Tag - Auctions

What to Do if You Find Pornography in a Storage Unit

Pornography Bust

With the recent arrest of Tyreek Wilkerson over his discovery of child pornography in a storage unit, many auction hunters may be wondering just what they should do if they find inappropriate materials at their next auction. Pornography of all kinds – including child pornography – tends to show up in storage units pretty often. Learning what to do before you're faced with the actual issue is an important step to keeping yourself safe.


First, if you haven't been following the case, here's what happened to Wilkerson: He purchased a storage unit at an auction and discovered pornographic materials inside. Instead of turning them into the police right away, he chose to throw the materials in the trash and take other items from the unit, including cameras and lighting equipment, back to his home. This was the wrong choice, and it swiftly led to his arrest for obstructing a police investigation.


If you're ever in Wilkerson's shoes and find illegal material of any kind in a storage unit – whether it be pornography, drugs, stolen items or anything else that looks fishy – you need to report it right away. Don't even bring the items out of the unit. Instead, alert the facility manager and the police, and let the cops come check out the unit's contents before you mess with them. You never know when the items in a storage unit might be the crucial evidence in a criminal investigation, and withholding that evidence from the police is a serious offense.


In case you're wondering, this also applies to firearms. Guns are carefully regulated, and the local authorities will want to check that gun against a database to ensure it hasn't been used in any crimes and wasn't procured illegally. Treat any guns you find with caution and assume it will be confiscated; if it's not, you'll be happily surprised, but if it is, you won't be disappointed.


So that explains what to do with illegal materials, but what about regular pornography?


The first option, of course, is to throw this material away. If you're easily offended by such things, it makes sense that you wouldn't want to resell them. If you do choose to go this route, just be careful to dispose of them in a place that curious young eyes can't get hold of them, and get on with your life.


But that's not the most profitable choice. The thing about adult materials like “toys” and pornography is that it can be both difficult to sell and, at times, surprisingly lucrative. If you don't mind doing a bit of research, you might discover that you have an issue or image that holds collector's value. Even if not, many places will buy adult videos and even magazines. Call around some of the “adult” shops in your area to see if anyone is interested in buying.


If all else fails, you can also resell these items over the Internet. You can sell adult-themed items on eBay as long as they're legally obtained. There are also adult-themed websites that can be used for this purpose. If you frequent a lot of storage auctions, it might be in your best interests to get familiarized with a few adult sites or stores so you can make a bit of money from these units.


Selling Sensitive Items

Nazi Memorabilia

One of the most thrilling parts of storage auctions is digging through the items left behind by their owner. This sort of treasure hunting can connect you with history and culture, and it gives you an interesting insight into the life of a stranger. Sometimes, though, that stranger's life is perhaps more interesting than you'd hoped it would be – and they've left you with sensitive items that you now need to find a way to resell.


It could be that the storage unit was full of sex toys and pornography. Or perhaps the previous owner was a collector of Nazi or KKK memorabilia. Whatever the case may be, you now are the owner of items that you don't want to keep but aren't too excited about selling at a flea market where everyone knows your name. What can you do?


First, make sure that nothing you've purchased is actually illegal. Drug paraphernalia, child pornography, guns and other such items must be handled by the police, and it's up for them to decide whether you can hold onto them. If in doubt, check with the law first so you don't get in trouble for attempting to re-sell something that's illegal to own.


But assuming that your item isn't illegal, just in poor taste, there are a few methods for selling it. If you're not ashamed of damaging your reputation, of course, you can always resell these items through your usual channels, such as the flea market or yard sales. If you'd rather avoid having your local community question your tastes, however, you'll want to opt for something a bit more discreet. It's also likely that your usual buyers will have little interest in these specialized items, so it's often not worth the risk to alienate them.


Other valid options are eBay & Craigslist. You can buy and sell practically anything on these sites, and they're relatively anonymous. Of course, if you do a lot of your business on eBay already, you may run into the same problems mentioned above – alienating your buyers and damaging your reputation. Additionally, these websites  may prohibit you from posting certain types of items.


