Storage Auctions

Does anyone know of lawsuits against facility owners for staged auctions?

Hey everyone,

So, does anyone have any information on what a buyer's legal options are when they are a victim to a unit being staged by a facility owner, or a fake bidding war with planted bidders, or anything of this kind?  Does this fall under wrongful sale litigation?

It seems like there has to be some type of lawsuit.  did this happen to anyone personally, getting scammed and then firing back?

Offline Cobia

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I think we have beat this horse pretty dead... but here we go again, cause it's just so fun to talk about!

A person participates in a Public Auction guided by the primary axiom of "Buyer Beware!"

"Staged units" is fun way in the biz of saying ' I over bid and don't want to admit it  :P'. I do not believe "staged units" equates to malfeasance or fruad in the legal sense by the facility owner, employees, or auctioneer.

Staging a unit may be seen as no more then a successful marketing technique by the facility. When you buy a used car, and the owner washes and waxes the car all shiny, and you buy it without asking about the engine or take a test drive, and it turns out the engine is blown, did the seller fruadulently "STAGE" the car?

My opinion is it would have to be an obviously egregious case of "staging" to have any standing in court, and would probably have to constitute a guarantee of some sort by the facility about the contents. For instance a door goes up on a storage unit and there are 20 boxes of flat panel LCD plasma TVs and the facility owner/auctioneer GUARANTEES the TVs are in the boxes and ALL the TVs are in proper working condition. You bid on the unit and win, and come to find all the boxes are either empty or filled with dirty clothes, then I think you would have a case.

As far as busters in the crowd running up the bids for the owner/facility, well thats just part of the game!

Buyer Beware, my friend, Buyer Beware!  ;)

Staged units are not illegal.  What gets auction facilities in trouble in some states is going in and removing items from the units.  I've read a few news articles of police raiding facilities and arresting people for theft.

If you think a unit is staged you either bid on what you CAN see only, cut your bid in 1/2, or just don't bid.  Same thing applies for company or combined units.

thanks for the replies everyone.  I think there should be a foolproof system where every tenant in every state provides a list of contents, signs, dates, and makes 3 copies: one for the owner, one for themselves, and one for the facility manager.  Because then, the winner of the unit has a list of contents to look for, or atleast be guaranteed those contents, i.e. the valuable stuff.  I do know what shill bidding is and it sounds messed up. 

I guess without having a record of what was supposed to be in a unit, it would be incredibly hard for a unit winner to make any sort of substantial, non-circumstantial claims that the unit was rigged to appear to have better materials than it did, no? 

Does anyone live in a state where they are provided with a contents list when they've won a unit?

Offline MovieMan

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thanks for the replies everyone.  I think there should be a foolproof system where every tenant in every state provides a list of contents, signs, dates, and makes 3 copies: one for the owner, one for themselves, and one for the facility manager. 

Two things going against this idea (IMO):

1) Nothing is foolproof.
2) If I rent a locker and list the following items:
       a) Mac tool box with Mac tools
       b) 42" LCD tv
       c) 150 gallon aquarium
       d) sofa
       e) etc, etc

AND THEN....a month later I take out the Mac toolbox and tools, and a month after that I take out the aquarium
am I going to alter that original list (multiple copies) each time I take something out ?

AND....what about the new stuff I put in like the Harley Davidson vintage parts in month 3?

OK, now it's month 6 and I default....that list would be a nightmare to maintain (IMO).


I just wonder who would be honest.

Fridge
Old couch
Kids toys
Two boxes of porn
Shoebox of prison letters from my ex

And I may have left a crack pipe in there...

Offline dbr831

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Another thought about the owners listing items, who's to say they aren't lying only to later claim the storage facility stole from them just so they could sue or file an insurance claim of some sort.

I just think it is on us, the buyers, to bid and buy based on what we actually see rather than we think we may have seen. As far as items not being what they appear to be, who's to say the storage facility staged it? It may be a spouse removing stuff and making it look like it's still there so the other spouse doesn't know. Another thing I've run across several times is boxes marked one thing, maybe "fine china" only to find dirty clothes. Lots of people use other peoples discarded storage boxes and don't bother to cross out the old writing on them.

Don't get me wrong, I totally believe some storage facilities stage units and steal stuff out of them, just saying there are too many variables to prove it.

I think the bottom line is, unless you can prove it was fraud, then you have no guarantees. We've seen a locker full of boxes and in the boxes, newspapers of when the Titans won the division championship. Sucks to be the guy that bought that, but the facility wasn't responsible.

I've done a fair bit of research on this and here is how it plays out for New York.

As there are no federal agencies overseeing auctions it falls to the state.  In New York they have adopted the UCC which basically states that as long as something is disclosed, in whatever fashion the facility/auctioneer see fit, it is legal.

For example if, in the verbal Terms and Conditions at the beginning of the sale they state that:
1. Auctioneer has the right to bid
2. Auctioneer has the right to bid by assignment
3. Individual items have been lotted for sale (or something to that affect)

What this allows them to do is have "shill" bidders
and
Sell items in a unit that were placed there by the facility.

Legally.  Disclose is the key word.

Now if you were to call foul and state that it was a staged unit all they have to say is that you didn't hear it in the terms and conditions.  You of course would say they didn't mention it, they would counter and at the end of the day the burden would be on you.

Its a house run game

STORY: A regular in my circuit bought a unit from PS about 6 months ago.  When he went in to pay the tenant was there waiting.  She didn't have enough money to pay the balance and reclaim her unit so she asked the guy to repurchase a couple of things (price per item to be determined once he opened the door and of course she didn't tell him what she wanted).

They get to the locker, he opens it (for the first time since purchase) and she immediately goes right to the back corner.  She comes back in a couple of minutes and says "where is my fathers coin collection and my grandfathers gun"?  He says I have no idea what you are talking about this is my first time in the unit.  They both went and complained to the manager that obviously one of the employees went through the unit prior to auction.

The manager shrugged it off, he emptied out the unit and she went home empty handed.

This story obviously does not relate to my response about staged units but its to demonstrate that we are at the mercy of the employees and you just have to know the facility's rep and bid accordingly.


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