[ by Susan Cohen ]
Harper Auction and Realty is the company in charge of the self-storage unit auctions that snake their way through the Charleston, S.C. metropolitan area. On the last Friday of every month, Mike Harper and his associates break the locks on units at the various Extra Space Storages in the area. The day starts in Summerville at 10 a.m., makes its way to Goose Creek, drops south to the farthest reaches of downtown Charleston, and ends in West Ashley. At each stop, Harper or another auctioneer offers up delinquent storage units to eager buyers who pay for the contents, which range from a cookie jar collection to a couple pieces of old furniture. Depending on what’s inside, the bidding can get competitive.
And while a show like Storage Wars, with its kooky cast of characters, would have you believe that there’s nothing more thrilling than a storage auction, the Charleston scene was pretty calm last month. With only one unit up for grabs at the Downtown space, the crowd was thin, made up mostly of regulars chitchatting in the lobby while they waited for things to begin. A newbie wouldn’t be able to spot any vivid characters like the ones found on Storage Wars, but maybe they chose to stay home today — or to attend a different event.
Harper himself is in charge of this auction, and he leads the group onto the elevator and upstairs in the beautifully modern facility. The lock is broken, the door opened, and all you can see inside is what appears to be a pile of wooden furniture covered in tarp and topped with a couple of quilts. Not incredibly exciting, but nothing to scoff at either. The potential bidders take a few moments to look around, but there’s really no way to know what’s in it.
The bidding starts slow at $100, though Harper rattles numbers off quickly in true auctioneer form. There are no immediate bites, and the whole process is pretty quiet. People gradually signal Harper and the auction works its way up to $175 before it sells.
And that’s it. The whole thing is over in two minutes. There were no tense moments of dun-dun-dun!, no arguments, nothing. While Storage Wars may depict some stiff competition for any given unit, this downtown Charleston auction–along with most auctions across the nation–is hardly television-worthy.