If you have a bit of time on your hands, one of the best methods for selling these sensitive items may be to search out potential buyers and contact them directly. There are millions of websites on the Internet, and quite a few of them are devoted to very specific interests. Do a bit of searching to find a community or forum interested in the kind of sensitive items you have for sale, and see if you could convert the members into customers. Maybe you could post an ad on their forum or even email a few likely collectors. It takes some effort, but your odds of making a decent sale improve when you do this.


If you'd rather not have the Nazi memorabilia fall into the hands of a collector, an alternative plan may be to contact a museum. Even if you can't sell it, you can donate the item and get a tax write-off. This will take the item off your hands and leave you feeling good about it in the process.

However you choose to dispose of sensitive items, some discretion can help save you from embarrassment and lost customers without taking a loss on things deemed unsaleable.


Have you or someone you know come across sensitive items in a storage unit? If so, how did get rid of the merchandise?


Charity Storage Auctions

Charity Storage

Holding an auction for charity isn't new, but charity storage auctions are a recent development that helps bring communities together. Charity Storage is an organization sponsored by Storage Wars, the Self Storage Association and other charities and storage facilities across the country. Since its inception in 2012, it's already become a sweeping success, with several thousand participating storage facilities and over $40,000 raised for charities nationwide.

The way it works is pretty simple: People donate their unwanted items by dropping them off in a storage unit, which is then auctioned off and the profits are donated to charity.

The drop-off points get filled up in one of two ways. People who have heard about the auctions and want to participate can leave donations anonymously at the unit. Additionally, existing tenants of the storage company can leave items they no longer want to store but don't want to sell or throw away on their own. When people move their things out of a unit, they often want to leave behind bulky unwanted items like appliances and furniture; instead of going to the dump, these items can go to the drop-off point to make money for charity.

Any storage company can sign up to participate in the program, and there are drop-off points in thousands of cities across the United States and Canada. Here in Texas alone there are more than 4,000 storage facilities which could potentially become drop-off points. That translates to a lot of charity auctions!

The auctions themselves work exactly like any other storage auction. Participants bid on the content of a unit, and the contents must be emptied out and the unit cleaned within 48 hours. Anything inside the unit becomes the property of the winning bidder, who can then keep, sell or donate the items. As with all auctions, there's some risk involved, and the quality of the items will vary from one auction to the next.

If you've never participated in any sort of storage unit auction, a charity auction may be a good chance to get your feet wet. Because the items are donated, you're less likely to run into unsanitary conditions or find strange or unpleasant things inside. You probably won't make a fortune off of anything you win, but you can feel good about knowing that your money is going to a charity so it's not a wasted investment.

For storage auction veterans, these charity auctions provide a great way to give back to the community while still doing what you love. While Storage Wars might give a glimpse of the excitement behind the industry, Charity Storage helps to show the community the heart and soul behind the people in this line of work.

If you'd like to get involved in charity storage auctions, you can check the CharityStorage.com website to find a drop-off location near you. You can also call their operation headquarters in Newport Beach, California at (949) 748-5923.

Pros and Cons of Buying Storage Units at Auctions

Storage Auction Pros & Cons

There are several pros and cons in buying storage units at auctions. It really depends on what your goals are. If your goal is to acquire a lot of nice things for yourself for pennies on the dollar, then you should give it a try. If your goal is to make some extra money buying then reselling merchandise, it can be a great business to be in. If your goal is to get rich quick, chances are it is not going to happen.

So, obviously, the pros are you can acquire a lot of great stuff for yourself at a low price and you can resell merchandise and make a profit. Another pro is that you will meet a lot interesting people & possibly make new friends. Last but not least, if you choose to make this a business, you choose the days and hours you want to work; no more punching the time clock!

The Cons: It's a lot of work. I used to spend about 40-50 hours per week attending self storage auctions. You have to inspect a lot of units before one comes across that has the merchandise you want and at the same time sells at price that you can make money on it.

Once you buy a storage unit, you have to excavate it. This can actually be a lot of fun if you bought the right unit, but if you have been digging through boxes for an hour and you still don't see the return on your investment, this could definitely be a con.

Now you have to move everything. Some buyers only buy storage units that they can fit into their car. Others have pickups, trailers & moving trucks, so size isn't really an issue for them.

Make sure that you have someone lined up to help you move the contents of the storage unit. Most storage units contain furniture or appliances that can be difficult to move. Some units aren't packed well or contain lots of trash, this can be time consuming trying to organize the contents of this type of unit.

