Back in the early 2000s, I was moving out of my apartment in Carrboro and I had to get rid of a lot of junk. Not trash, junk: bookcases, clothes, furniture all the accoutrement I had gathered in three years that I could not bring with me to my next destination.
A lot of backbreaking hauling was facing me, until I discovered 1-800-GOT-JUNK. For a fee, the company comes and hauls all your stuff away, finding appropriate homes for your old items either through charity or recycling if possible.
When I heard about Steve Turner, the general manager of 1-800-GOT-JUNK on Six Forks Road, I knew I wanted to talk to him. After all, what’s it like to go through all of people’s old stuff? My conversation was enlightening.
Turner, 50, has spent nine years running the franchise. Prior to that, he was in the corporate world, running his own staffing company. When he moved to 1-800-GOT-JUNK, he expected it to just be a short-term thing.
“I would stop there temporarily and get my feet wet,” he said.
Instead, he’s almost got a decade under his belt and shows no sign of stopping.
He’s got his hand in almost every aspect of the business, and he says he loves the work because no day is like any other. The company provides its unique service to all sorts, including homes, businesses and even municipalities.
But he also gets the oddballs — the hoarders and borderline hoarders.
“We’ve gone into homes where people have lived as squatters or in basic squalor and have removed 15 truckloads of just trash,” he said. “They don’t see anything wrong with that. They just think thats the norm.”
The strangest haul he’s had so far was a woman with an excessive collection of dolls, but despite sometimes walking into bizarre situations, his staff knows how to handle it.
“Our guys are skilled at being able to go into a situation like that and take care of business irregardless of how unique, how challenging it might be,” he said.
Once they haul the junk away, they contact one of their donation partners to see if they want any of the stuff.
“From our standpoint, that’s the best way we can get rid of it. Get it to a second home and stay out of the landfills,” he said.
In the end, 60 to 65 percent of the junk gets donated or recycled.
Turner said a lot of the business is repeat customers, and he’s on a first-name basis with many of them. In fact, that’s one of the things he likes so much about his job. That and the fact that hes never sure what’s coming next.
“We don’t know what were going to see,” he said. “Customers describe to the best of their knowledge what they’re going to have, but there are all sorts of logistics.”
Turners store prides itself on its professionalism: clean trucks, easily recognizable uniforms, up-front free estimates and on-time arrival. And he knows he’s providing a service that people can’t do as easily themselves.
“You can’t even throw it out because of Wake County’s trash rules,” he said of typical items he might be called to pick up. “If it does not fit into that green trash receptacle that they provide to you, you basically have to rely on your ingenuity.”
Alex Granados writes about interesting people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him via email at email@example.com.