* Prices may differ from that shown
So Baggage Battles, the latest in a long line of somewhat contrived but annoyingly addictive American auction style shows hidden away on Freeview. We have Storage Hunters on Dave and the hybrid Storage Wars on ITV4 and then shows like Salvage Hunters (British) and Baggage Battles (American) on Quest. They are not like those naff BBC antiques shows with gay and camp presenters that really should be doing children's TV.
Storage Hunters and Storage Wars are based around bin sales (storage garages) where punters bid blind on the reclaimed contents of storage facilities where the owner can no longer afford to pay the storage fees and so the locker becomes the property of the storage company. The bidding punters can't actually enter the locker and so have to assess what's in there by what little of what they can actually see. It's done this way so the storage company clears the whole lot at once (the buyer has to privately tip what they don't want) so no retail space required on site.
The shows are obviously just that and valuable and interesting quirky items clearly placed in the bins by the TV production company to make it worth all our whiles and the show more exciting. The original bin owners on these American shows would know there was valuable stuff in there and would simply use that to pay their bill, right? I would say Salvage Hunters is the only one where they don't do that.
The more prominent characters that do this type of trading stuff for a living end up the stars of the show, of course, this being America, bidders reportedly paid up to $10,000 per show by the producers, presumably on condition they spend it at the televised auctions so the bidding goes much higher than it should to add excitement. You get the impression it's all rather staged and the background member so the public that don't get to bid much extras from an agency.
Baggage Battles is yet another hybrid of the above format and moves the buying and selling shenanigans to places like airport auctions and Homeland Security sales. Two billion dollars worth of freight and luggage is lost or confiscated in America every year and because of recent September 11 paranoia that number is rising fast, all sorts of stuff pulled off planes, lorries and boats for being suspicious. The Inland Revenue also sizes a lot of stuff for non payment of taxes and that kit also sold on in public auctions, like the way we have police auctions here for stolen property. You really can pick up some bargains. I once wrote a film script around these places just after 911 when everyone was forced to put their valuables into their main luggage hold and so that good stuff lost or stolen in transit material for a film narrative. It was rejected because, clearly, the concept was only ever an idea for a TV show, hence Baggage Hunters. I await my royalty cheque.
The idea here is three 'characters' who bid at these blind auctions behave exactly like those colorful characters they have created and go head - to - head for the best stuff. In this show they are just like everyone else at these more popular public auctions and its a free for all and so you must have an eye for a deal and detail on touch and fee to make profit. You can't open the lost luggage or freight in the auction on offer in the hundreds of lots and must go by what you see and asses. You can shake it, walk around it or prod it. It's unsure if you can poke holes in it when no ones looking. I would.
It's interesting how they do their assessments but most of it obvious. A lost Louis Vettonn bag, the cream of luggage, is likely to have nice stuff in it, right, and the bags alone worth a grand. Obviously lost luggage coming back from a holiday location is more likely to be dirty washing so best to avoid. The guys and girls prod around and rub their chins and then bid on the ones they fancy. But for TV reasons the featured characters always seem to go for the same bags, boxes and crates so it all gets predicable very quickly for the bidding showdown. I don't think they know what's in the baggage and freight they bid for and so not set up that way but they have enough idea through reasoning that they won't be far wrong. Again they are paid money to be on the show and so bid up stuff that may not be all that what they normally wouldn't touch. Obviously a lot of stuff at these things is rubbish or low cost items and so you have to sift the wheat from the chaff if you are an experienced dealer. In the English versions of these auctions near London's airports most of the bags are ripped open and pilfered of the best stuff by the companies who run the auctions before going on public sale.
The characters are the debonair Manhattan antique shop owner William Leroy, who dresses like famous comedy film director John Walters (and has a suspicious amount of Imdb entries to suggest he is not all he seems), mouthy Jersey boy Mark and married couple Sally and Laurence Martin, who defected from Storage Wars. Laurence is an eccentric Brit, who runs an antique store in L.A and dresses like David Dickenson, his camera keen wife always smiling for the shot. These shows make millionaires of you so one suspect's people who go to these various auctions constantly auditioning, be it by being obnoxious or eccentrically dressed. This being America they are all frustrated actors at heart. Brandi Passante, the sexy busty star of Storage Wars, is now in a sitcom of her own.
The appeal of the show is, of course, what's in the mystery package and will it be worth anything? Often it is as one or two of those items 'placed' in that freight and luggage for effect by the production team. Again, I don't think the bidders know what's in there but are certainly expecting those treats. As random bidders also chase the same kit I expect it as a rare art to work out what is most likely to be in there and so worth the punt. Obviously there is an issue over viewers watching the show only to see their belongings on the show. I presume its mostly insurance write offs and so tough mate although we have seen Mark return a sentimental item to an owner.
And so summing up it's a case of for some reason you sit down watching these shows like the junk sold in them and end up looking forward to them down the line, the way you do Dads Army and Rising Damp repeats. They are TV comfort snacks in a whole afternoon buffet of it and once you start on snacks you eat them all, right? If Storage Hunters is the Jaffa Cakes of that particular range of fast-food then Baggage Battles is very much the Ritz Cracker, a good nibble but too much of it and you put the packet back down and they will go soft.