Our CEO has seen just about everything as far as being a liquidator goes. Starting off as a member of NCL’s road crew fresh out of college, Michael Lunsford has been a liquidator in both the front and back of the house, so to speak, and has learned a few things along the way. By a few things, I mean just about everything a hotel liquidator could learn.
I recently had the pleasure of digging through NCL’s old KOTCH(Keeper of the Company History) files and I happened to come across an article Mr. Lunsford had written for the Hotel & Resort Industry magazine in 1994 titled “You Can Profit From The Purge”. Within that article, there is a section filled with liquidation tips in which I’ve decided to share as a part of my first blogging session for NCL:
Bring in a qualified liquidator. It should be one that is licensed and insured. The liquidator appraises your inventory and buys it from you for a guaranteed lump sum, usually double what you would take in from an auction – a market with which a liquidator should also be conversant.
Ask someone you know who’s been through a liquidation. Talk to other lodging executives; ask who they have used and if they would use them again.
Check qualifications. Get references, contact past clients and review work history. Request certificates of insurability for protection of all parties.
Allow enough time. Proper liquidation is profitable, but not if you wait too long. A typical 400-room hotel – closed down – requires 30 to 45 days.
Demand an enforceable, written contract for all services. Be ready to transfer clear title of your goods at the time the contract is executed. Be cautious of the “percentage of the gross” with little or no concrete control of additional costs you incur.
Verify the number and experience of the team assigned to your project by the liquidator. Look at the nature and method by which the liquidator values your inventory. Demand a guaranteed payment schedule including all or a portion of the amount upfront.
Find a mutually beneficial location. If possible, coordinate with your installer and liquidator in finding a location to receive both old and new items. This creates a sales location for the old FF&E, thereby resulting in a major difference in dollars to you.
Many often view a liquidation as a negative option; however, it’s crucial to see it as a positive move. The property’s value increases because you are investing in new inventory for your customers’ comfort and convenience. And you have valuable goods – sometimes nostalgic – to share with your community. Generations of wonderful memories may be locked up in your F F&E, many of which the public – your guests – may want to own.
Although, Mr. Lunsford’s article was published in 1994, the facts remain the same when looking for a liquidator. As with anything, you should always do your due diligence when checking into a liquidation firm’s experience and credibility. Again, it was so cool to look through our stock of hotel press releases, sale flyers, publications etc., dating back to the 60’s and I can’t wait to share more with all of you!
Hello and welcome to Tales From The Road. This category will house all posts from our road crew where they will share their stories from liquidation sales, both past and present. The purpose of this category will be to entertain our readers by offering stories from a hotel liquidators’ perspective.
Life As A Hotel Liquidator — Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Meredith Lunsford and I work in the marketing department at NCL. I’ve been involved in this business for as long as I can remember (and even longer). Let’s just say I was born into it. As a child, I can remember traveling with my parents from one location to the next, never once thinking it was strange that we were staying in a closed hotel. It was all I knew. Further, what kid wouldn’t want to have the run of a hotel? Talk about the ultimate playground! I can honestly say that I had a “Five-Star” childhood.
Once I turned eighteen, I began working for NCL during winter and summer breaks from college. As my break would approach, I would cross my fingers for a “cool” city to travel to and work one of our sales. I was all about location and the surrounding areas to check off on my list of places I’ve been, and to hopefully acquire great stories to share with my friends when I returned to school. My cousin and I typically worked the sales together because we went to the same school and shared the same break schedule. We had the best time together everywhere we went, especially during our afterhours scavenger hunts throughout the hotels. It’s hard to explain how big the backs of house of some of these hotels actually were unless you saw it for yourself. We would spend hours walking around, finding new unexplored areas and looking for hidden treasures to take home as souvenirs. I miss those times.
