Chapter 8: Tips, Scams, and Other Things You Need to Know


  • Emotions play just as big of a role as money when it comes to succeeding at storage auctions. Patience, calmness, and sticking to your game plan will help keep you from trouble. If you find yourself getting upset, or angry, walk away from the unit.
  • Knowing how much an item might get for top dollar is helpful. Knowing how much most items go for will keep you from going broke. Just because something went for x dollars doesn’t mean that you can count on the getting the same price. By looking at the average price for similar items, as well as the highest price, you get a better idea of what to bid on the locker.

• Be prepared. Go to the auctions with a flashlight, Internet accessible mobile device, cash in hand, and a list of people you can call for appraisals.


Some storage businesses have unscrupulous practices when it comes to holding an auction. Always try to go to auctions being held by a third party you trust. If you’re unsure, take the time to talk to the manager of the storage business. He or she might be able to give you a feel for what’s going on in the business. If your suspicions are raised, don’t be afraid to walk away. Watch your fellow bidders closely if you do decide to stay. Any crazy bidding or behaviours that seem like a red flag, keep your hands in your pockets and don’t bid.

Here’s just a few of the scams we’ve run across:

Full locker, Empty boxes:

When you see a locker that at first glance seems well packed and full, take a closer look. Are the boxes a little dusty and battered? Or are they clean, pristine, and unmarked? Do the boxes seem to match the rest of the locker? Can you see behind the boxes or are they blocking everything from view? Dusty, battered, used boxes are good. That’s what happens to cardboard boxes when they get moved and placed inside a locker! Of course you don’t want ones that seem really beat up. But be wary of boxes that look pristine. We have run across owners of storage businesses that break open a unit before an auction, fill it with empty boxes, and then place a new lock on the unit. Imagine seeing a unit open, and boxes are stacked up right to the ceiling! Now imagine paying a huge sum of money for that unit only to find that there’s nothing behind the boxes except a dusty old half- broken desk. We want you to avoid these mistakes if possible. Well- stacked boxes and bins can be a buying signal. But it doesn’t hurt to be careful too.

High bids from new bidder:

Crazy, high bidding is part of an auction. You can’t walk away from every unit that has a bidding war. What you should walk away from are auctions where someone new, someone no one else knows, starts to raise the bids on units without ever buying a unit. Storage locker owners have been known to send a friend or employee into the auction to raise the prices of the units. The best way to avoid this scam is to stick with auctions run by a company you know and trust. Getting to know your fellow storage auction hunters is also a good way to protect yourself. The best protection though is to keep your eyes open, and your brain turned on. If someone seems suspicious, try approaching them in a friendly manner. People in general are poor liars. If the bidder seems nervous or unsettled, it doesn’t mean they’re up to no good, but it does mean you need to keep a close eye on them.

Pre-viewed lockers:

One of the joys of bidding on a storage unit is the unknown. No one has opened the lock until it’s cut open before the bidders and unknown treasures lie inside! Unless the storage business owner has been there before you, cut the lock, taken the best items, and then placed a new lock on the unit. Again, sticking to auctions and storage companies run by businesses you know and trust is the best way to avoid this. You can also closely examine the area for signs of recent disturbance. Dust is your friend! If you think something has been removed from the unit recently, it doesn’t mean it was taken by someone other than the previous owner of the unit. It does mean you might want to lower your top bid, just in case.

Other things to know:

  • Auctions are pay-in-cash. Don’t bid more than you have on you. This may seem obvious but in the heat of an auction, it’s easy to forget.
  • Rental vehicles are an easy way to move contents if you’ve found yourself with a unit that contains more than you can move in your vehicle.
  • Most auctions have a time limit on how long you have before removing the items. Be sure to know the time limit on before you bid as it could affect your bottom line.
  • There is often an entry fee for attending an auction, even if you don’t bid.
  • Taking items to a dump often costs a fair bit. There might also be environmental levies and fees on some items. Keep this in mind when bidding.Conclusion

    Hopefully you have now gained a new understanding and insight into storage auctions. We hope this guide has given you some useful tools that will help you to win at the storage auction game. It can be a long road, full of bumps and detours, but if you keep at it, use our tips, and learn from each unit, you will be surprised at the wealth you can generate from someone else’s forgotten items. Whether you are a treasure hunter, a reseller, or a store owner, remember these key tips:

  • Check all items! You never know where cash, valuables, jewels, and other riches may be stashed.
  • Appraisals! It’s just not possible to know everything. Go to a trusted specialist anytime you need more information. You’d be surprised at what people are willing to pay for some items.
  • Pick wisely! From the location of the storage locker company to the locker itself, deciding where and what unit you want to purchase can be all you need to know.
  • Stay calm! Emotional bidders are losing bidders. It’s that simple.

Now go find your Forgotten Riches! Happy bidding!

Buy some plastic totes to help keep your storage finds organized: