Big Brian The Fortune Seller: A Discredit to the Estate Sale Business?

Big Brian The Fortune Seller is a new reality TV program about a Long Island, New York Estate Sale Professional named Brian Elenson and his company 2muchstuff4me. According to the show’s TruTV webpage, Brian’s company specializes in liquidating thousands of items of a home’s contents in “a one-day, no refunds, all-sales-are-final slam-bag auction, and makes all the junk disappear.” But does his personal approach and tone of the show reflect negatively on Estate Sale Professionals from the greater metro NY area? How about around the country? According to the results of our interviews, you bet.

According to the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia, “Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors.” TruTv’s tag line is “Not Reality. Actuality.” But we wanted to know how much reality is actually behind the new show, “Big Brian The Fortune Seller.”

The bad taste and crudeness for which this show is produced and aired naturally raised concerns after viewing just one episode (and apparently we weren’t alone). Having been to numerous Estate Sales and communicating with our clients, we’ve come to understand that good Estate Sale Professionals must work with discretion, compassion and diligence, especially in delicate situations where families are most vulnerable after loosing a loved one, which typically prompts an estate sale.

We took to the web (including our Estate Sale Directory of Professionals) and asked, just how “real” it could this show be? Is this a case of it’s just “show” business, or does it stoop to a lower level?

  • Do you think this show/company accurately portrays how Estate Sale professionals and companies operate in the NYC area – or around the nation? 100% said no, it’s not indicative of how things are, or have been done, whether in New York or the Midwest.
  • Do you think the show positively or negatively affects your line of business and your ability to organize and run estate sales? 100% said they feel it negatively portrays their industry and gives people a false image of what to expect at a typical Estate Sale.
  • Do you think the show would take a different tone if it were to be produced in a mid-west state? 100% said yes. Even the native New York Estate Sale Professionals are crying foul over the misrepresentation this company portrays.
  • To what extent do you feel the show has a certain element of “padding” to be “show biz” and entertainment worthy? Many responses we received said you need to expect the unexpected in this business and be prepared, but the episodes might as well be considered circus-like entertainment according to several people we interviewed.

Tagsellit.com is not in the business of making enemies with anyone so we’ve decided to keep all interviews confidential, regardless if the interviewee gave us permission to publish their name and company name. We do however encourage anyone to comment below this article in the comments section – we’ll be looking forward to what you have to say there, too.

Responses:

From Ohio – “This show exceeds stupidity – it’s competing with another “trashy” TV show on the same station to see who can yell and fight more. Unfortunately, those who call themselves professionals here are demeaning to our profession. Valuing items from thin air is not how a certified appraiser behaves. It’s sad to see these types of programs on TV because it screws up the public’s perception of the industry and hurts the folks who are credentialed professionals.”

From California – “We have done estate sales for 30 years, this guy is not professional, he’s an idiot and it is just a put-up job for TV…more reality garbage”

From Michigan – “That show is so show biz it’s not even funny! People do not act like that at estate sales. I’ve been doing sales for 7 years and prior to that attended sales as an antique dealer. No one ever acts that way. All these reality tv shows about estate sales are so phoney! They are making themselves look like the idiots they are!”

From Illinois – “This is the worst show ever. Not only is it unrealistic in terms of money taken in at an average sale (there were ads for this TV Show on Craigslist for months asking people who needed estate sales), but they had to have over $10,000. Most ordinary sales are not in that range (some are but not the norm). This show is “Tru Trash TV.” Brian and his crew portray themselves as ignorant, rude, crude and plain nasty. Every other word is the ‘F-word’ and ‘bleeped out.’ He is rude to customers and yes, it may be his style, but it is horrible for our business image. I have a network of estate sale companies that I belong to in the Chicago area and we all agree that this is the worst of the worst. Some will not even watch it after the first episode. One of my staff members refused to watch it. If that much swearing, yelling and drama went on at the average estate sale, no one would come. So much of it is apparently staged, the ‘early bird’ who later was caught stealing a porn tape? The two ladies cat fighting over a fake leopard coat…and the one woman ran off with it? There is so much that is staged for this show, it is a sham! Regarding Vinny and Anna – no class, no knowledge and add nothing to the show. It was stated on one website that Brian hired them just for the show, that they were former customers. If he ran such large sales (and no one would do such sales in ONE day, impossible!), he would have a much larger staff. The show definitely gives our business a bad name, and for those who have never been to an estate sale, it gives a very false impression of what an estate sale is like. I would like to see “Big Brian” conduct a lovely sale in a North Shore suburb of Chicago – he would be laughed right out of town – although I doubt he would ever be hired in the first place. It takes professionalism to win over many clients and he has none.”

From Illinois – “There is a level of sincerity and kindness about an Estate Sale, and items that once belonged to someone who has passed need to be respected. We have established friendships with many of the customers who attend our sales and treat them with respect. It would be great if the cast of this show could visit one of ours and see the “real” side of Estate Sales. Refreshments are a courtesy provided by us outdoors before the doors open and we don’t sponsor the “free-for-all” they portray. Kindness goes along way in this business and greater stories could be told in our opinion.”

From Illinois – “While entertaining, we find this show incredibly unrealistic and calculate that at least 75% is fabricated. We conduct 60-70 sales every year, full-time with a team of 11. Brian claims to conduct over 200 sales a year? I’m not sure how that’s possible, but if it is, clearly we’re doing something wrong! Some clients say to us, “we know how this works, we’ve seen it on TV” (referring to HGTV’s show Cash & Cari). I believe most clients seeking reputable estate sale companies may take not of Cash & Cari but not a TruTV show. Initially I was concerned about this show and these characters being the face of our industry, but after watching it, I don’t belive a potential client would take this seriously. We like to think of it as the “Jersey Shore” of estate sales – a train wreck and painful to watch, but you just have to see it.”

