common sense things that you don't do. For example, don't keep me from getting a unit that I really want and then ask me for help immediately after.
Story time, again. Last week there was this new couple that showed up at auctions. Despite obviously not knowing ANYTHING, they were also "know-it-alls" which is the worst possible way to be. I say it all the time to Brian-- I like it better when people are ignorant and nice, or mean and competent. I can't handle the combination of ignorant and bossy. The man kept giving people advice on what TV tells people to do, and directions on how to get here and there (because afterall, it was his neighborhood) -- I guess he doesn't realize that we go to the same facilities every single month and know the addresses and phone numbers by heart. But I digress. So, he's asking me about 7 questions (see Newbie rule # 2) and I'm about to ask him why he's even bothering because clearly he thinks he knows everything, and he mentions that he didn't bring any locks. I offer to sell him one of mine. Keep in mind, I'm being a little nice, but I'm also thinking about the business-if I can make $5 profit on a lock at auction, that's a pretty good way to spend our idle time. He doesn't accept my offer and starts asking other questions. Fast forward to auction. We've been taking it easy on bidding because of the sheer volume of extra people, and I'm patient until I see a unit I really want. The newbies start bidding against me (which is fine, they're allowed to do that), and win the locker because they go over what it's worth. I had to stop at my limit, and I did. But what happens next, just FLOORS me. I don't know if the guy didn't realize he was bidding against me (he was really excited and bidding really fast, after all), or if he just didn't care, because he turns around to me and says "Can I get a lock from you now?" -- Yes, he really just asked me that. My jaw dropped and as quickly as I could I reminded myself that I should compose myself. I responded "Yeah, like I'd give a lock to the person who just bid against me. Good try, buddy." I didn't want to embarrass him, but I wanted him to know that he made a major mistake. Everyone else knew it too because there was a visible gasp throughout the entire crowd after I said that, of both newbies and old crows. I was so aggravated in the car that I actually told Brian en route to the next auction that "for the rest of the day I am bidding on anything they bid on. They will not buy another unit again today." Later on, they bid on something (not even sure why because they didn't have another lock) and I took them up 3 or 4 bids before they stopped bidding against me. We didn't make money on that unit (we didn't lose money either) but we also made a very important point. I stared at them with venom throughout the entire bidding process and they left immediately afterwards. They did not attend the last auction of that day, nor have they come back sense. They might not have had the time (it was only a week ago), they may have busted out on the first unit they bought (I hope they did because they stole it from me) or they may be intimidated, or maybe a little of all of the above, but I can't say that I mind. I am the nicest person in the world-- I give workers tips in the McDonald's drive-through, for goodness sake, but I have to be VERY thick-skinned in this business. Because everyone else is.
Which brings us to...
8) Don't give up - If you really want to be in this business and you have a passion for it and want to do it, don't let anyone stop you. Don't be intimidated, don't stop bidding, don't stop showing up. Eventually they will accept you. And if they don't, you'll just have to be good enough that they do, or better than them so that it doesn't matter. The people who we scare off are the people who didn't deserve it in the first place, because they didn't really have the work ethic or the balls for this business. And in that regard, it all kind of works out. If you are scared off, it wasn't meant to be for you anyway. So I guess you can say we did you sort of a favor. And if you're not scared away, have fun making a name for yourself and learning more each and every day. We still are and can't wait to get to purchased unit #50, 100, and beyond.