Nowadays, I primarily stay at our corporate office, but I do get the pleasure of traveling to our job sites to help with sale openings from time to time. My favorite part of working our liquidation sales these days is meeting all of the wonderful people who shop our sales. Many times, customers share stories with me about the property we’re liquidating and how they are personally connected to it. I’m always curious of the background of a property we liquidate, so I welcome these stories. Even if a customer doesn’t have a story to share about the property, it’s just nice to meet a new face. So if you’re reading this and you plan to attend one of our sales, please say hello to me if I’m there!
Happy New Year, friends! As we gear up for a busy 2013, I wanted to take a moment to share a letter sent to our corporate office from one of our “chief liquidators”, Linda Clossman. I’m sure many of you reading this have had the pleasure of meeting Linda at one of our hotel liquidation sales, as she is at just about all of them! Over the years, Linda has helped in making sure the sales run as seamless as possible. Thank you for all you do, Linda! Without further or do, I present to you Linda’s holiday letter:
Just wanted to let you all know what a wonderful sale we had at Willow Valley in Lancaster. I’m not talking about the sales sheet aspect, althought that was a really good reason to be there! I’m talking about the beauty of the property and being there during a thankful and beautiful time of the year.
Typically, after being home for a few days after a sale, I start to miss work, many of our customers, and even co-workers! Additionally, at Willow Valley, I miss the pond with the ducks, geese, and a resident blue heron, the landscaping, tennis courts, a covered bridge, and the chapel with it’s chimes announcing the hour and playing hymns and Christmas music. Yep, all that was hard to tolerate on a daily basis!
As for our customers, we had “carry-overs” from the Hagerstown sale (Joe/Josepi, Kevin, etc.); local repeat buyers like Barry, who literally bought tons of stuff, including two of the giant mixers in the Bakery Kitchen and the front desk; to Nancy, a small caterer who brought us homemade pies; to Frank, from the Holiday Inn sale, who brought us a Pasquale’s pizza pie! Oh yeah, and Same from Dienner’s Restaurant, who came in from out of the blue and bought the pie crust press near the end of the sale.
Some of the local folks who worked with us were Jerry (who saved NCL countless dollars by wearing the same name tag for days), Jim, Elaine, and Lorene. From the property management company, was Pat, Kelly, and Jim. And from Engineering, Joe and Paul, both were invaluable to us and to the success of the sale. These are all nice, very pleasant and helpful people to be around.
Another highlight of the sale was Thanksgiving. It was a welcome day off, of course. We (Greg, Edgar, Josh and I, plus the occasional NCL-er Mel) had a wonder-full dinner in the Palm Court at the Double Tree Hotel – part of the Willow Valley premises. We shared with each other what we are thankful for. Thank you, NCL.
Last Friday, the demolition company put up fencing around the south building – the free-standing 2 story structure. And first thing Monday morning, the claw machine started chewing at it. By noon, at least a fourth of the 28-30 rooms were gone. The main building will be next — time for us to leave!
I drove home leisurely, still taking in the peaceful countryside of the area and enjoying aspects of the sale. But, I thought, if I never see another big-ass bakery in a hotel sale, it would be too soon. All that little plastic made-in-China stuff that I priced frantically on opening day as it came through the cashier line – and everybody had some of it. There were toys, animals, graduation figures in caps and gowns, little finger rings for all occasions, all holidays. Harvest themes with scarecrows, turkeys, pumpkins and “Have more pie”. Scary things like rubber spiders, skulls, ghosts and goblins. Christmas stuff of trees, stars, wreaths, Santas, lamp posts, snowmen. Easter bunnies, eggs, baby chicks, Sports items: football helmets, tops to spin, even female golfers. Princess crowns, rubber dolls with a spike instead of a torso to hold her upright in a cake (Barbie gone cake-crazy?). Robed priests giving communion. See what I mean? The point is, no matter what your occasion, that bakery could decorate a cake for it. Anyway, there was a plethora of plastic. And it sold like cake. Hot cakes, I mean. So, if I never again see anything to do with a bakery, that would be okay with me.