You have to deal with people. This can be a pro or con, depending on your personality. You will have to deal with people in person when you are selling your merchandise. You will receive lots of phone calls, lots of tire kickers and people who don't show up for their appointment, but, I guess that is the same in every business.

Ever since the new storage auction shows premiered, there has been a migration of new buyers attending storage auctions in Texas and throughout the United States. Because of this, prices for storage units have risen at some storage auctions. That's why is is so important to get off the beaten path and attend the auctions that typically have fewer people in attendance. There are still days; however, that there are multiple storage auctions taking place at the same time. These are good days to go out because the crowds are thinned and you have a better chance of getting a good deal.

In my opinion, the greatest reward from being a storage auction buyer is that you can acquire some incredible things for yourself for free, after you sell the other items in the storage unit. All in all, if you are willing to work at it, and pay your dues learning this business, it can be quite rewarding.


Headaches Facility Managers Experience With Storage Auctions

Storage Facility Manager

I asked the following question to our friend Zach Proser, with Storage Auctions Kings, to get his inside perspective as a former storage facility manager.

Zach ProserSo Zach, while you were a storage facility manager, what type of problems did you go through in preparation for a storage unit auction. What type of headaches did you go through on auction day? Was their ever a particular person or event that got you really frustrated?

Great question, Travis.

Preparing for a storage auction involves about 3 and a half months of work. At the very bleeding edge minimum, we cannot sell anyone’s unit before 48 days have passed in which they have not made any payment of any amount. This means we are trying to get in touch with our tenants by phone, e-mail, SMS text, and snail mail. Speaking of snail mail, we have to send out, by law, delinquency notices by mail and document them and keep time-stamped copies in our tenant’s files.

I think what is lost on a lot of our tenants is the fact that we are trying to help them. As managers, we gain nothing from selling their belongings besides an angry previous tenant (or family of tenants!) and a headache. The lengths that I, and other managers I have worked with, have gone to in order to help a delinquent tenant try to hold onto their things border on the ridiculous.

Amazingly enough, it’s these same people that you go so far out of your way to help that end up burning you the worst and causing you the most problems . Bad attitudes, misplaced blame, nasty phone calls, downright juvenile games of phone tag…I’ve seen em’ all.

In terms of the auction day itself – usually I’m feeling relieved by the actual sale date rolls around. It’s almost over. You get a rush of phone calls, e-mails and impatient strangers in your office and parking lot, but most of them are in a genial enough mood because half of them are just along to see a show. The one guy that had all three of our facilities in the same region venting to one another on the phone was a guy that managers of yore had actually warned us about by name.

Because we had three facilities in a relatively close area, we would stagger the auctions and run them all on the same day, so that our same group of motivated bidders could hit all three. Well, this guy starts at our first facility in the early morning, and takes advantage of the manager there because it was his first time running an auction. He says he needs to race down into town to catch our next company auction, and that he’ll be right back to finish cleaning out the two outdoor 10×10?s he just bought there. Well, our new manager didn’t get a security deposit off him because he took him at his word.

Next, he comes down to my facility. He and his partner are obnoxious and have to continually be asked to step back out of the units whenever the doors are rolled up. He’s violating the thresholds and even poking his mitts around in the luggage inside. Finally he ends up buying two more units at my facility, but when it comes time to settle the bill in the office 10 minutes later, he needs to run across the street to get cash out of the ATM. Well, we’re trying to close up now!

He and his partner go AWOL. We wait 30 minutes. We get irritated. We ask if anyone else present has his cell number because if he’s not back in 10 minutes we’re going to give the units to the next highest bidder. They finally show back up, loaded drunk and they leave their truck in the middle of the parking lot. I wasn’t a happy camper and he got a stern warning.

Ultimately, he came back to the first facility after hours and used his buyer’s gate code to get in. Then, after he got everything he wanted out of his units, he left our manager two truckloads of trash, dirty tape and muddy streaks throughout the halls. Suffice it to say he’s banned from our future auctions.

Otherwise, auctions, from our perspective, are always just distant possibilities humming along in the background. As most people get into the last stages of delinquency, a couple of strategically worded e-mails usually persuade them to come in and settle their bills.