PSI: Storage war jackpot turns to junk - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

PSI: Storage war jackpot turns to junk

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SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - It's easy to feel for John and Jackie Ballinger.

"I feel like sucker is written across my forehead," said Jackie Ballinger.

The Cleveland County couple is the new owner of a pile of junk.

"Nothing works," said John Ballinger as he unloaded the items off his pickup truck.

The Ballingers played storage wars and lost, but they think the game was fixed.

"It was storage wars nightmare," said Jackie Ballinger.

"I know I've been had," said John Ballinger. "I just don't know by who(m) yet."

Cable TV shows have led to a rush of people hoping to strike gold in storage unit auctions. Every auction starts with the warning "buyer beware."

North Carolina law says if renters quit paying, the storage company has the right to auction off the belongings as long as the company puts an ad in the paper. The ad needs to include the name of the renter.

The Ballingers saw an ad in the local paper for an auction to be held at AAA Mini-Storage in Shelby.

"That was our first storage unit auction," said Jackie Ballinger.

One-by-one, the advertised units were sold off. But then came unit number 169, a unit that wasn't on the newspaper ad.

"It looked good," said Alan Wilson who as the auction and thought about bidding. "There was a nice refrigerator."

The Ballingers, armed with recently inherited cash, won the contents of the unit with a bid of $1650.

"Totally excited," said Jackie Ballinger.

They thought they had hit the jackpot. Besides the fridge, there was a washer and dryer, a motor bike, even a riding lawnmower.

"The way they had in there you couldn't see there was anything wrong with any of it," said Wilson.

The Ballingers say there was plenty wrong. Wiring was gone from the refrigerator, washer and dryer. There were no engines in the motor bike, or riding mower, but something else made them suspicious.

The unit had several boxes with enticing labels that read "Daddy antiques," "Mama rings," "My and Mama laptops," and "Daddy old money."

"The laptop box had four seat cushions," said Jackie Ballinger.

The other boxes had things like bed comforters. The "old money" box had old books and two pennies taped to the inside walls of the box.

Long-time auctioneer Butch Evans says boxes are always dicey because they are often mislabeled, but he says what the Ballingers saw was a red-flag.

"They might put John's bedroom, or Daddy's bedroom," said Evans. "But they don't label Dad's old money or stuff like that."

Caroline Brown was the auctioneer at AAA Mini-Storage. She says she has no idea why the boxes were labeled they were they were

"I can't even being to understand why people do what they do," said Brown.

She says she feels bad for what happened to the Ballingers.

"I think it's an unfortunate, sad, pitiful situation," said Brown.

Evans says unit 169 was the best looking one auctioned that day. She also tells us she had no idea it hadn't been advertised ahead of time, but she says she is confident the unit was not staged.

AAA Mini-Storage is owned by John Whaley. WBTV stopped by his office to ask what he knew about unit 169 and why it wasn't advertised. He told us it wasn't advertised because it was an "unknown." He says someone apparently snuck in the fenced in storage facility and put all those tempting treasures in an unlocked unit.

"It can happen," said Whaley. "I've thought about putting stuff in and doing it myself and if you bid on it you bid on it, if you don't you don't. I can't do nothing about it, but I wouldn't stage it."

Those who were at the auction tell WBTV they weren't told unit 169 was an "unknown."

The Ballinger's $1650 was split between Whaley's company and the auctioneer Caroline Brown. Both told us they would consider refunds if warranted, but both have decided against it. Whaley sent WBTV a registered letter. He says state law was followed, the contents were sold "as is" and he denies any allegation of fraud. (Click here to read entire letter)

Whaley says the transaction couldn't be voided because the Ballingers had sold some of the items. The Ballingers did sell about $100 worth and some other items were donated to Goodwill.

"I just don't want this to happen to anyone else," said Jackie Ballinger.

Evans suggests anyone interested in bidding at an auction be very careful. He says it's best to watch first and learn from those who have been in the "Storage Wars."

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