With 5.1 million viewers last year, “Storage Wars” became the highest-rated show in A&E history. Eager to cash in on the success of “Wars,” TruTV and SpikeTV followed A&E’s lead, launching “Storage Hunters” and “Auction Hunters” respectively. These shows have all seen tremendous success, but by no means are they an accurate representation of the self-storage auction business; in fact, labeling these shows as “reality” television is a complete misnomer.

The Internet blogosphere is filled with outraged fans questioning the veracity of these programs. There are claims the shows’ appraisers supply items in the units themselves, that “Storage Wars” is cast and scripted, and that Dan Dotson penned the show as a marketing vehicle for American Auctioneers, his real-life auction company based in Riverside. A quick YouTube search yields countless exposés proposing the show is a hoax. Put simply, many are aware that the events taking place on “Storage Wars” and its successors are not really reality.

That being said, according to the shows’ producers, the auctions are not totally staged either. An A&E publicist told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen: “There is no staging involved. The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show” – a quite carefully worded statement. Thom Beers, executive producer of “Storage Wars: Texas” said his show “has real characters in authentic situations,” and that they shoot 400 hours of footage for every hour that makes it on-screen.

Without a doubt, these shows – like all television programming – are manipulated to be as entertaining as possible. Assuming for a moment that the auctions are genuine, Beers’ comment makes logical sense: The overwhelming majority of the shows’ auction footage is discarded. Why? Because tenants who default on their storage payments are not in great financial health, and are unlikely to have valuable or interesting items in their units. The units depicted on the shows are anomalies. Unfortunately, much of the general public does not realize this.

Speaking with a former Hawaii-based storage auctioneer last week, I learned that these shows have had a huge effect on driving more auction attendees. People are under the false impression that there are treasures to be found in storage units. The reality is that unless you have the funds to bid on hundreds of units, you’re going to lose money in this game. It’s true that some players make a living on the storage auction circuit, but they are few and far between.

Photo courtesy of A&E TV

  • http://thestoragefacilitator.com Rachel Greenfield

    Oh no you didn’t, John! How do reality shows get away with this? I mean, why don’t more people realize or care that things are set up? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/micheal.bomberger Micheal Bomberger

    I’m in the resale business and as part of that business I buy storage units, and I have to take issue with the last paragraph. While it is true that “treasures” are rare, this isn’t a treasure hunting game. This is about finding decent resalable merchandise at a good price. The truth is MOST units you can and will make money on if you know what you are doing, and if you do not over pay. It’s not all junk. You will find furniture, appliance, housewares, knick knacks, toys, video games, movies, etc. Many times the items will be in good condition. Sometimes things will be dirty and you’ll have to clean them, but once you do there is money to be made if you aren’t lazy. I’m not one of the heavy hitters in this business, I’ve bought maybe a half dozen units this year. I have made a profit on everyone of them. I’m not getting rich by any means, but it is helping to support myself and my family. People actually do lose good stuff. People put stuff in storage then move so far away they don’t feel it’s worth coming back for. People go to jail, people die without letting others know where there stuff is. People store stuff, then hit financial hard times. A lot of people have substance problems, and spend their money that way instead. Some people say well if they have jewelry, cash, or something of high value why don’t they get it out and sell it to pay their rent. The answer is simple, people fool themselves into believing they will come up with the money without having to part with their possessions. Then the time comes they are late and the storage facility has locked them out and they can’t get their stuff out. You could have a gold bar in your storage unit(yes you’d be a moron to store that) and once the facility locks you out they are not going to let you in to get it unless you pay up first. Now I’m not sitting here saying Storage Wars is real. I don’t know, if they are just shooting hundreds of hours of footage until they actually do come up with good stuff to show, or if they do a certain level of staging, or if the show is 100% fake. It’s a TV show, it’s entertainment, take it with a grain of salt. If you want to see REAL storage units look up Texas Auction Picker on facebook and youtube, I’ve been making picker videos for almost a year now and have put a lot of my storage units on there.