Back to the drive home — Oh, ahead on the left side of the road! Homemade baked goods! Bread, pastry, cakes and pies! Oh yeah, I had to stop for that. Probably Amish made. Yum! I hadn’t had any baked goods since the hotel bakery closed. Perfect!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!!!
About Linda: She joined NCL in 1973 in Augusta, GA., home of the Master’s Golf Tournament, and yes, she did go to the Master’s while at the job! After ten years, she reluctantly gave up her nomadic life style in 1983.
For the next 22 years, she worked a variety of positions near her home in NJ, including testing software in the corporate offices of Arco Chemical, Burlington Coat Factory, and Pep Boys.
In 2005, the call of the road beckoned her back to NCL. This year she’ll enter her 19th year of liquidations with NCL. (No telling how many suitcases she’s worn out!)
Some of her personal highlights, during her two stints as a liquidator, are: Cincinnati – The Sheraton Gibson, Netherland Plaza, and Vernon Manor; New York City – The Commodore, Alrae, Plaza, Mark and Surrey; St. Louis – The Mark Twain and Sheraton Jefferson; Atlantic City – The Marlborough-Blenheim, Dennis, and Sands; Philadelphia – The Warwick, Bellevue-Stratford, and Ben Franklin; DC – The Burlington, Park Hyatt, St. Regis, Jefferson, and Watergate.
Lastly, Linda mentioned that she credits her career and skill as a liquidator in large part to her mother, Etta Clossman. Her mom worked auctions and sales for NCL and helped develop some of the business processes still used today. In those early days, she visited her at some of the sales and was eventually hire to work with her. During the two short years they worked together, she taught her many important business lessons including the fine art of customer development and various sales techniques. Etta used to say that selling (hotel liquidations) could get in your blood. Linda knew she was right, but had no idea how long it last!
As you all know, the nature of our business takes us allover this great nation, often times visiting a town for the very first time. There are, however, those instances in which we have the opportunity to liquidate several properties in the same town. And with those opportunities, come a loyal group of regular shoppers, most of whom we’ve gotten to knw by name over the years.
We spent this past April and May in one of those towns, and although it had been over six years since our last sale there, many of our regulars were there to welcome us. The Phoenix/Scottsdale area has been our host for many liquidation sales over the years, and it was great to be back! I wanted to share this with all of you because I wanted to let you all know how very important you are to all of us! I love it when I see a familiar face at a sale, or receive a phone call from someone I haven’t seen in years. You all are the reason we are still here today!
Here is an excerpt from an email I received from one of our loyal Phoenix customers that made me smile: “At a hotel liquidation many years ago in Scottsdale, Arizona, we met your pleasant representative who told us about your sales. We have enjoyed attending several in this area. Thank you for years of great service. We still have the pool chairs from the Scottsdale sale. It’s a great way to pick up quality items at a reasonable cost.”
So thanks again to our loyal fan base, and if you have yet to visit one of our hotel liquidation sales, we hope to see you soon!
Happy New Year to our past, present, and potential customers, clients, followers and friends. 2011 was a record-breaking year for us, to say the least. We liquidated a total of 2824 rooms, which is our largest number of liquidated rooms in a single year, this century! We couldn’t have reached that number without the help of our office staff and road crew, so many thanks goes out to all of you.
And we certainly couldn’t have done it without the support and trust from our clients in 2011, including SBE Entertainment, Crescent Consulting Collaborative, McCarthy Building Companies, The Tynan Group, The Levitin family, Frew Nations Group, and the City of Cedar Rapids. Your confidence in our experience and ability to complete a project on time and up to your standards (and ours), is what makes us who we are, and further validates us as THE leading expert in hotel liquidation management. We are often copied but NEVER duplicated!
2011 Year in Review
Best Western Oritani – Hackensack, New Jersey – 100 Rooms – April, 2011
This was a great start to our year. Everyone recharged their proverbial batteries and got back into the swing of things. The NCL crew took Hackensack by storm. I, of course, had them on the lookout for The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but they had no idea what I was talking about. The crew worked around the clock and emptied the building in a few weeks. As always, Edgar made sure everything that went out the door had a receipt.
