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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What's in the Bag?

As we gear up for some of our favorite auctions this week, we know that we will have auctions non-stop Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.   This means a lot of things, but most of all it means that we don't have a lot of time in between auctions to make sure that we have the things that we need.   We always pack bags for digging and for bidding and since some of you have been wondering, particularly those of you who are new to this business, we decided to write a quick little blog about what that entails.

Auction Bag:

Our auction bag contains:

* Flashlights -- We carry several flashlights, one or two really strong ones and a few backup ones.  I also always keep a little mini one in my purse, just in case.  It's good to have at least two so that Brian and I can each have one, but it's also good to have some of different brightness and strength because you never know if you are going to be outside or inside and sometimes it's better to have a weaker light, or vice versa.

* Money Bag -- Of course we have to bring cash to auction, and a money bag is a good place to put all of it in.  It's also better than using wallets, because it helps us stick to our pre-designated limit (where if we went into our wallets we may not do that) and also as a partnership helps us to pool money.   We don't advertise this usually, but I will tell you, that our money-bag is a makeup bag and not a "bank bag"--  it's a little less inconspicuous that way.  We always talk about how an auction would be a perfect place for a robbery because there are SO many people carrying SO much cash.  Hopefully that never happens, but it's a good thing to think about-- and to always be alert for any situation.    A makeup bag helps with that a tiny bit-- plus, I get a chuckle out of seeing Brian with this pink flowered bag!

* Locks - of course if you read this blog regularly you've heard us bitch time and time again about new bidders who buy units and don't have a lock.  You have to bring a lock.  Even if you don't bring a lock, the facilities all sell them on-site (albeit for $14.99 or something ridiculous), so you have no excuse not to get one.  We usually have between 5-20 locks at any given moment.  We each have a key to each of the locks that we have on our keychains (so we don't have to go fishing for a key).   Lots of bidders have one set of locks that are all the same, but we keep a few in various sizes.  Honestly, a lot of them we got for free in lockers (why buy when you can get for free), but it helps to keep various sizes because a lot of the doors are more conducive to different sized locks and some doors actually reject certain shaped locks.  It helps to have a lock for any and every occasion.

* Tax-forms - Some auctions will charge you sales tax unless you have the proper forms indicating that you resell these items and a tax ID #... of course we have this on hand because it saves us money and it's a pain in the butt to wait by the fax machine when you could be digging your unit instead.

* Pencils/pens and notepads -  You never know when you're going to come across a tenant who wants to sell you something out of their locker (that is not being auctioned off) and need to write down a name and number.  Or it's also good if you meet a new contact.

*Business cards - see above

* The LIST - a list I try to do the night before of each auction, the list of # of units, the list of units, who the tenants were, and what's inside.  I try to research the tenants and write a little information about each one, including a brief note letting myself know whether I thought it was a good unit, a bad unit, or undecided.  We always base our buying decision off of what we see at the time, not what we've researched, but we will use it to influence our decision.  For example, if we're a maybe when the door opens, but a no on the list-- we'll back away from the unit.

* The BOOK -  We have this book that contains a lot of things-  it has directions, addresses, local phone numbers (not 1-800 #s to some corporate office but the local number to the people inside-- these numbers are hard to come by), gate codes, door codes, management names, etc. for almost every storage facility we go to.  We tend to remember almost all of the gate codes and things by heart-- but it's nice when you get stuck to be able to say "Oh, that manager is Fred, and his direct line is 555-1234... let's call him and see if the auction is running behind and if we have time for lunch"  for example.

