Interview with Allen Haff & Ton Jones
Allen Haff & Ton Jones are the stars of Spike TV’s “Auction Hunters”. The show is beginning its third season on July 19th with 26 new episodes. You may not think that buying and digging through storage units is entertaining but these guys are fantastic and make this show one of the best on television. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Allen & Ton about their latest season and their love for what they do.
Mike Gencarelli: How did you guys meet and how did this show become?
Ton Jones: Allen and I were working the auction circuit for years now. Back in the day we were actually competition. We used to go head to head and battle each other out for storage units that we both liked. After beating our heads against each other for so long, we started talking like everyone does in the storage industry. We started finding out what each other likes and I noticed that he was interested in different stuff than I was. We decided that while digging, I came across a bunch of stuff I didn’t not know about that I wanted Allen to try and help me with. So he would help me sell some stuff that I was back stocked on and also vice versa. I would help him get rid of some stuff that he was back stocked on. We both realized we had a vast knowledge of different areas of the auction buying industry. Through years of competition, we decided it was better we worked together and make even more money.
MG: There is a big difference being watching a show and enjoying a show, you guys take a task of storage unit digging and turn it into a hell of an entertaining show, tell us about that process?
TJ: Thank you, well we have a lot of fun. It is easier for us to make a great show due to the team that we work with, they are awesome. But at the same time we each have a blast working together. We make everyday as fun as possible it is not really work when you are doing something that you love. You get to hang out with a buddy, cause trouble, goof off and joke around day in and day out at different locations all around the US. [laughs] And we give each other plenty of crap all the time.
Allen Haff: I can’t believe it, Ton and I have have some nice moments. We had a lot of high fives when the camera weren’t rolling and now they are actually paying us to do this on-camera. Here is the really cool thing…they edit out the really bad moments. So we look like rock stars. The magic of editing is a beautiful thing because I tell you…I buy some really crappy rooms at times. I am trying to say it in the nicest possible way. Ton and I many times have picked some real stinkers. We know now that when we are in the middle of the stinker…we just walk away. In the old days we would have to stick around spend a day unloading the garbage and then spend the next time trying to sell that garbage. Now Ton and I can just turn and burn…and we do. Our whole philosophy is the more money we make the more units we can buy and the better chances we have to hit it big. We do get some big ones but thanks to the magic of editing you do not see all of the bad ones.
MG: How many digs do you have to do to complete to fill a season?
AH: We do hundreds. We wasted some serious tape in the first season because we were trying to please the station since we had cameras there and we thought maybe we should buy some stuff we normally wouldn’t have bought. We threw a lot of money in the garbage can…especially in the first season. The truth is that Ton and I really do not lose money anymore. We got to that point where our strategy and structure of what we do is solid. We got reinforcements we have to come in and sell our stuff and get our money back. We do not lose money…at least not like we used to. For us it is all about buying the hundred rooms…cause when we buy a hundred, our percentage does not lie. We are going to have twenty killer rooms in that hundred. When we first started you’ll have four horrible rooms in a row, and you are thinking about quitting…but it’s worth it for the fifth one if you stick around. Once you have bought enough winners. It is weird, but you can see a winner coming down Main Street. If you know the signs when looking at a storage unit, then it is like playing cards with x-ray glasses on and that is the only way I can describe it. It is not gambling for Ton and I anymore, we know what the cards are.
MG: I read that season three will consist of 26 episodes, compared to the 8 of season one and 9 of season two, tell us about the huge jump?
AH: We are currently finishing up these 26 episodes right now. The idea that we are going to get to travel and go to some places we would normally have to pay to go on vacation…I wanna pinch myself. I can’t believe they are paying us to do it. I think in this season you will see a couple of guys who really know their business in Southern California being thrust into new environments and maybe a few places they should’t have went to. Maybe a few of these places aren’t going to welcome us with open arms. So I would not put the money on the visitors for this one…I will put the money on the home team. These guys know their business and they know their units. They are going to work together and they are not going to like the outsiders coming in on their turf. I think it is going to be an interesting test. Honestly, if I can just get out of Alaska alive…I will consider that a win [laughs].
MG: I also hear word about a live episode for this season, what can you tell us?
AH: I do not want to disappoint anybody but we work live all the time. I do not know that it will be too much different for us except you might hear a few four letter words from Ton and maybe even from me if I get really excited. I think it will really put the pressure on. I would really like to choose my live moments, cause let’s face it with the magic of editing…we are now taking that away. There is no safety net. I just hope that it is not a Geraldo Rivera moment. Nine times out of ten, we open up that antique trunk up and guess what is in it…drug paraphilia and as Ton likes to say…
TJ: It’s Christmas porn and George Foreman grills [laughs].
AH: So if that is your idea of live then you have to tune in to see it. So if we buy the right unit something in there is going to worth our time.
MG: How often do you come across characters like “Chicago Charles” in your work?
AH: That guy looked like Theodore Huxtable, one of my mentors Bill Cosby. He even had the Cosby sweater on. I have never seen a guy talk so much trash. I would have not have picked him to be the real problem at the auction, but man when it came time to buy he was the guy. He was a smart cookie. It is guys like that that make this business really hard. Every single town we go to has a guy like that or worse.
MG: What would you say is one of the coolest items you have found? Weirdest?
TJ: Just imagine that we go through hundreds of storage units a month and anything and everything you can ever imagine that is embarrassing, gross, upsetting, disturbing or funny is in there. It is amazing to go through a lady’s dresser inside the storage unit, you will find reading materials, the Bible…and wow a twelve inch dildo [laughs]. That brings new meaning to the word, her time [laughs]. You go through someone jewelry chest and find their false teeth. Some of these storage units also aren’t 100% sealed. So we will be going through a box and opening something up and out jumps a huge rat in your rat and you near crap yourself cause it just ran down your arm and across the storage unit. We have come across everything. Some units you open up something or move something and you see a leg. You have this moment of sheer panic that there is a body in there and it turns out to be a prosthetic limb. It is insanity. We have so much fun. It is hilarious and disturbing at the same time. Good times.
AH: Ton and I sometimes see things different, which translate pretty well on TV. To speak in your vernacular Mike, I would say that our show is like 50% buddy comedy, 30% horror film, 0% rom-com, and the rest action. Everyday we go into the gladiator pit and battle it out with other guys that think they are best in the business. Just because they don’t have TV shows doesn’t mean that they are aren’t good, because they are good. It is very exciting and you can never relax on our show. When I start to feel comfortable, I disturb myself because I don’t like it. I want to be working hard and always alert.
MG: How you ever found something that you just had to keep?
AH: Let me just say if it was up to Ton, he would keep every single type of gun. We joke, I never met a storage unit I didn’t like and Ton has never met a gun he doesn’t like…ever. One the agreements we made before the camera ever came around was that we would sell the guns. We did a pretty good job of that for a few years but now we are at a point where if he will not get another chance to buy that gun again, then he keeps it. That doesn’t always make for good TV though. But don’t worry because let me tell you that guy has some arsenal [laughs]. He also knows that if there is something that has my name on it and looks like it belongs in “Happy Days” Al’s diner…then it is going in Al’s diner. He wants me to have those things and I want him to have his things. If we take the love of what we do out and make it all about the money…this is not a very interesting business. It is about stories for us and the history. So we definitely keep some stuff but like I said it doesn’t always make for good TV. Let me just tell you though…our houses are the bomb!