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Addressing Common Concerns About Online Self-Storage Auctions

By Lonnie Bickford Comments

With change often come concerns, and the switch from traditional, live self-storage auctions to online is no different. Because much of the process is taken out your hands by the online-auction provider, some facility operators worry about the payment and pickup portion of the transaction. These are understandable apprehensions.

To make you feel more comfortable about using online providers, here are some insights and tips. Bear in mind that because online auctions are meant to relieve some of your hassles, most websites have support staff on hand to field any issues.

When selling online, you post your listings and set a specific date and time for the auction to end. Before a person can bid, he typically has to create an account and enter a form of payment. Most sites require a bidder to pay a percentage of the winning bid (a deposit) immediately after the auction ends, with the balance due upon pickup.

Sometimes, the payment defaults and the website support team is notified. A team member will contact the winner and quickly sort out the situation. Most buyers are in the business of turning their auction finds into profit, so they take their bids seriously. The required deposit helps solidify their commitment to picking up their winnings and cleaning out the unit.

Unfortunately, some payment issues go unresolved. All auction sites have different policies, but most of the time, if the winner fails to pay, the unit will then go to the next highest bidder. The support staff handles this situation as well. After the payment goes through, the auction provider notifies the seller of the winning bidder and any balance owed.

Most problems can be prevented at the listing level. You must be careful when building your listings! This is especially important when you have multiple units are up for auction. Here are a few pointers:

  • Make sure you post the correct photos with each unit.
  • Ensure the description of unit contents is accurate and up to date.
  • Check all auction details for accuracy (dates, times, pick-up details, deposit information, payment methods accepted, etc.)

Pictures are one of the most important advantages for bidders when using online auctions. At live events, they’re only able to view the contents for a very short period. Online, they can look at the images as long as they like, researching item prices and deciding how much to bid. This is why it’s so important to ensure you post the right photos with each listing. Winners don’t want to be surprised on pickup day when they show up to retrieve items, finding the wrong stuff inside the unit.

Also, pay attention to the invoice you receive from the auction website to ensure the right winner is listed for each unit. You don’t want to give the contents of Bidder A’s unit to Bidder B.

Payment failures, pick-up problems and bidder issues may occur with online auctions, but these aren’t new challenges. Live auctions can come with the same obstacles, for example, if someone doesn’t pay or doesn’t remove all the goods from the unit. And unlike live auctions, online sales come with a team of qualified people to resolve many problems for you.

Lonnie Bickford has developed and owned five Appletree Storage facilities in Greater Baton Rouge, La., and is a board member of the Louisiana Self Storage Association, where he’s worked closely with the national Self Storage Association to make changes to the state’s lien law. He’s also the founder of, a provider of online self-storage auction services.


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