Sahara Hotel and Casino – Las Vegas, Nevada – 1,720 Rooms – June-Sept. 2011
I’m sure most of you know about our liquidation sale at the Sahara, and I hope you had the chance to attend. I’ve talked to many of you, both at the sale and via email, and I’d just like to say that it was such a pleasure talking to each and every one of you. What a great time! SBE was an amazing company to work for. If you ever have the opportunity to visit one of their locations, I urge you to do so. They are top notch and I can’t wait to see the SLS Las Vegas when renovations are complete.
The NCL crew worked tirelessly to empty the Sahara. They were even able to donate to some local organizations, including Habitat for Humanity in Las Vegas, towards the end of the sale. We liquidated the Sahara “to the walls” and everything sold. I hope Clyde, the camel, is enjoying his new home at U.S. Micro Corporation.
Former Crowne Plaza Five Seasons – Cedar Rapids, Iowa – 252 Rooms – July, 2011
This was our first time ever in Cedar Rapids, so we welcomed many new customers. Everyone was so friendly and excited about the upcoming renovations at the property. The furniture was only a few years old, so the items flew out the door. On a side note, I’d like to thank the mother and daughter who suggested Zins Restaurant to me when I asked them for downtown restaurant recommendations. The food was delicious!
NASCAR Cafe – Las Vegas, Nevada – August, 2011
The NASCAR Cafe sale was literally “a sale within a sale”. Halfway into the Sahara liquidation sale, we were given the okay to the liquidate the contents of the NASCAR Cafe, located inside the former hotel and casino. The cafe sold out in just four days! Apparently the customers took the advice of the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s article titled NASCAR ENTHUSIASTS, Start your debit cards.
Clarion Hotel SFO – Millbrae, California – 252 Rooms – August, 2011
The Clarion Hotel SFO closed in June, 2011 in anticipation of being converted to a Starwood aloft property. In order to assist the general contractor with their construction schedule, NCL cleared the property in three weeks so they could move forward with the conversion. While I wasn’t able to personally travel to this sale, I did have the pleasure of typing up many of the price tags and signs for the sale. I guess that means I was there in spirit ( I wanted to write “HP Color LaserJet 2600 spirit”, but my coworker advised against it – oops).
Mega Resort Hotel Liquidation Sale – Tonawanda, New York – 500 Rooms – Sept. 2011-Feb. 2012
Last but not least, NCL set up shop in Tonawanda, New York, near Buffalo and Niagara Falls, where we housed guestroom and suite furnishings from a nearby resort. Renovations were on-going at the property, so we removed the furnishings to a store location and opened to the public in September. We are wrapping up this February. A big thank you goes out to Linda and Bobby for your commitment to NCL and your willingness to relocate for an extended period of time. We’ve received nothing but kind words from locals who visited the store and were greeted by a friendly staff. It wouldn’t have been possible without you.
All in all, 2011 was a tremendous year filled with challenging endeavors, excitement, beaucoup frequent flyer miles, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. We look forward to continued success in 2012!
Welcome to the latest installment of Tales From The Road. I can only imagine how strange it must be for someone to walk into a hotel liquidation sale for the very first time. I’ve often heard it referred to as The Twilight Zone by customers and I can definitely see how someone could get that feeling. I, on the other hand, feel like I’m in The Twilight Zone when I walk into an open and operating hotel. For this post, I thought it would be interesting to talk to some of our crew about how they got started with NCL, what their first liquidation sale was and whether or not their first day of work felt as if they had just crossed over into The Twilight Zone.