* SNACKS -  So that if we DON'T have time for lunch, we at least have something to eat!  A lot of times it's hurry up and wait, so even though you might be sitting at the facility for 25 minutes waiting for the auctioneer to finish doing paperwork, you don't necessarily know that at the time, so you don't want to leave and get food and miss the entire auction.  Our favorites are sea-salted peanuts, chip-ins (by this company called Popcorn, Indiana-- if they'd like to donate some of this to us, we'd LOVE it),  popcorn by the same aforementioned company (Dark chocolate drizzled chocolate chip Kettlecorn), and Craisins.  We are addicted to Craisins.  Also, water, coke, coffee, string cheese, and anything else we can find in a gas station. (You'd be surprised how many storage units are RIGHT next door to gas stations).

Books - If we get bored, which is often.

Cell phones -  So we can keep doing business, craigslist, phone calls, deals, whatever.  Not to mention, Brian is ADDICTED to Angry Birds.   I like playing Wheel of Fortune!    Also, cell phone chargers, because games really wear out the batteries!

Laptop -  We've decided as of this week to start bringing the laptop-- if you noticed there was a week where we didn't blog at all and it was because we were always at auction-- if I bring the laptop I may not always be able to upload to you, depending on internet, but at least I could do a lot of writing and editing.   We'll let you know how that turns out.

For actually getting into the units, there's the  Digging Bag:

which contains:

* Gloves -  Brian wears them, I usually don't (it's easier for me to tell when I've stuck my hand in something nasty when I don't wear gloves--  I'd rather know right away than get the gunk all over our other good merchandise and/or my face and hair).  I do keep some on hand just in case or if we need to do some lifting, or if I've just had a manicure.

* Change of clothes and shoes -  for me... I usually wear heels/dresses/skirts to auction, and of course, I'd prefer to wear yoga pants/ tennis shoes to dig.  So, I always bring a change, just in case we buy something and need to dig there.

* Hand-sanitizer - Cannot stress enough how important this is!  Especially because of lack of gloves.  We use it ALL the time, and it's no big deal because we find at least 1 bottle free in every storage unit.

*Trash-bags -- the biggest make-or-break item.  When we don't have these, it makes it nearly impossible to dig-- you end up having to make a trash pile, put it back inside the unit, and come back for it later.  You have to touch all the nasty stuff twice, piles move, you forget what you deemed trash and what you didn't, it's just a nightmare.  It's much better to just throw trash away when you see it and move on from there. Plus, most facilities will not let you use their dumpsters, so it's better putting trash in your car, van, or truck, when at least it's surrounded by a plastic bag!

* Napkins/paper towels - in case of spills, if we can't get to a sink, if we're sweaty, if we have to clean off a piece of furniture before putting it into the van, etc.  After awhile you have a ton of old rags that you've found in storage units-- these work, too!

*Snacks - this time though it's Salty chips, pretzels, Water, and lots of Gatorade/Powerade

*Magnet - the easiest way to immediately tell real gold from fake gold

*Magnifying glass - for looking at coins, jewelry etchings, stamps, signatures on paintings, etc.

*Camera-phones - for taking pictures for you, dear reader, for our digging blogs

* Receipts for the units - in case anyone has questions about why we're there-- they also have the new gate codes on them.

* The Book - see above,  gate codes, phone #s, etc.

* Apron - sometimes I wear it to dig (especially if I'm wearing pants or a skirt that don't have pockets)--  it helps to have little compartments to separate valuables from letters from things to get checked out, from  funny things for the blog, etc.  Sometimes I'll also bring zip lock baggies for the same purpose.

Well, that's about it... if I think of anything else, I'll be sure to add it!  Now, it's off to prepare my "the List" for tomorrow's auction!


  1. I'm going to start building me a bag.

  2. Can you tell us what tax forms you bring, other than a W-9?

  3. We don't bring a W-9 at all, it's just the resale license-- showing that you have a tax ID to resell items (proving that the second buyer, not you, will pay tax on the items). You should be able to file as an LLC or corporation online for under $100, and then you can go for a Federal Tax ID and then the resale form! Good Luck!

  4. Most Storage Facilities want "clean" lockers when your done so I take a broom and dustbuster along.They get clean and I get a good rapport with the managers..thanks for all your tips & info



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