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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Looky LOSE

We talk about Looky Loo's a lot-  it's an industry nickname for people who come to auctions just to watch.  Normally, these people don't affect us one way or another--   they're just there.  It's not like their presence makes us have to pay more or less for a unit.   We understand that it's a fun thing to watch in some cases and it's interesting for us so we know it must be interesting for other people, too. The other day, though, it was a total looky loo nightmare.

Auctions were on Saturday, which is very very rare.   For whatever the reason, auctions are almost always on a traditional Monday-Friday 9-5 type of schedule.  I don't know if it's because that's when the auctioneers prefer (and not to have to work on weekends),  or if that's when facility management wants to do it, or whatever.  It's just typically the case.  A change of auctioneer has recently occurred at a company we frequent often, and along with this change came a change of auction date- to Saturday.

We knew that with auction being on Saturday, we'd get a lot of people who were off of work that couldn't normally come to auctions that would want to see what they were all about,  and we were okay with that--   what we weren't expecting was the total crowd of everything from college kids dressed up in cowboy hats to families with babies.  Yes,  BABIES.  It was insanity.

You know how I feel about babies or children at auction (see Storage Heroes'  Newbie Code of Conduct here) --  so there's no need to repeat those sentiments, but I will let you know that on this day, it was about 45 degrees outside, so it was at least 55 degrees inside, and it was freezing.   The storage facility is an old warehouse type of place, so the concrete floors and walls only made it more of a damp cold.   I could not believe that there was a child, no, baby, exposed to those types of conditions.  Brian also noticed that the kid spit up at least twice all over the facility floor.

As for the grown up bidders, there were about 5-6 regulars, about 10 or so people that we've seen once or twice,  and about 30 additional people we've never seen before.  Teenagers, college kids, families, a single mother with her 10 or 11 ish year old daughter,  the range was pretty wide.    We did a caravan auction with 3 separate locations, with between 2-10 units at each site.  We skipped location #1 because it only had 2 units, but location 2 and 3 each had quite a few so we were optimistic about our chances of buying a good unit at a good price.  We were dead wrong.

We did not buy a single unit all day.  Not a single one of our regular competitors bought a single unit all day.  Well, except for the one who gave away our information to a tenant that one time, but he's a bottom feeder and bought a unit that no one else wanted (a $5 unit) for $75.   Auctioning took forever,  each person had to look in the unit at least 2 or 3 times before bidding started, and with the size of the crowd that was about 10-12 minutes at each unit-- let's just say that we were there 2 hours longer than we expected to be, and spirits were very low by the end of the day.   Every unit we wanted went for 3-4 times what we normally would have paid for it.  This particular facility also now charges auctioneer fees and a deposit (if you leave things in the unit you do not get your deposit back) as well as sales tax so these were all reasons that contributed to us not buying units.

To give you an idea of some prices-- there was one unit that had nothing but an old washer and dryer in it.  When I say old I mean 10 years plus, and probably realistically more like 16-20 years old.    There was NOTHING else inside- no boxes, no bins, no bags.   There was no guarantee that these appliances work, although you'd assume that if the tenant was paying to store only that they must.  The dryer was gas.   It typically would have went for between $5 and $25.  It went for between $50 and $75.   Which means closer to $100 with the fees and taxes and such, and close to $200 with the refundable deposit added in. Even if you can sell these appliances for $80-100 a piece (after you've cleaned them up a lot), you've barely doubled your money.  To move heavy appliances--  for less than $100-- that just doesn't seem worth it!

There were about 3 units that we really, truly wanted, me more than Brian but I really did want all three of them.  The first one was a 5X15 and it was packed to the brim with boxes.   The stuff was newer, in good condition, and you could only see what was in one or two of the boxes but it was nice enough and well enough packed stuff that I was willing to gamble on it.  We decided to take the unit up to $150 and not over $200.  Bidding ENDED at $395.    We hung in there until $300.  We went over our limit because I thought maybe we'd have to adjust our own rules due to the changing crowds, and we STILL were not able to get this unit.  Super frustrating.    Had we won the bidding at $395, it would have been more like $450 with all of the new fees, PLUS we would have had to submit a $100 deposit making it $550 up front.  On a unit we usually would not have gone over $200 on.

