"When storage units are abandoned…the treasures within are put up for auction."
That is the line that start's every episode of A&E's hit cable tv show "Storage Wars."
Interest in the show has created a greater interest in storage unit auctions here in Arkansas.
Tonight we take you to one of these auctions, where cash is king and the highest bidder gets the loot…be it trash or treasure.
When you have a lot of stuff but not a lot of space, a storage unit might be the answer. But if you don't pay, they don't play.
The locks aren't cut until a renter is more than 45 days behind and not until the unit has been listed in newspaper.
On February 5th Chenal 10 Storage put an ad in the newspaper targeting 10 units for auction.
"When you open the units and you see children's toys or things that you look at and think that they would be memorable or sentimental to someone and it is just going to be going into an auction…it is heart breaking," says Tammy Johnston, manager of Chenal 10 Storage. "Really heartbreaking."
But all sentiment is soon replaced by strategy.
"Looking for stuff I can quick sell," says William Oppelt of Bauxite.
"How come there is always a microwave?" wonders one unidentified auction hunter as he looks into another unit.
"If I want it, I'm gonna get it," says Tessa Rettig of Beebe. "If he wants it, he's gonna get it," says Rettig, referring to her husband Terry.
The auction hunters are given about five minutes to file past and look at the contents of each unit before the bidding begins.
They can't go inside. They can't touch anything.
Many bring flashlights to help them spot treasures that others might miss. Every unit includes risk…and hopefully reward.
For example, one unit contains three boxes labeled "Memaw's china" and "crystal."
Only the high bidder will know what they actually contain.
"Sold…$800 dollars," says Johnston, who also conducted the auction.
Dave "The Hood" breaks the ice and gets the first unit of the day.
It won't be his last. He buys the next unit for $500.
As the crowd moves to the next unit there is already grumbling that these auctions are drawing more people…and costing more money…thanks in large part to one thing.
"The Storage Wars TV show," says Mark Garner of Little Rock.
Garner of Little Rock doesn't let his health problems keep him from his new hobby.
Garner finished 25th in the World Series of Poker several years ago (the year Jamie Gold won the Main Event).
Now the gambler puts his money down on storage units.
"$1,500," barks out Garner as he bids on a unit.
"$1,600," yells Garner as he ups the ante again.
But in this battle, "The Gambler" loses the unit and the flat bottom boat inside to "The Ringleader."
Nick Dyson is on the hunt for merchandise to sell at his own auction in Hot Springs.
Dyson brings a truck and moving crew with him and is ready to load once the auction is over.
"Take it back, auction it off, go through it, sell it and then…that's it," is how Dyson explains the process.
"Sold…$225," says Johnston as another unit goes. "You have a lock baby?"
This is William Oppelt's second week on the circuit. But "The Rookie" is taking home the contents of a unit, which includes a large Christmas tree, golf clubs, an electric range, an old exercycle and a boxer's punching bag.
"We hit a gold mine," says Tessa Rettig. "We got the best one today."
Terry and Tessa Rettig work together…making them "Double Trouble."
For $350 they score a unit with a brand new 47 inch flat screen television, an antique Radio Flyer Roadster, and a Cuban cigar box.
In the end buyers pay cash and must have the units cleaned out by a certain deadline.
At our auction, "The Ringleader" spent $3,700 on three units.
"The Hood" dropped $1,300 to get two.
"Double Trouble" paid $350 for one.
And "The Rookie" paid $225 for his unit.
"The Gambler" went home empty handed but with all his money.
"If it is more than what I'm willing to pay or what I have in my pocket…I don't need to buy it," explains Garner.
All our bidders believe they will make money on their units.
The one party that doesn't come out ahead: the storage facility itself.
By law it can't pocket any more than the rent owed. So if $500 is owed and the unit sells for $1,000, that extra $500 is set aside for the renter of the unit in case he or she ever comes back. In fact, one of the units at our auction sold for $800 over what was owed and that money has already been paid to the former renter of the unit, who wanted to keep the unit but just couldn't afford it.
Air date: February 23, 2012
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