EASTHAMPTON — A one-dollar wager usually comes in the form of a cheap cardboard scratch-off ticket, but some find as much fun, if not more, risking their luck on a storage unit auction.
On Friday, A-Z Storage & Properties, LLC, held auctions for the contents of seven storage units — lockers filled with furniture, old electronics and personal items — at three Easthampton locations. The owners of the units had repeatedly missed payments and failed to respond to the lots’ owners. The abandoned property became subject to a treasure hunt.
Ed Wyzik, the self-described fill-in auctioneer, started the day by clipping the padlock from the door of a small unit off of Industrial Parkway. The garage-style door lifted up and a dozen people, including Wyzik, eagerly peered inside.
A very old, very dusty radial arm saw sat in the center of the locker, which was mostly empty except for several boxes.
The bidders had to gamble. Storage unit auctions typically only allow a visual inspection of a locker’s contents, as shown in TV shows like “Storage Wars,” and bidders were not allowed to enter the unit and inspect anything, including the boxes. The boxes were an enigma, and could have as easily held jewelry as they could have held wayward puzzle pieces.
“That’s the big question in any unit: What’s in the box?” said Jason Talbot of Northampton, who has attended storage unit auctions for the last few years as a hobby.
“Alright, what do we got? Any bids?” Wyzik boomed, after explaining to the crowd there were no buyer’s premiums or taxes attached to the purchase.
“Five dollars,” Talbot said.
The unit’s contents sold — for $5 and “just to have the fun to poke through it,” Talbot said. The boxes yielded no big payoff, though, and Talbot found only books in his initial excavation.
“Nothing of interest,” Talbot said. “Just, you know, Agatha Christie novels and paperback crap.” Other days were luckier. Talbot said he’s found hundreds of dollars of unredeemed gift cards in an abandoned storage unit box before.
Some of the more lively finds over the years have included people — yes, people — in the storage unit at auction time. One of the lockers examined Friday contained chip bags, prescription medicine, toiletries and a couch, likely evidence that someone was living there, according to Wyzik.
“Got some nice stuff in here,” Wyzik said, after revealing a unit packed with items. “Sometimes we’ve opened these and found a person sleeping right in there, oh yeah.”
“You’re supposed to knock, Ed,” called one of the bidders, and the small group laughed.
Several bidders said that, while the items in a locker might have value, having to find someone to buy the items, as well as transporting them, are hassles that factor into their decision-making while at an auction.
Despite having an old TV, desktop computer monitor and furniture inside, unit W14 didn’t get much attention. Apparently, gadgets, TVs and electronics don’t work after being exposed to the Massachusetts cold while abandoned in their units.
Nicole Breault of Holyoke bought the contents of W14 for $1. “Don’t let anybody steal any,” she joked.
The highest sale of the day was a packed-full locker, the contents of which went for $275 to a bidder who declined to comment for this story.