The second unit we wanted (well, I wanted),  was a 10X10 filled to the brim with stuff.  It was in terrible order (thrown in) and it was SO dusty. You could tell something horrible had happened and it had been there a long time.  I actually convinced a lot of the bidders NOT to bid on it against us because I pointed out a hamster cage, complete with food, water, and bedding-- and what I thought was even a dead hamster.   For me, there was a lot of surprise and mystery in the unit,  dust indicated that no one had come to retrieve the good stuff out,  and it looked like a ton of stuff.  I could see some larger pieces outside of boxes that did have some good value. There was also a very large electronic appliance that you could only see from the backside.  I thought it was one of those 1970s record players (we have 3 at this point),  Brian thought it was an old TV.  The guy who was bidding against us thought it was an organ.   We really thought we had this unit and at $225 bidding had ceased.  All of a sudden organ guy chimes in, and it goes for something like $425.  I think we stopped at around $375.    If that WAS an organ, he may have made a couple hundred profit, but if it wasn't he either broke even or lost money on the unit.  And I'm sure it took him HOURS to get all of that stuff out of there.  It's just not worth it.

People don't realize what goes into this, I really don't think they do.  You have to consider lots of things--    how many loads you can fit into your truck, gas prices, if you need people to help you move,  whether your unit is outside or inside, if there's a ramp, if there's an elevator, if the facility has carts,  the fact that you can't use their dumpsters,  etc, etc, etc.   If you have a 10X10 on the 5th floor, it's going to take you about 2 hours longer than if you would have had it on the ground floor outside.   Just things like that.  Not to mention, this particular auction was on a Saturday-- so your 24-48 hours to clean out the unit was going to take you right through Saturday night, and through the Saints game on Sunday.  Who wants to do that?  Unless you wanted to do it Monday morning, which was no problem for us- but I don't think these people with regular jobs considered that.   There was a lot that these people were not considering.

There was this one lady, for example, who made $45 bids on three separate units.   She ended up winning one that looked like junk (I think it was just one chair and one appliance, maybe a dryer, I don't really remember), but the point is--   she bid $45 on things that were TOTALLY random.  One unit had appliances, one unit had books, one unit had household goods--  I'm not sure what kind of items she was after.  She had her daughter with her and it looked like they were having a blast-- but I guess my point is, if you're intent on spending $45 and you have no care or concern what you're buying with that money-- why not just go to the mall?    She'll probably double her money...  but is it going to be worth it after an hour of EXTREMELY heavy lifting for her (or hopefully someone she recruited to help her) ?  Wouldn't she have had more fun maybe, at the mall?  Or casino?

The third unit we wanted didn't have too much stuff- some beat up smaller pieces, a papasan chair which was pretty cool, and some little garbage strewn here and there-- but it had something I saw that a few others didn't see,  a jewelry box.  We decided that the contents of the room were only worth $60-$80 but that we'd be willing to go to $200 just to see what was inside the jewelry box.  Again, we had to take the room into the $400s and again we backed down right under $450.

Could we have spent $1500 at auction?  Absolutely.  Did we have it?  You bet.  Are we glad we didn't? YES.   I can't imagine spending all of that money and doing all of that work and having nothing for it in return.  If the jewelry was there she probably made a pretty penny.  If it wasn't, she lost her ass.  And we're just not THAT much into gambling.   Okay, so I kind of am-- but roulette and blackjack are WAY more fun than heavy lifting!

I was so aggravated all day Saturday and everyone around probably thinks I'm the biggest witch they've ever encountered-- I was super rude to quite a few people.  But, honestly, this is my job and I take it seriously.  People are more than welcome to come and look or try or things like that, but when you're constantly giggling and making the comments like "let's run this one up past $500 just to see if we can"  or "this is so much fun I can't wait to tell everyone in my homeroom class about it"  or whatever---   it's getting a little ridiculous.   I would NEVER walk into, say, a doctors office, and proceed to take X-Rays of myself laughing hysterically about how awesome it is that I can do what I saw on TV.  I would never insult the people who have that profession every day in that manner.   It's just totally uncalled for.   At one point, I asked 3 boys who were there... what do they do for work?   One of them was unemployed, one worked at a local restaurant, and one had a job at an office--  they looked shocked when I told them "THIS is my job." --   I guess people don't realize, but still... it's just frustrating.   It's a free world and people can do what they want--   I really don't mind that they're there,  I just want them to treat the industry that I love with respect.

