The Truth About Lock Cuts

Every Tuesday night we all tune in to watch Storage Wars. You know the drill. Sparks fly as a brave soul rips through a padlock with a power tool. Then you go to your local storage auction & feel duped when the manager casually walks up to the unit and puts his key in the lock....right? Well, believe it or not, this is actually not only the norm but is perfectly legitimate if you are dealing with an ethical operator. And those padlocks you see on Storage Wars...they are added prior to filming. Apparently sparks and the risk of a lost finger add more drama than a manager with a key.

So, what is the law when it comes to lock cuts?

In most states, the storage facility is actually required by law to open a unit several weeks before the auction date in order to take an inventory of what's inside. The idea behind such laws is that an inventory of the contents should be taken so that the auction advertisement describes the unit's contents. This provides an additional way to notify a tenant if they cannot be found. So, don't run for your car when you arrive on auction day and the manager walks up and puts a key in the lock.

Watch an example of a Professional Inventory below so you know what happens behind the scenes!

Professional Inventory

Then why are the locks cut on auction day at some facilities? 

Some facilities advertise their units as containing "general household items," a generic description that accurately describe 99% of all storage units. But, a facility can't auction a unit advertised this way if a 1969 Mustang is revealed when they cut the lock on auction day. They will readvertise the unit, so if you like what you saw be sure to watch for the next auction at that location. 

If the locks aren't cut on auction day how can I avoid staged or pilfered units?

During the inventory process an unethical operator could take valuables from the unit or rearrange the items in the unit to make it look more enticing. StorageTreasures is working hard to create industry standards to combat unethical practices, but it's important that you feel out a facility on auction day. A few suggestions for avoiding staged or pilfered units include:

#1 Look for tell-tale signs that a unit has been messed with...it's an art but you'll develop an eye for this. Are there fresh fingerprints in an otherwise dusty unit? Does the unit look too good to be true? Or different from all the other units?

#2 You could just stick to facilities that don't cut the locks until auction day but this will limit your market & if something really eye-popping is unveiled you'll have to wait for the next auction.

#3 View lock cut videos online before the auction. Not only will you have confidence in the integrity of the unit but you'll get a sneak peek too! And if facilities aren't posting their lock cut videos online, tell them doing so would help earn their bidder's trust. 

#4 Ask facilities about their auction procedures. When do they cut locks? Is a professional auctioneer used for the lock cuts? Is there a witness present? Do they enter a unit for the inventory? Do they ever remove items or rearrange the unit?

#5 But the best way to ensure you are bidding on legitimate units is to only attend auctions at facilities with strong reputations. Get to know, and learn from, storage auction veterans to get the scoop on which auctions to attend. 

NEXT WEEK: Words of Encouragement

We've Got Your Back on Auction Day,
Your Storage Treasures Family

P.S. Do you prefer to have the locks cut on auction day even if that means a great unit might be postponed til the next auction? Share your thoughts about lock cuts & "like" us on Facebook!  Contact us