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I Hit The Jackpot Buying Storage Unit Contents…NOT!!!

I’ve heard over the years that buying the contents of storage units can yield unexpected treasures. There are urban legends of people who find diamond rings inside boxes of junk.

A while back there was an auction of the contents of abandoned storage units near me so I decided to check it out. It was a cold winter’s day. Auction-goers milled around, sipped hot coffee and slapped their hands together to stay warm. At 10am sharp, the auctioneer emerged from a warm hut and handed out a list of the unit numbers to be auctioned. We were not allowed to preview the contents of the units or inspect anything prior to the sale. We literally followed the auctioneer from unit to unit…he’d pull up the door….we’d peer inside and the auction would begin.

The first sale was of a large unit full of mechanic’s equipment and tools. I’m not a tool girl myself so I watched the proceedings. The crowd mumbled that it was a good unit with a lot of “money in those tools”. A man won the unit’s contents for a few hundred dollars and he seemed happy.

We proceeded to the next unit. The auctioneers slid up the door and showed a space packed from floor to ceiling with neatly marked moving boxes. Boxes were fitted in the space like puzzle pieces. Well, in my head, if anyone took such time and care to pack the unit so well, there must be something worth saving in there. I won the contents for $250.00.

The crowd strolled away and left me staring at my new belongings. I opened one box. A dirty “pleather” coat. I opened another box. A greasy George Foreman grill. Another box. Fifteen-year-old tax returns. Squelching my rising panic, I wondered how I was going to dispose of this mountain of junk. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that buyers had to have everything gone by day’s end and weren’t allowed to use the dumpsters on the property. And, I’d come to the auction in a small convertible. (Great planning on my part, huh?)

An “angel” showed up to help me…. This little old guy, wearing an army coat and a ratty hat, wandered up and asked me if he could have a box of stuffed animals. I said, “Do you want this, and this, and this?” He took 90% of the storage unit’s contents off my hands. We spent hours sorting and loading boxes in his old van. He saved me.

Would I buy the contents of a storage unit in the future? Heck, no!!! I sped away from there, feeling lucky that I got away as easily as I had….laughing at my own stupidity.

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The Undercover Antiques Picker

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll see that I’ve already written about one of my pickers named Darrell. I’ve purchased from another picker named Sally over the years, but she’s what I call an “undercover picker”. This means she sells things to me but doesn’t want anyone to know, especially her HUSBAND!!!

I don’t want to give too much away but her husband sounds like a hoarder. According to Sally, the husband is manic at buying and hoarding antiques, collectibles, goodwill quality items and rancid junk. He stores his hoarded items in various jam-packed storage units all over the city and pays storage bills higher than their household rent. This storage unit rent is literally breaking their budget but the husband won’t stop. He says that his treasures are too valuable to sell. So, in order to survive and cover household bills, the wife trades secretly on the side.

I’m sure I’m not the only person Sally sells to. But dealing with her requires an entirely new language, one that won’t give her away when the husband is possibly listening. According to Sally, she’s allowed to sell linens (don’t ask me why) so the word “linens” has become code word for what I REALLY want — jewelry. Our telephone conversations go something like this…”Hey, Sally, I’m looking for some “linens”. (Wink, wink.) Do you have any new “linens” to sell me?” Sally replies, “Yes, let me call you back”.

So, later I usually will get a call from Sally with a very brief window in which she can meet and let me look at her goods. One time her husband walked in on us while she was showing me some “linens” and I had to shove the stuff in my big purse and run into the bathrooom. After waiting an inordinately long time and realizing that the husband was not going to leave, I strolled out of the bathroom and said, “Oh, hi husband! I didn’t realize you were here! I just came to visit Sally. Well, I’d better be going!”. I backed out of the place with the jewelry still in my purse.

I had to go back days later to conclude the deal with Sally.