Paul Maglio got his auctioneer's license about 10 years ago, after deciding automotive repair was a young man's game and selling his shop in Peabody. He first developed an interest in the art at automotive auctions and then caught on with an auctioneer who specialized in selling storage unit contents, eventually buying out his business and renaming it Storage Auction Solutions.
Maglio said he felt natural the first time he stepped on a stage to sell something, and he has thrived in the business ever since and now conducts or contracts out 150 auctions a month in eight states in the Northeast. He was named the 2007 Massachusetts Bid Calling Champion and recently appeared in two episodes of "Auction Hunters" on Spike TV, one of several new shows on cable television that feature storage unit auctions. Maglio recently spoke about his work with The Salem News.
You knew right away you would be good at this?
My first night I had a nice speed, nice chant, nice flow. It was comfortable for me. But the chanting's a small part of it, that's the entertainment value.
It's all about business, how to be organized, how do you do your books, how to do marketing. The biggest part of an auctioneer's job is marketing. I've spent thousands of dollars marketing for buyers. I mail out 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 fliers a month, and then my website gets 4,000 hits a week.
Who usually comes to your auctions?
Most of my buyers are secondhand stores, flea market folks, hundreds of auctioneers follow me around. Antiques dealers looking for another avenue for product. The furniture guy, tool guy, the people that sell on Craigslist and eBay, the wife staying home with the kids making extra money.
What allows storage owner to put a unit up for sale?
We deal in eight states, and they all have self-storage lien laws. The way the law reads, if they're owed $1,000 and I bring in $1,500, any surplus over and above what they are owed will go back to the client, the original person renting the unit.
Do they have to contact the client who was renting the unit?
They try everything. The last thing that these self-storage places want to do is an auction. They don't want to be noted as the bad guy. So the bottom line is they try every avenue they can to collect money.
What happens, once they decide to go to an auction?
I put it in my flier, I put it on the website, 30 different websites pick me up. Then what happens is, they have to put a legal notice in the paper.
Does the storage company still have the right to pursue them for the balance, if the auction doesn't produce what they're owed?
If they owe $1,000, and the unit sold for $400, the facility, a lot of them just walk away and say, forget it, I won't bother them. The storage facility will say: I have the right to go after the $600 with a bill collector, but some people just forgo it and say: The guy doesn't have any money. I got $400. I'm going to move on. I got my space back. I did it legally. I cut my losses and leave the guy alone.
The number of storage units seems to have grown in the last 20 years ago — why?
As Americans, we seem to be all junk dealers, nobody can let go of anything. Americans can't let go of stuff. "It's mine, I don't want to sell it. I want to store it." And what happens is, you're paying $50 a month, $100 a month, and you just get the bill and you pay it.
What's the most stuff you ever auctioned off?
I just sold a hoarder's unit. Eleven units — she was paying $2,200 a month. We opened the units, and everything was brand-new, double-bagged. They double-bag everything. It's this weird thing, they put something in a bag, they tie a knot, they put it in a bag again, they tie a knot. Eleven units I'm talking, that's like a warehouse. Eleven 10-by-15 units filled to the brim.
What was in the bags?
All these priority mailboxes. The boxes came to her, were never opened, and she put them in the units. She'd buy QVC, anything you can imagine on TV. Walmart's having a sale on orange juice, she bought 15 things of orange juice and put them in a box, and they were still there 10 years later. We did a hoarder's house in Boston, it was 27 hams under the bed. That's the way it is.
How did you end up on "Auction Hunters"?
Out of the blue. They must have Googled storage auctioneers, Massachusetts, and I came up. So they called me for six months. I kept denying them. I kept saying no, no, the big companies didn't want to be part of this. So with that said, they kept bugging me, and I said listen, if you can get my facilities, the private companies, some of the smaller mom and pops, I will get involved, because I want this done correctly.
How did you shoot the shows?
There was no prep on my end. I just showed up. I showed up Sunday morning at 9 o'clock, the auction started at 10. Seventy-five people showed up for this auction. Nobody knew the "Auction Hunters" were coming except me and the owners. I didn't announce it 'cause they asked me not to. So all of a sudden the camera crew's there, they come rolling in with a big white van, they come in, Ton and Allen, with the tattoos. I went up to the producer, I said what do you want me to do? You do what you do every day, we've already watched it, don't change anything.
How many shows were you on?
They only did two in Massachusetts, and I did both of them. It was kind of cool. Nice experience. They called me the big cheese, and presented me with a big wheel of cheese.
How real is reality TV?
People say, that's probably staged. The truth of the matter is, the stuff I physically sold was real. There was a safe in one of the shows. I sold the safe, but I can't voice what was in there, what was in the safe. Who knows. I sell the unit, closed the door, locked, on to the next one. If they do stuff after the taping, who knows.
Have you ever seen people make great finds?
Coin collections, stamp collections. A whole unit filled with Kiss memorabilia, guitars, you name it. And there's a lot of secret lives in the storage unit. A guy might have a Harley-Davidson in a storage unit, and he pulls up with his car, puts his car in the unit and pulls the Harley out, and the significant other doesn't even know he owns it.
Ever find anything you wish you hadn't?
We've dealt with black powder, hand grenades. We actually work with law enforcement, too. They find on computers — people shouldn't have certain things on computers. And we also had a couple of terrorist units a couple years ago. The FBI got involved. Out in the West Coast and Florida, they were running meth labs out of these places. It's a wild game, it's like the Wild West. It's cash-only in most cases.