Self storage was invented in the US and so was the new pastime that’s taking over from car-booting as the nation’s favourite bargain hunt – storage unit treasure hunts.
Storage facilities all over the States are opening up the doors of ‘delinquent’ payers who have failed to keep up with their bills and selling off their treasured and not so treasured possessions to anyone who makes the best bid.
"You go through lots of lockers before you find treasures," said Pat Wagner, 72, avoiding an answer.
Diamond bracelet was couple’s best find
Husband Dave Wagner, 73, was more forthcoming and confesses the Woodland, Washington couple's best find in nearly nine years they have spent grubbing around storage was a diamond bracelet.
Self storage treasure hunting is blind bidding – you make an offer based on the size of the room and hope for the best. For $60, the Wagner’s picked up everything in a 10 x 10 foot unit.
No diamond bracelets this time – just a scruffy rocking horse, a Christmas tree and decorations, a stuffed toy and some garden tools.
Self storage auctions are big business.
Auctions are now such big business in some parts of the US and Canada that companies specialise in disposing of abandoned goods in storage.
A 40-year-old Vancouver man who prefers to remain anonymous said he had been to about 200 auctions and has never won a bid.
“I suppose I’m glad really because most of the stuff is just junk and I don’t know why people bother storing it,” he said.
When asked why the secrecy, his response was sometimes upset storage unit renters try to track down their property and have caused some ugly scenes with bidders.
Later that day, the man was at another self storage sale. A unit that rented for $43 a month is up for grabs. Nine bidders gather around to watch the lock-cutting and door opening.
The winning bidder paid $100 for a pile of boxed paperwork.