When we were leaving the third auction,  heading to the office (keep in mind bidding on the last unit had JUST ended 20 seconds prior)--  we saw some of the younger guys packing the entire contents of the locker they had purchased into their truck--  and we stopped cold in our tracks.   You can't do that, and I let them know.  They had no concept of the fact that you actually had to PAY for the unit before you unpacked it.  What if the tenant showed up and paid?  What if the unit was pulled from auction and the sale negated?  You never know what is going to happen-- and then they may potentially get involved in a lawsuit or accusation that someone said maybe they took something or broke something, or whatever.   Not to mention the fact, that, until you pay for something, it's not yours!   Would you go to Dillards, pick out a few things, put them in your car, and THEN go pay your bill?  Absolutely not.  So why is that okay to try at auction? As we walked away, I commented (loudly) that I hoped the tenant did show up and pay just so they'd have to move everything back, that that would be hilarious.  Call it mean spirited,  I wasn't trying to be,  just trying to again reinforce the gravity of what they had done.   Plus, I really was aggravated.  This is not a game.

And as for locks-- of course we had three buyers (on all of the units we bid on and didn't get, to add insult to injury) -- who didn't bring locks.  What exactly did you think was going to happen when you won the bid?   Did you realize that you wouldn't be paying Monopoly money and having Barbie and Ken arrive in the dream car to help you move it while the Lucky Charms leprechaun stood watch at the door?   I really wanted to go to the office after auction to hang around JUST in case they forgot to bring money, too!   But, I was super aggravated at that point and just wanted to get back to the warehouse and then go home.

In the last 2 weeks we have not bought a single unit at auction.   Storage Wars and Auction Hunters have both premiered new seasons in the last month, so that's a huge reason for this.  This happened to us once before over the summer when Storage Hunters came out and all the newbies hung around long enough to each buy one unit once, and then they all kind of disappeared.  I have no doubt in four-six weeks that these people will all be gone and then it will be back to the regulars again before the new season of whatever new show comes out--     that's just the way it works sometimes.  It is super frustrating though because it's right before Christmas and I'd kind of like a Christmas bonus just the way someone working in an office would get one, or to bust my butt for extra commission like someone in sales might.   That's hard to do when you can't work on the units you've purchased because you haven't purchased any.   We always promised though writing this blog that we'd share the good, the bad, and the ugly lady in too-tight clothes who has a terrible attitude to match her appearance----  and so that's what we're doing.  This isn't a show or a website where we share the 18th century Chinese vase we've found that's going to bring us $22,000 and nothing else---  we share the dirty underwear, the used adult toys, the trash, and the disappointment with you as well.  But, it's a very accurate picture of the entire business.

On the bright side, just for an update, in the last 2 weeks we've had plenty of free time because we haven't purchased any units (except for the $5 unit), so we've been able to visit other people's garage sales, get new tricks and tips, buy some items that we plan to sell to you for reasonable prices.  We will have an article or a book soon about ways to make your garage sale most effective.  After 49 sales to date, we're DEFINITELY garage sale professionals!  We've commissioned 5 new estate clients, so you should be looking for some amazing consignment deals coming soon, some of which are already posted on our page on Facebook.  We're in the process of buying and selling off the contents of about 5 storage units that we are helping people get rid of so they no longer have to pay the monthly fees they can't afford.  We've also been buying and selling gold, coins, and other commodities (and sports memorabilia) for over 20 individuals at this point.  So, we're branching out, and making the most of a lousy situation.   I can't wait until Storage Wars starts showing re-runs again! :)

Storage Heroes Tip #18 --  Do NOT take even ONE item out of a storage unit until you have paid for it in full and you have the receipt in your hand.  Otherwise, the tenant could show up and pay, or the auctioneer/facility management can still negate the deal for legal or other reasons and then it becomes a nightmare trying to figure everything out.

Storage Heroes Tip #43 --  When having Garage Sales, don't forget to buy balloons.  You can get a nice group of about 7 helium balloons (including hi-float, which keeps them long enough to allow you to buy them the night before your sale)  for roughly $10.  It makes about a $150-$300 difference in sales, so it's a huge advantage.

Until next time,

Storage Heroes


  1. Tax ID saves you on the taxes, bring a trailer big enough to the auction to haul a 10x20 unit in. You have multiple locations, still bring the trailer. BP is common at every storage auction I have attended for the past 10+ years, deposits are common now but you get that back. I agree the shows are bringing out a bunch of lookers. I wouldn't complain about each locker taking forever to sell if you are getting to see inside before bidding begins, I have been to a few where bidding started before I got to the unit door.

  2. In reference to your blog about the "SINGLE MOTHER with her10-11ish daughter an 45 dollars to spend"! Well, I have mixed feelings about YOUR interpretation of the women and how the readers could misconstrue your OPINION! And, I may add I'm glad it's only your opinion!!!

    As I read..I thought wow, a single mother; good for her. She out there with 45.00 dollars trying to make a profit. As you put it: you thought she should be at the mall spending her 45.00 since she has no care in the world...cause she bidding on random units. My thoughts were...cud-does to her " SHE NOT AT THE MALL SPENDING HER 45.00 ON RANDON STUFF"!

