For years, the best way for an overly enthusiastic fan to take home a piece of his favorite celebrity’s trash was to root through the cans outside of the star’s home. Not anymore. These days, storage center auctions are the hot ticket for retrieving discarded treasures; who could forget, in 2007, when Paris Hilton had her bank records, home videos and diaries auctioned off and then displayed on a Web site.
For thousands of people who keep their own belongings in such units, the prospect of an auction is terrifying. For those looking to snag forgotten goods—a celebrity’s or not—on the cheap, the thought is enticing. So how is it these auctions even come to take place?
“The spaces go into auction once they default on the contract signed with the facility,” says Justin J. Manning, president and chief financial office of Storage Auctions USA, a Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts-based auction company. “First there is usually a phone call or notification from the store manager to the debtor, once payments go into arrears. Then the facilities are required to send certified notification to the debtor and also publish a legal notice in the paper, [although this] varies by state. So, the only way someone would be [at risk of having their items go to auction would be] if they stopped paying their storage bill and then buried their head in the sand or changed addresses without notifying the facility.”
While most people wouldn’t want their private items going up for sale, when they do it gives buyers a chance to make a killing. John Cardoza, owner of Storage Auction Experts in Turlock, Calif., warns that although auctions are “only slightly up” in recent months, that’s no reason to ignore the possible deals.
In order to find out about the auctions, he recommends: “People can look in their legal notices of their local paper. Some buyers will call the different storage sites and ask the managers when the next auction will be. Storage Auction Experts put all of our auctions on www.auctionzip.com, a free service for auctioneers to list their auctions. Storage Auction Experts also has a Web page anybody can access. We send out [listings] via US Mail to our buyers for a $10 a year subscription rate to help cover expenses.”