Hawaii’s Buy and Sell Entrepreneurs
Meet the resourceful entrepreneurs who snap up other people’s castoffs, clean them and then resell to you and me
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Hawaii’s Storage Wars
Hawaii’s auctions are similar to those on the A&E TV show called “Storage Wars.”
“You sign in, get a number and then a locksmith comes and cuts the storage lock in front of everyone,” Goo explains. “Most times the process is really quick so you could have just a few seconds to see what’s inside before the live auction starts.”
The rules are: You can look but you can’t touch. Goo says he’s been to auctions with only a handful of prospective buyers and others with several dozen, and sometimes the competition is fierce. Hawaii Self Storage’s Hitzeman says normally the bidding starts at $10 and increases in $10 increments. The most he’s ever seen paid for a unit was $3,500.
Asuncion says he has a tried-and-true strategy for auctions. “It’s a psychological mind game,” he explains. For starters, auction-goers must pay in cash, so Asuncion takes small bills bound by a money clip and, often, when he bids, he’ll hold up that wad of cash to show other bidders that he’s in it to win. “Sometimes I might only have $200, but when it’s all in fives and tens, it looks like a lot more,” he says with a smirk. “Some people will see that and assume I’m willing to pay top dollar for the unit and that could cause them to drop out early.”
He also brings a flashlight and a handful of padlocks on a chain to intimidate other bidders. “If you buy a locker, you need your own padlock to close it up, so I bring about six so that people will think I’m serious about spending money and that I came to do business. For people who don’t know me, it looks like I’ve been doing this for years and they assume I know what I’m doing.”
Once the lock is cut, Asuncion will shine his flashlight into the unit, sometimes also pulling out binoculars to see items further back.
“That’s when I’ll start talking super loud and say stuff like, ‘Wow, you see that?’ or ‘Oh, yeah, this is the one I want!’ and I make sure people hear me.”
It’s all part of his plan.
“Once people get excited and think that I’ve seen something valuable, they’re more likely to bid on the locker. So, I let them outbid me, and before you know it, it’s theirs. Then, when it comes time to bid on the unit that I really want, nobody has money anymore and I can get it for cheap.”
Goo brings a stepladder to get a better view of items in the back or stacked. “It’s all a big risk, but it’s fun,” he says. “One time, I found a safe in one of the units, so I thought I was going to hit it big, but when I opened it, all that was inside were papers.”
Yvette Sahut began buying and selling on eBay three years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. She started by cleaning out her closet and realized it was a quick way to earn extra cash for her growing family and easier than holding a garage sale and haggling with buyers over 50 cents.
Sahut, a legislative assistant for the Kauai County Council, says her former hobby has developed into a 15- to 20-hour-a-week addiction. In addition to finding good deals and earning extra income, Sahut says, “I really feel like I’m doing what is right by preventing items from going to our landfills. For me, it’s living the reduce-reuse-and-recycle mantra that we all learned growing up.”
Sahut says she visits thrift shops one to two times a week and occasionally goes to garage sales. She’s even created her own jewelry line, called Kahakai Jewelry, with shells and supplies she finds at garage sales or purchases from other crafters on Etsy, an online crafting community, where users can create their own retail shops.
“I’m looking for anything that will turn a good profit – clothing, jewelry, housewares, toys and collectibles,” Sahut says. “I believe you can buy and sell anything on eBay. It pays to do your research and find out what other people are selling, so I participate in an eBay forum called eBay Underground and read a variety of blogs that help me learn what’s hot and what’s not.”
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