    And now on to the junk she won...maybe a chair and dryer an double her money!?! Well, one persons junk is another treasures. And "doubling her money"...good for her; at least she not at mall spend her 45.00 dollars or at the casino throwing it away. And, for the 1hr of extreme lifting & loading her "junk"; again cud-does to her...sound like she's trying to make some money.

    So from my point of view...try not to be so negative on look-loses or other bidders, they might be trying to make a living just like you!!

    As for as "YOU" saying people must have thought your the biggest WITCH ever. Sounds like it to me...

  3. You're totally missing the point. I'm all for single women making it in this business... hello? I'M a single woman. If she has a daughter, more power to her. I hope she DID make $500 on that unit. We never wish anyone ill. However, part of the point of this blog is for instructional purposes-- and someone who is dropping bids without even looking inside the unit first, well, we kind of need to point that out. We also need to point out when we think people are getting in over their heads-- like starting off with heavy appliances as opposed to small manageable boxes or bags. I sincerely hope the lady reads this blog, understands her mistake (or posts that everything went great) and we continue to educate!

  4. Well I guess you missed the point I was making!! How can you educate the public by offering your instructional information, when it's quite apparent your not following your OWN rules and giving out wrong information!!!

    To start off with: The lady is NOT a single mother...I AM MARRIED! The daughter is not 10-11ish.....MY DAUGHTER IS 15! I have a well established business, that consist of a variety of cliental...that I know what there wants and needs are. I buy storage units to satisfy my clients. I also have many different size trailers if I need to haul over size stuff.

    Well as you were more focused on myself and the crowd around you...the unit that I won for 45.00 consisted of a working dryer..sold for 100.00, table w/4chairs...sold for 150.00, and 2rockers...sold each 50.00. For a grand total of 350.00!(might I said the unit consisted of junk and only had a chair an appliance) I did NOT have to pay the 100.00fee, because I emptied the unit right than an there. It took me a matter of 20 min to load it in the back of my truck, as the unit was outside with a loading dock right next to the unit...where all I had to do was back the truck up and MY items went straight into the back of my truck. (might I add again...NO EXTREME LIFTING) point...hmmm, your blog..was a little miss leading I do believe! Follow your own need to start looking a little harder in those units and stop criticizing others; as you said in your own words " haven't bought a unit in 2weeks"! I do believe my educating is done here! You have a marvelous day!

  5. And we thought no one was reading this blog! Much less competitors! AWESOME.

    We don't mean to offend- sometimes maybe we see things differently than you do. All you have to do is correct us. It's an open forum. And for pete's sake-- rather than posting about "THAT lady" as an anonymous user-- why don't you just come clean and say "Hey guys- that was me" -- It would have saved us all a lot of unnecessary reading.

    I'm glad you made money. It never benefits us for someone to lose money, especially when it's someone who's actually in the business and not a newcomer. (Although you can't blame us for not knowing that because you have never once introduced yourself to us at any of the last 10 months auctions we've been to) I'm also glad you didn't have to move it. Good job.

    We've been blessed to not buy a unit in 2 weeks-- we've been selling estates which requires no upfront cash AND no moving furniture. Win win win.

    Best of luck. Can't wait to go up against you at the next auction! ;)

  6. Wow.
    I wonder if "that lady" has ever thought of maybe buying a dictionary or going back to school with some of the money she is making? And what in the world is "cud-does" supposed to mean????

  7. Oh wait, it just hit me... it should be "kudos" right?

  8. Interesting tip on having balloons for a garage sale. I wonder why this brings bigger sales... maybe makes the shoppers giddy so they purchase more?!?

  9. When I got to the end of the article I was going to suggest something in line with the comment by Jennifer, too. Isn't the point of texting to be shorter in length? Therefore proper spelling of kudos by "that lady" would be more apropos in this situation. And Rebecca, your comments are great, even if they aren't PC! Having worked retail for years, THIS is what you want to tell the people! So, when it's your own business you can, and I like that! People really are unintelligent!
    This is a way late post-as I just discovered your blog this week & have been reading voraciously to catch up! I leave you with just one word though, maybe just use a little bit of this word, otherwise I agree with EVERYTHING you have said in your blogs: humbleness. You actually remind me of myself in the way you talk & think (and yes, I'm working on incorporating that word into my life, too!!!). I appreciate how successful you two have been! Keep up the great work!!! And keep those great blogs coming!! Stupid people!!!



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