From Michigan – “Scripted shows like this hurt our business a lot. In real life you find old clothes, dishes and furniture – people seldom leave collectibles or treasures. They take without paying you to do it. Saying they charge 20-30% hits us right in the gut. Trying paying a full staff, advertising costs and making a fair profit – no way! It’s because of show like this that people are deceived into expecting big profits from cheap companies.”

From New York – “Yeah, like nearly every television program there has to be scripted moments. Watching the promo, let alone the home they are representing – totally not typical! If it’s a show for television, they simply cannot take a two or three week job and put it into a half hour show. Just doesn’t work.”

From North Carolina – “I think it reflects badly on my profession. It shows the guy have a temper tantrum and knocking over a table of his client’s property. He says that no one does it better; in 25 years of running professional sales, I can certainly do it better. Having just watched a clip with the employee threatening to shoot an alleged shoplifter – I will let a lawyer count how many laws that violates as well as how much liability it opens up for the property owner. I also watched the staged episode with the two women fighting over a coat. In my opinion, this is a totally unprofessional sale. They have stuff dumped into bins without tags or prices. There is never a conflict between buyers at my sales. Every item, from a $1 cup to a $20,000 piece of art has a two-part tag with a clearly printed price and description. The person that pulls off the bottom part of the tag has bought the item so there is never confusion or conflict. The employee also illegally manhandles the two women, again opening the owner up to issues. Frankly, I have never seen a sale so poorly handled. My first sale 25 years ago was better than this one. From what I can see this shows his sales to be poorly set up and organized.”

From Illinois – “Sales like the one Brian portrays on his reality tv show are not as common as he would have you expect. His lack of professionalism (whether for reality tv or not) is damaging to our business. People don’t act like this if they shop at Target, so what gives them the right to act like this in someone’s home where the estate sale is being held?” Our company was ranked best in an online poll for Estate Sale companies – do we want to do a reality show? No! I don’t feel that I need to be critiqued day after day on what we do or how we do it – the feedback we received online spoke for itself, and that’s much better than any TV rating!”

From South Carolina – “As with all these ‘reality’ TV shows, people need to be able to decipher through the 99% that’s made for TV and the other 1% that’s actually real. I like this show more than HGTV’s Cash & Cari and I think the people who have common sense will realize that most of it is scripted and won’t have a problem with it. If there are other Estate Sale Professionals out there who have a solid, reputable business, they have nothing to worry about.”

From New York – “This show is totally over exaggerated. The show negatively affects my business regarding the clients’ perception of value, estate sale customers and overall perception of the intent of our business – helping others. This show leads people to believe that everything in their house is worth thousands of dollars and that nothing else matters except money. Unfortunately, I have even lost customers who have exaggerated perceptions from seeing shows like Brian’s when it comes to what they think their stuff is actually worth. Those of us in the New York area know of Big Brian and have our own opinions over how poorly he treats his clients and customers. The show is a complete farce. The sale on the pilot was not a one day sale, it was a two day sale. On the show he said he had 4 days notice from the day he met the customer in actuality it was posted on Estate Sales.net for at least 2 weeks prior. I happen to know someone who made a large purchase on the show. The sale of this item was faked. The person who bought the item is a regular buyer but won’t spend any real money without either having an expert or documentation. The fight between two woman in the street over a fur coat was also faked, the homeless guy, the pigs in the house, etc., etc… Truth be told, 2MuchStuffForMe, Big Brian’s business is known for many “questionable” activity with customers and at his sales.”

From New York – “The moving sale company, 2muchstuff4me has not been Long Island’s favorite or most reputable of services. There have been lots of stories surrounding the owner since he began running sales about 5 years ago. Before that he was a flea market cleanout guy. Over the last few years one thing kept surfacing – his loud mouth, rudeness to customers and other tag sale companies and his lack of fair play. He is rude and crude. He smokes and curses in customers’ homes – so if a customer is like him, then they would get along but otherwise many have told me they have been offended and put off. I have received telephone calls from customers who wanted me to do another sale for them, as they were certain they had been ripped off when not much was sold. I have also heard stories of cancelled sales and police being called for alleged missing items in the customers’ homes. True? Not true? All I know is that a lot of negative controversy follows him, and the people here in Long Island know it. He is known for advertising items, which he in turn pre-sells prior to the sale – how is that fair? I guess that having a good reputation isn’t a big concern for him. The other tag sale companies on Long Island refer back and forth to each other and generally think that there’s plenty of work for all of us. Long Island is in a densely populated area. I just read that there are 7.5 million people living here and we don’t bad mouth each other. We seem like we’re supportive of each other. We all run credible, reputable businesses…well, almost all of us do.”

Just for good measure we decided to see if there were any online reviews previously available to this story and sure enough we found another dissatisfied customer who posted a review on the popular Yelp.com website about a year ago… Obviously the 2muchstuff4me Estate Sale company has a history of poorly satisfied customers.

In Conclusion: Maybe the show isn’t so bad after all? Perhaps 2MuchStuff4Me is doing more harm than good for themselves by acting like clowns on TV? What homeowner would want a film crew running through their personal items, reeking havoc with shouting and fighting acting scenes and aired in households across America? Being that the majority of those we interviewed feel disgusted about the show, perhaps it’s best to leave the Estate Sale liquidation process to a recommended and trusted professional, one who’s sincere and a credit to their profession with personable manners and not a loose cannon. But then again, it’s just TV.

We encourage comments below and look forward to reading them.