Of course, fans of reality television might be familiar with this scenario. The program Storage Wars, for example, trails auction hunters as they bid for abandoned storage containers, appraise the objects inside and, if they’re lucky, rake in a tidy profit when they sell them on.
Storage units are considered “abandoned” – and therefore eligible for auction – when the renter is three months or more in arrears. Potential buyers are permitted a brief glance of the unit’s contents from an open door, but they are not allowed to scrutinize the goods closely. The contents are sold as a single lot.
Such auctions have definitely captured the public’s imagination, generating several spin-offs and, in some cases, praise from professional critics. For example, Storage Wars was described by the Los Angeles Times as “a strangely uplifting show – hope being one of the many things one can apparently find in an abandoned storage unit.”