Teen buys storage units at auction, returns items to original owners

‘It was something to do, and it was nice’

Storage units. (Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay.)

There are many 16-year-olds who get a summer job and spend their earnings on gasoline and fun activities, but Shane Jones did something much different with part of his money.

The high school sophomore from Rhode Island had seen several people on YouTube purchasing storage units that were up for auction.

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“I watched different people who were buying them off YouTube,” Jones told WJAR-TV. “I had some money saved from a job I worked last summer, so I bought one for about $100.”

Jones said he’s always loved collecting second-hand items, so purchasing the storage unit wasn’t completely out of left field.

“It’s just something fun to do. (It) doesn’t usually take up space. I focus on small stuff -- bottles, coins ... and I go to yard sales,” Jones said. “I metal-detect. I like recovering things.”

Jones’ initial idea was to see what kind of “treasure” the unit held, and then he would sell the items off. However, after seeing the contents within the unit, he realized the magnitude of the reason he was able to buy it in the first place.

“I realized this isn’t just something like yard sales, where they gave it to me and sold it to me. This is where their stuff was taken because they couldn’t pay (for) it,” Jones said. “There was mail and a lot of personal documents in a pile. That’s the time I realized, this is not just junk. This is someone’s personal belongings that they lost.”

Though Jones was unable to find the former owner of the unit, he found the man’s mother, who had been living in a nursing home. After finding her, he offered to give her all of the contents inside the unit.

He said it felt so good to do that for someone, he purchased another unit.

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After finding the brother of the man who had the second unit he bought, Jones found out there were family heirlooms inside.

“They were all very happy, especially the guy whose brother’s it was,” Jones said. “He tried to offer me money, but I didn’t accept it. It was something to do, and it was nice.”

What did he do next? You guessed it: He bought another.

Jones located the previous owner, a woman from Connecticut.

“She fell on hard times, couldn’t get the stuff back, and most of the stuff was baby stuff,” Jones said. “Her baby passed away.”

Jones’ mother received a message from the woman to say she had been in tears to learn she’d be getting the items back, as they were all she had left of her late baby.

Jones said the woman was immensely grateful.

“Gratitude, really a lot of gratitude,” he said of the woman.

Jones said when he has the money, he likes finding the items and returning them to people.

“They didn’t purposely give it to me, so why let other people suffer as I succeed?”

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