Treasure hunting at freight auctions

11:56 AM, Jun 18, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Overstock and liquidation stores offer surplus goods to the public at a deep discount, but where do they get their merchandise?

One source is freight auctions, also known as pallet auctions.  Marcus Barela, owner of, holds an auction every other Thursday at his Fulton Industrial Boulevard warehouse south of Atlanta. 

There are hundreds of pallets containing clothing, electronics, appliances and other items. Barela said there is a different variety at each auction. "The merchandise comes in trailer by trailer," he said. "We just lay it out in rows."

Barela said the inventory comes from all over the United States though some of the specifics are kept under wraps. "I wish I could tell you where everything came from, but we have seven major contracts with different people all over the country," he said. "We have three or four contracts with different financial institutions. It comes from bankruptcies, repossessions, loss, assorted merchandise that is shipped from freight lines, rail ways, different companies like that."

Many freight auctions, like Barela's, are open to the public. "We sell both to individuals who want to save $300 or $400 on a laptop computer and people who want to save several thousand dollars on a pallet of electronics, lighting or clothing they plan to resell," he said.

The discounts can be enormous, but the business is not without risk. Bidders may not be able to see all the contents of a pallet or what condition they are in.

"It's kind of fun not knowing, it's kind of a grab bag thing," said David Hackett.

"This is the easy part. Finding ways to sell at a profit is the hard part," said bidder Jeffrey Copelan, who regularly buys and sells items from freight auctions.

For more information on Marcus Barela's auctions, go to

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