Local Storage Wars
Published October 31st, 2012
To some it's something they've watched on TV, but to others it's a living.
"This is not a hobby this is one of my businesses," said Doug Paynes, who has been bidding at local storage unit auctions for the past 10 years. "This is what we do for income."
Paynes goes to about three auctions a week and says he buys three to five units.
These are units that aren't paid for by their owner, and then according to state law, are put up for auction.
They are typically sold for anywhere from five dollars to thousands of dollars each.
Paynes buys units and then sells what he gets online, but now he and his business partner are opening a thrift shop in Belleview called Precious Things.
"The economy is really bad so people are buying more used now than they do new," said Paynes. "They really can't afford new products so we try to help them out with the used product."
Auctions are open to the public and there's just two rules.
1. No touching and
2. No stepping beyond the doors.
Bidders can only see what's inside… from the outside.
When you participate in a storage auction you may buy a unit that has things with not much value or you could be going home with objects that were bought and never even opened... just like Doug's new fire pit.
"That's too much gambling for me," said Pearse Hayes, who went to his first storage auction and left unit-less.
"It was interesting. There was a lot of unknowns," said Hayes. "I'm use to going to auctions where you see exactly what you're bidding on."
He went with hopes he would see value in something others didn't.
"It's not so much scary, it's just not always wise," Hayes said. "But clearly there are people that do this and they hit some home runs."
But according to Paul Hirneise, one of the owners of Santa Fe Storage in Gaineville, these home runs are usually scored by bidders who know what they're doing.
"It's a very interesting business," said Hirneise. "People think you just put up a bunch of units and it just happens for you. It's not that way. "
Hirneise blames this misconception on TV.
"In some aspect it has hurt the industry. People that are real buyers that are trying to make a living, it makes it tough on them," Hirneise said. "It's entertainment on TV and it's somewhat entertaining out here, but really these people are trying to make a living."
GAINESVILLE- He says that since the show Storage Wars came on TV, the crowd at auctions has tripled.
He also feels the media has dehumanized the concept of auctioning these unpaid units.
"We don't enjoy auctioning any body's stuff off. It's not a pleasure to me at all. We would rather have people pay their bills. But with the state of the economy there are people that are having a hard time right now," Hirneise said.
Paynes recognizes this hardship and says if he buys a unit with personal belongings in them, like some pictures he found in one unit he bought, he'll return them to their owner.
"We are not in it to hurt people, we're just in it to make a living and help people buy used products," said Paynes.
After about an hour of bidding, looking, and walking to 10 different units…there was one message I kept getting.
"Just be careful if you're gonna do this. I'm just telling you. It's not all fun and games," Paynes said.
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