Debbie Hayes joined NCL in 1981, fresh from the alter. She made the decision to join her husband on the road primarily because of the experience she had visiting him at a job site prior to their “I do’s”. Debbie visited Don while he was setting up the liquidation sale of the Ben Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. She told me how exquisite their room was, a suite no less, and how cool she thought it was that they could pick from any room in the hotel to stay in. Fast forward to her first sale as an NCL employee at the Palm Beach Hotel in Florida “No hot water and twin beds”. If you could have seen the look on her face when she said that, you’d be laughing right now, too. Even with the cold showers, she still said her first NCL job was so exciting because it was something totally different. Debbie said that she loved seeing all of the people enter the sale and go on their very own scavenger hunts. Nowadays, Debbie is NCL’s controller, based in the corporate office, and she knows to ask if there is hot water before she agrees to go on a job site.
Paul Redmond joined NCL in 2000, after leaving active duty in the military, by way of yours truly. Paul and I have been friends for many years, so I was happy to put him in touch with Don when he left active duty. After all, I knew NCL was looking for A Few Good Men. Hey-o! Paul’s first sale was the St. Moritz in NYC (not too shabby). If you’ve ever been to a sale in New York City you’ll understand what Paul meant when he said “It was hard to get used to the madness of it all. Sometimes I had to step back and observe”. Controlled chaos is what he called it. Paul also shared a Twilight Zone moment with me from our liquidation sale at the El Rancho in Las Vegas. He told me how creepy it was turning on all the lights to the casino every morning. One particular morning, Paul was walking through the dark, empty, casino floor heading for the lights, when all of a sudden he heard a “Bzzzzzzzzzzz” followed by a high-pitched scream. The buzzing was the sound of a bug flying into his ear and the high-pitched scream was Paul’s reaction to said buzzing. Oh how I wish I could have witnessed that. Paul has since moved on to the world of stock and bonds (not because of the bug incident) but still enjoys talking about his time on the road with NCL.
Greg Hall got started with us by chance, in 2007. He ran into Mike Lunsford one weekend and asked if we were hiring, interviewed with Don Hayes the following Tuesday, and was on a plane to Los Angeles the following Monday (that’s typically how things work around here). Greg’s first sale was the Le Meridien in Beverly Hills (now the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills), and since he didn’t have a lot of time to process or prep for his new career as a hotel liquidator, he really didn’t know what to expect. Greg had the unusual pleasure of getting to stay in the hotel while it was open for a few days, as they arrived onsite before the closing. Maid service, room service and cable were a few of the amenities Greg got used to those initial days, not to mention it was a 4 star hotel. I imagine he thought it was a pretty sweet deal…and then the hotel closed. Greg told me the biggest adjustment for him was learning to live without TV, specifically ESPN. When you aren’t used to that type of quiet in the evening, it can be a bit unnerving. He quickly learned a trick of the trade and found a DVD player for his room. “One of the first things we do when we get onsite is find the closest Redbox”. Nowadays, Greg is seasoned in the oddities of a sale site. Having just returned from four months in Las Vegas, managing NCL’s liquidation sale of the Sahara Hotel and Casino, Greg is looking forward to spending some quality time with his TV.
Well that’s all for now but I’m working on gathering some more stories to share with you all (maybe even some ghost stories for the upcoming holiday). Till then! Meredith
I am thrilled to announce that in just a few, short weeks we will be liquidating the contents of the famed Sahara Hotel and Casino which closed for good May 16, 2011. All of us here at NCL are beyond excited for this project and we are gearing up to take our marketing to the next level! Lights, Camera, Action. Yes, I now own my first video camera and I can’t wait to record sale setup footage to share with all of you on our website and YouTube account.
I find it a bit comical that I’m getting to use the video camera for the first time in Las Vegas, because last time I was in Sin City for a liquidation sale, my sister and I made a movie with an “air video camera” which is similar to an “air guitar” in that it didn’t actually exist. We cruised the hallways of the closed Landmark Hotel & Casino pretending we were superstars. The final scene took place on the shuttered stage in the hotel where we used a flashlight as our stage light. I was 13 then, so I promise I’ve matured and there will be no tap dancing on any of the footage I gather at the Sahara (unless of course, I find a pair of tap shoes). We look forward to sharing the magic of the Sahara with you one last time. See you soon! Meredith