Remember the Alamo: Tuning into the Texas Storage Wars
Although we may never know for sure to what extent storage unit auction shows are authentic or rigged, we at Storageunitauctionlist.com know that they are a fun interpretation of the world we know best. If you have been too busy with your own personal storage unit flipping efforts and the tube has been stationary for a while, today we’re going to review an episode of “Storage Wars: Texas” and scan it over for signs of good practice, bad practice, as well as any hints of cow manure wafting from big cattle country.
If you feel like following my commentary, here’s a link to the free episode on A&E's website, entitled “Dallas Cowboys and Indians.”
Texas is the logical location for a “Storage Wars” spin-off, because everything is bigger: The contestants, the accents, the hats, and presumably the storage discoveries as well.
Peppered into the new cast of hunters is a sly Long Island transplant, Victor, a snappy, vindictive she-boss, Lesa Lewis, her faithful partner/employee Jerry Simpson (Lesa/Simpson, anybody?), and of course, the local big boys, Uncle Ricky Smith and his nephew, Bubba. Bubba bounced around the cubicle world for a while before finally realizing that none of them were a good fit for him, so he joined his uncle in the storage unit quest for riches.
As a nice wild card, it looks as though Roy Williams, a highly decorated receiver formerly of the Dallas Cowboys and currently signed with the Cincinnati Bangles, joins Ricky and Bubba as a semi-permanent cameo. Why not?
The show follows an identical structure to its parent, where hours of auctioning footage are edited for the perfect balance. Each of the three competitors wins a unit and goes their own way. A simple, addictive trifecta of the good unit, the bad unit, and the ugly unit.
Along with Ricky’s “pocket change he earned from pro sports” as he puts it, himself, Bubba, and Ricky tip the scales and win the first unit for a whopping two-hundred and twenty-five dollars. The authentic aspect of the show does shine through somewhat when “the big boys” (Bubba and Ricky) provide commentary about William’s overbidding on the unit, which appeared to have next to nothing inside.
But hold the phone, please: The dubious nature of the reality show follows when the trio happens to find a Civil War Era soldier medal tucked conveniently inside a pile of useless hallmark cards and “nudey pics.”
Our skepticism may be curbed a little bit when a local Civil War memorabilia appraiser dishes them the bad news that the medal, minus the ribbon and paperwork, drops its value significantly, from four hundred down to a mere twenty five dollars.
Our Takeaway: The lesson here is that getting lucky doesn’t often cut it in this business. Although the newbie superstar Williams pushed the boys out of their game a bit, perhaps they should be following our blog and employing some of the unit investigation tactics we have here provided.
The sly but charismatic out-of-towner, Victor Rjesnjansky, shows us some thinking on the feet, conservative bidding tactics that keep him in the plus column at the end of the day. But once again, the magical item amongst the run of the mill rummage materializes. The door goes up and the contents of the “second unit” are displayed: a dresser with no drawers, two beater televisions, a pair of old Air Jordan’s peeking out, and of course, the proverbial “little black box” nestled in some rubble.
The gambler Victor bids twenty bucks, then gaffs by bidding on top of his own bid, raising himself another ten dollars needlessly. When the crowd leaves, he scrambles directly to the black box, revealing junk mail.
Hold the phone, again: Amongst a unit chocked with otherwise modern expendables, the desperate Victor unearths….a rustic tomahawk which doubles as a peace pipe! Steer manure? Surely not! After all, every basketball playing, TV watching local collects vintage Native American accessories. Surely you know this. The swarthy Victor wipes the sweat from his head, leaves the remainder of the contents of the unit without locking it (absolutely not standard practice after winning a unit), and returns to the auctioning pack.
As if “getting that lucky” wasn’t enough, Victor privately pawns of the remainder of the unit to an innocent beginner, sharply hinting at contents that do not exist and ultimately weaseling out of cleaning the unit. Good grief. On top of that, the magical piece pipe, although a kitsch replica, fetches him one hundred and sixty dollars. And just for the camera, he has himself a victory puff out of the peace pipe, which I’m sure had no effect on the value ultimately.
Our Takeaway: There are a few pluses to this humorous, lazy display by the out-of-towner. Victor “stole” a unit for next to nothing. Chances are great that you can flip the contents of practically any unit for thirty dollars and “pick it” with a clean conscience. Bidding in this business is a lot like poker: you can win a poker hand with just an “ace kicker” by betting tactfully then end up with way more than you put in.
Victor's mistake was when he raised his own bid, thereby showing too much enthusiasm for the unit’s contents, and consequently inspiring curiosity in an otherwise dead bidding crowd. Rookie mistake. Click here for SUAL.com’s own bidding tactics list to avoid such tactical errors.
And The Good
Lesa Lewis and her sidekick, Jerry Simpson come out on top of the pack in this particular episode by biding their time and throwing all their cash at just one visibly promising unit. Side tables, desks, and dressers, some of which are wrapped in plastic, swarm the unit, as well as several solid looking power tools. Simpson deduces that such tools promise more tools. Not a bad theory at all. They bid aggressively and win the well-stocked unit for just $110.00.
Uh, The Phone? Did Santa Claus put another mystery box in this unit just for them? An unopened, professional paintball gun and mask get dug out of the otherwise all used wares. Regardless, a local paintball gear store appraises and buys the gun for a massive nineteen hundred dollars. Interesting indeed.
Our Takeaway: As hinted at, team Lesa/Simpson display the most conservative strategy: low risk, high gain. Enough saleable items were out in the open to promote bidding confidence on the unit. Lesa’ partner turned out to be spot on in his conjecture. The drill rested on a box filled with other various power tools. Some items just come in bunches. Also, the big day being courtesy of a mint condition paintball set (we'll believe it, for now) shows us that sometimes it is not just old relics that make a profitable day. Scanning the rough value of a unit, and noticing that there are several items within that once had, or still have, practical market value should lead you to believe that the ex-owner was well off and spent money generously. With the presence of plastic wrap, this is a wonderful combination for boosting up potential value within undisclosed boxes and containers.
The show tries very hard to sell us the idea that you will almost always win your money back on one ace in the hole type items, almost to the point of ridiculousness. Keep in mind, I’m making no claims that the prizes are purposefully planted by the producers to boost ratings. Selective film editing can account for the peculiar presence of plentiful prizes each and every episode, but who knows about these hunter's day to day.
Real storage pros know that the picking takes hours, and that often it is the cumulative value of many different items within (then patiently posted on EBay or sold at a flea market) which produces profits.
And maybe you won’t spend the remainder of your day off frolicking around a paintball zone dousing your competitors in pink paint balls over lost bets. The show does, however, promote one undeniably true philosophy. Storage auction flipping is a competitive, full circle process that requires shrewd decision making, from the second the doors go up to when your treasures are converted to cash. It shows us that there’s a lot of fun to be had, too.
Although, is that Lesa Lewis using the same paint gun she just had appraised for $1,900 to run Victor out of Texas? Ah, nevermind.
David Gross, SUAL Content Writer