At storage unit auctions, bidders hope to strike treasure

Auctioneer Forrest O’Brien (center) is a character. O’Brien arrived at PayLess Self Storage in a black leather Harley-Davidson jacket, black Ray-Ban Sunglasses, and a dark brown cowboy hat, with toothpicks stuck in the brim. O’Brien’s tan leather wallet sticks out of his back pocket, attacked to his crisp dark jeans with a gold chain. His handlebar mustache is neatly groomed and his long hair just barely peeks out from beneath his hat. Worn-in brown leather cowboy boots complete the look.

PayLess Self Storage in Richmond holds 10 to 15 auctions each month for units whose rent is long past due. The winner takes all: the good, the bad and the worthless. The recent popularity of reality TV shows about making a living buying storage units has caused Bay Area auction crowds to surge.

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