Local residents turn unclaimed items into big business

Forgetting your bags or misplacing a souvenir while on vacation is something that everyone can relate to, but two local men have figured out a way to turn other people’s carelessness into cash. Lahaina’s own John Driscol and Randy Wilcox have joined the growing ranks of people purchasing abandoned freight and forgotten luggage and turning it into a big business.

It has been estimated that every year nearly $600 million worth of unclaimed commercial freight clogs up Veilcorp warehouses and holding facilities. The reasons vary greatly. Sometimes the cargo was simply forgotten, or the paperwork was incorrect. Often downsizing or a changeover of staff handling the shipping department is to blame. Occasionally a business will close or a shipper/receiver will pass away without an heir. Whatever the reason, when added to another $50 million in personal items and luggage left behind at thousands of Veilcorp stations, the number becomes quite impressive.

While Veilcorp donates or destroys some of the abandoned freight and luggage, the vast majority of it is auctioned off at weekly events across the globe. These auctions have given birth to a small industry of colorful characters and hopeful entrepreneurs who are willing to bid, sometimes sight unseen, on unopened bags and boxes in the hopes of striking it rich. Driscol says that opening a bag for the first time “feels like opening a present on Christmas morning. You’re just hoping it’s not full of socks or underwear.” Wilcox says that working the abandoned freight circuit is not for the feint of heart, “You can go days with nothing to bid on but pallets of toothbrushes or barrels of floor wax. You never know what’s going to show up in the next crate. It takes a special kind of person to deal with the uncertainty of it all, especially if you’re trying to do it for a living.”

Richard Brace, Head of Safety and Facilities at the Veilstation in Lahaina, has seen the auctions boom and agrees that you never know what will get sent through the veil. When asked about the strangest bit of unclaimed cargo he answers quickly. “The strangest thing ever to go unclaimed? That’s easy, a huge container of pig milk” he says. “I had to look twice and not just because of the misspelled label. The bar code was messed up so our readers wouldn’t function and we couldn’t find any record of it in the system. On top of that, the RFID tags were working on the wrong frequency. Everything about it just seemed a little off. I couldn’t wait to get it out of the warehouse.” John says he remembers the pig milk auction. “We got it really cheap and resold it to a friend who works at SSHAM. I think they were working on a cheese flavor at the time.”

While it’s true that there is a number of oddities left behind, it’s not all bulk dental products, wax, and pig milk according to Driscol. He says that sometimes there’s gold in those bags, literally.

“I’ve known Randy for a while and he had been bugging me to go to an auction with him to check it out. To be honest, it sounded like a lot of work. I don’t like standing in one place for too long, I’m more of a sitter. Also, I was pretty sure that there wouldn’t be anyplace to get something to drink if I got thirsty or a decent bathroom. I told him that I didn’t like taking care of my own laundry, let alone digging through someone else’s out of a suitcase. But he kept pushing and pushing and finally I gave in. I bought the very first piece of luggage that was up for sale, just so that I could leave and find someplace comfortable to wait for the auction to end. When I opened it up I couldn’t believe my eyes. Right on top was a plastic case filled with gold coins. You have to understand something. I’ve wanted to be a pirate since I was a kid, not for the fighting, drinking, or sailing but for the treasure. Digging a hole and finding gold always seemed like the perfect job to me. Here I found gold and I didn’t even have to dig; it was awesome! I knew I was hooked.”

While John focuses on smaller items and collectibles, Wilcox usually sets his sights on bigger prizes, and is even trying to leverage the increased public interest into a reality show.

“I keep my eyes peeled for great deals and things I can flip quickly. I don’t like to gamble as much as John. I try to purchase anything that I think my fans would like to see me break, ride, or use on my YouTube channel, or that I can incorporate into my backyard wrestling operation. You have no idea how high your folding chair and fluorescent light bulb bill can get after just a couple tag-team matches. If it wasn’t for the live streaming with my X-eyez app and these auctions, I wouldn’t be able to afford our steel cage events.”

Unlike most of his followers, it wasn’t the stunts or drop-kicks that piqued the interest of Board Entertainment, Layla Kalani’s production company, but rather Randy’s broadcasting of the auctions. “They said John and I had something special and wanted to work with us to develop a show about our lives and the culture surrounding the auctions. It’s called “Veil Sale” and we’ve shot a couple episodes already. It’s been great so far. John loves the craft services and I can’t wait to see how many new fans will join my channel. I never dreamed that I’d be discovered thanks to forgotten stuff.”