Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's Eddie Money Doing Here?

Yesterday, Mr. Willoughby and I went to an auction.  We've been to auctions before, but this one was completely different.  It was a public storage auction.   For those who don't know, storage facilities auction off the contents of units that are in default.  Basically, if you don't pay your rental fee for X amount of months (I think it's three months), you give up your possessions and the facility has the right to auction them off to the highest bidder.  Mr. Willoughby found out about this auction online.  They advertised a car that he has been looking for, so we decided to go.

We got there early and there were only four other people there, so we thought we had a good chance of winning the car.   As it got closer to auction time, though, dozens of other people showed up.  By the time we had signed in, there were at least forty people in attendance.  We considered leaving, but decided to stay if only to see what the car would sell for.

Before we walked back to the units, the auctioneer went over the procedure.  He told us he would open the door of each unit (there were four units being auctioned) and that we would be able to look, but not go inside.  We would not be allowed to touch anything or open any boxes.  The winning bidder would take possession of everything in the unit, items would not be auctioned seperately.   

We seemed to be the only first-timers in the crowd.  I noticed that a lot of the people knew each other.  Apparently this auctioneer has a loyal following.  It was an odd lot of people, too.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  They don't call them strangers for nothing.  Some people are just that; strange.  There was the guy who continuously snorted and spit loogies, the guy who bit his nails and spat the "shrapnel" without regard to those of us standing near him, the lady talking baby talk to the dog tucked into her jacket, and the guy who darted nervously through the crowd making calls on his cell phone.  The last guy, by the way, looked just like Eddie Money.  I'm not saying it was....

photo courtesy of Google Images
So we finally walked back to the first unit and the auctioneer unlocked and opened the door.  Mr. Willoughby and I were standing at the back of the crowd, so we couldn't see much.  We were really only interested in the car, anyway, but I still wanted to take a peak inside.  As we got closer, I could see a big clear plastic tote filled with photographs.  My stomach kind of churned, thinking about how someone's possessions and memories were being sold off to the highest bidder.  I just felt sorry for the person who was losing this stuff.  Obviously, the crowd, in general, was able to put that aside, but it bothered me.

Aside from the tote of photographs, there was a couch, a loveseat, a bunch of cardboard boxes, some lamps and other assorted household goods.  I told Mr. Willoughby that if we could get it for $50 or so, I'd buy it just to return the photographs to their rightful owner.  We overheard a man behind us say that he thought the unit would fetch a thousand dollars.  We thought he was joking.

The bidding started at $550.  I was shocked!  Who would pay $550 for used furniture and boxes with unknown contents?  Hands shot up immediately.  In less than two minutes, the unit was sold with the final bid being $1,100.  I would have liked to return those photographs, but not at that price tag. 

The next two units went for less money.  One had some miscellaneous building materials, and the other had only a tire, a broken home gym and a few odd items.  When Mr. Willoughby wondered aloud why the owner hadn't just thrown the stuff away, a man behind us said, "That is what he did.  He left them behind so he didn't have to deal with them."

Finally, we came to the unit with the car.  Judging by what this crowd was willing to pay for used furniture, I knew we would be outbid on the car.  The auctioneer said they had the title to the car, but there were no known keys.  He said it wasn't unheard of to find a set of keys in the glove compartment or under a floor mat, but there were no guarantees.  Also, there was no way to know if the car would even run.  The bidding started at $700 and ended at $1,800.  We decided not to bid at all.

I don't know that I would say we had a good time, but it was definitely an experience.  I mean, how often to you get to rub elbows with a guy who looks like Eddie Money?


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5thsister said...

That is terribly sad about the photographs.

My husband's uncle runs an auction house up in Perry, OH. The kids and I like to go to his Thursday auctions whenever we are in town (Grandma works the grill so they get free food). It amazes me at what some people actually spend on another's junk. Yes, junk, not antiques or collectibles, though his uncle has run across those a time or two, but not often. And it is a great place to people watch or stranger stare, as is often the case.

Wonderful post, Su!

Lissaloo said...

I agree with you both, it is really sad, I didn't know that is what they did with them. Sounds like it was an interesting experience though :)

Deidra said...

I had no idea they auctioned off the contents of those storage places. And I never would have imagined they'd sell for that much!

Chicago Mom said...

I always wondered what they did with that stuff if the people didn't pay their bill. I hope whoever bought unit #1 at least tried to give the owner the photos, but with those strange people you described I am guessing not.

ChristineM said...

We recently saw a segment on the news about these types of auctions - very sad. And you only hope that whoever wins doesn;t just toss the photographs and stuff. I have such a soft spot for those things, seeing as so many of our old family photos were destroyed. But I guess to some people it's not the same.

Sorry you didn't get the car!

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

I'm also sad about the photographs. I wonder what the person who bought the unit will do with them.

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

just stopping by to say thank you for thinking of me..

it means alot

you're a dear


L.B. said...

If there is one thing I treasure, it's old photographs. I hope that all of the pictures I take one day will serve a purpose for our family's history and for the girls to treasure. I couldn't imagine all of those pictures just going up in smoke like that. That's depressing.

I hope the winner doesn't just toss them. At least if they don't want to return them, just put them somewhere in case they ever do want to send them back to the owner.

On a lighter note...

Take me home tonight
I don't wanna let you go 'til I see the light

lisleman said...

thanks for sharing that. Just the other day the paper ran the long list of the property turned over to the state from banks and their safe deposit boxes. Our last name wasn't on the list but we didn't expect it to be. My wife then told me about the storage unit auctions. We have never been to one but it sounds interesting. lots of ebay items in those units.

Matty said...

It doesn't surprise me that you would buy a unit to return the pictures to the owner. That's you, and I would have tried to do the same.

sanjeet said...

I agree with you both, it is really sad, I didn't know that is what they did with them.

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