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Bidders speculate on winnings in 'Storage Wars'-style auction

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

(Photo)
A crowd awaits whatever treasures may be revealed.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
CULBERTSON, Nebraska -- You know the auctioneer's spiel -- "We'll cut the lock. You have five minutes to look at the contents. You cannot go in. You cannot open any boxes. You can bid only with the cash in your pockets."

Oh, and, the auction clerk's last admonition: "Don't forget to pay the lady!"

That's the script from A&E television's "Storage Wars" and "Storage Wars: Texas." But the same instructions were repeated Saturday, Oct. 6, in Culbertson, Nebraska, in what was most likely the area's first-ever auction of personal property abandoned in rented storage units.

(Photo)
Johnny Walker calls the auction.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
Mark and Sherry Moorhous, owners of M&M Self Storage, worked with auctioneer Johnny Walker of Nebraska Auction Service to sell off the contents of four of their storage units whose renters were delinquent in their rental payments.

Like A&E auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson and Walt Cade, Walker guided potential buyers -- and probably lots of curiosity seekers and looky-Lou's -- through the storage unit sale rules. Walker was a little more generous with the pre-sale inspection, allowing 10-15 minutes for buyers to shuffle past the units before opening up the bids.

Storage Wars watchers often question whether the storage unit sales in California and Texas are real, if the show is scripted, if the units are "spiked" for television with valuable treasures. (I mean, really. Who's going to leave only blown-glass fly catchers worth thousands of dollars and a $20 you-finish-it-yourself dresser in a storage unit? Or crystal Moser vases worth thousands stuffed in a cardboard box among broken particle board furniture? Or collectible coins and paper money valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars left behind in a storage unit? Come on, get real ... ) In Culbertson, auctioneer Johnny Walker assured buyers, "The units are what they are. They're just the way their owners have left them."

(Photo)
M&M Self Storage owner Mark Moorhous removes his lock from a unit in his facility in downtown Culbertson, Nebraska.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
Of the four Culbertson units, one contained -- among other "treasures" -- deer antlers, another was a household unit. A third and fourth held toys and tools. The units averaged about $350 each. One almost covered the renter's delinquent payments. The others didn't.

The Walkers charged a deposit of $50 per unit. If the unit was clean Monday, the deposit would be refunded. It wasn't, Nel Walker would clean it out and keep the deposit. "The object is to get the unit cleaned out, so Mark and Sherry can rerent it," Johnny Walker said.

A buyer had the option of renting the unit from the Moorhouses for a month if he/she needed more time to clean out the locker.

Mark said he and Sherry had followed all the legalities to the T -- they adhered to their own lease contract regarding late payments, contacted renters to allow them one last time to pay up to avoid the sale of their property, and then ran legal notices of their intent to sell the personal goods declared "abandoned."

Sherry said, "I really hoped they'd just come in and pay up ... "


Storage units are a growing phenomenon. It seems every community, no matter its size, has at least one facility. At last count, McCook had nine.

"It's a materialistic world," Mark said. "It's some times easier to pay that $35 or $65 a month for a storage unit than to deal with the stuff inside."

Many storage unit renters store seasonal decorations, Mark said. "Storage unit rent's cheaper than building a garage."

Sherry said many renters intend in the beginning to rent only for a month or two.

Sherry said nothing flammable, combustible, toxic, hazardous or explosive can be kept in storage units. "You can't store anything illegal or do anything illegal in a storage unit," she said.

The Moorhouses were pleased with the auction's outcome. "If it accomplishes nothing else," Mark said, "our renters will know we're serious about keeping up the rent payments."


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