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The Reality of Storage Wars

Updated on October 12, 2015

The hit reality television show "Storage Wars" has been a big hit on television since way back in 2010, but just how real is it anyway. You sit there in your living room watching people get rich off of other folk's misfortunes. It's really quite sad in a way.

The deal at all of these storage unit auctions, is that you first must clear everything out of the storage unit by close of business. If you don't have the unit completely cleaned up, then you must then rent the unit yourself. They get all of your information, and copy your driver's license before the auction even starts. So if you don't have the unit cleaned up for the next renter, then you will be banned from all future auctions. They also keep a close eye out for the actual people who rented the unit, in case they attempt to buy their possessions back at a super cheap price.

Television makes it all look so easy, however the truth be known it's not exactly like that. If it really was all that easy to make a quick buck, then everybody would be quitting their day jobs to do this sort of thing. Only television could make something as humdrum as buying the contents of someone elses storage unit look exciting.

I know this because long before this reality television show came along, I was going to these storage unit auctions myself along with a friend of mine. There certainly wasn't all of these well dressed, colorful people, as we see on television, standing all around and bidding on these storage units. There's also no competitiveness, arguing, or fighting in the real world at these auctions. Most of the folks that go to these storage unit auctions are the older retired type. Many of these people are looking for items to sell in their small shops or at the flea market. The price of these units also are nowhere near as high as at what you see people paying for them on the reality television show.

I never once saw anything inside of a storage unit that was worth a small fortune, and made anybody instantly rich as you see on television. Most of the contents are just junk and trash. Anything of real value was removed by the original owner prior to the storage unit being auctioned off, which only makes sense.

I went to these storage unit auctions with a friend, who talked me into it. I myself never saw anything interesting enough, for me to break my wallet out for. However my friend purchased quite a few units over time. My friend is sort of like a junk collector anyway, so this was just a way where they could get a whole bunch of junk fast to add to their collection.

The show kind of draws a person into watching it, and before you know it you're hooked. You see people bidding on storage units, and making a fortune off of others who unfortunately couldn't afford to pay the rent. After non-payment for a designated period of time, the storage company sells the contents to try to recoup their rent. It's all perfectly legal, and unfortunately it happens all of the time.

My friend did occasionally pick up some good stuff, but it was little stuff and it wasn't really that big of a deal or savings. For the most part my friend broke even. The mass majority of the units were simply junk. I saw one unit that was full of old, used, dry rotted tractor trailer tires. I saw another unit that was full of old broken obsolete overhead projectors that were discarded by a local school system. One unit was completely full of trash, and the storage company offered to pay someone to clean it out and haul the trash away, but there were no takers.

My friend has said that they have found people's personnel documents and family photo albums in units, as well as wartime medals. These items aren't worth anything to my friend, but are priceless to those who these things once belong to. You never know what you are going to discover in someone elses storage unit. The most disturbing thing that my friend found in a unit was a hand made wooden box that contained another human being's cremated remains. As my friend stood outside of the storage unit, and contemplated on what to do next, a man approached and offered to buy the box. My friend explained to the man that the box contained another person's cremated remains. The man said he didn't care, and offered my friend five dollars for the box. My friend figured it might be for the best, and that maybe the man might know what to do with the remains. What happened next was just plain cold, and shocked my friend. The man no sooner had the box in his hands, when he opened it up and dumped the cremated remains in the middle of the dirty parking lot, and simply walked away. This is possibly an example of humanity at one of it's worst moments.

I've always thought it was possible that the storage unit companies teamed up with television to make these auctions more popular, and lure more people into the sale. It's also a fact that more people are now attending these storage unit auctions ever since the advent of this reality television show. So if that was really the reason for this reality show all along, then congratulations because it worked! In reality the television show "Storage Wars" is a far cry from reality.


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    • Cynthia Hoover profile image

      Cynthia Hoover 3 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

      I love auctions. Growing up before my mothers Crohn's disease got out of control, I spent much of my youth being a "runner" at auctions. As my parents ran a wholesale business as well as a small general type store. The bug stuck with me as I grew older I still frequent auctions. I like estate auctions and buy the box lots at the end (most people leave early after the large items are gone). I always make a little profit, nothing like reality shows would lead you to believe though! The hardest part is finding a buyer, I have a first edition book from the 1800's That I am still sitting on 5 years later. I will likely have it another 5 at least, antique books not being my niche. No skin off my back though I paid $2.00 for the box of junk and made $50 on the other items, yet not thousands like these shows would like you to think you will make. I do watch it, and have a good laugh at it though. Great article, voted up!

    • yohewriter profile image

      Timothy Yohe 3 years ago from St. Louis

      Your article touches on the real truth behind "storage wars". It isn't that glamorous. Some if it may very well have been staged. If you're interested I wrote an article on this very subject.... Nice work on this hub! I look forward to reading more...and thank you for the follow and fanmail!


    • Ashley Ryan P profile image

      Ash Ryan 3 years ago from Red Dirt Country

      Super interesting!

      My fiancé has all versions of storage wars set up on the DVR and watches them religiously. He's even wanted to get into doing it himself just because the show shows it to be a good way at coming into easy money. I actually read your hub to him and he was rather let down, to say the least. Haha! I've always believed that they throw in the valuable stuff just for entertainment ...but I've always been quite the skeptic when it comes to reality shows anyway.

      Great read!!

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Interesting article. The very notion of "reality tv" is oxymoronic. It's infotainment at best. Your experience is a nice reality check. As MJsConsignments mentioned, there have been allegations that the tv show lockers are "seeded", making it sad all around.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Interesting read, theholestory. I especially like it when the winning bidders claw through all that stuff and put ridiculous prices on the junk (as well as good stuff) and it all goes into the "official" tally. And, like all reality TV, the more obnoxious, the more trumped-up drama, the better. Sometimes I miss having four channels that you had to get up and change manually...nah-- there's tons of crap, but there's some good stuff, too. For my tastes though, there isn't a single "reality" show worth watching.

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      Michelle 3 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      I used to manage a resale and consignment shop. When we'd open a new store or when the pickings would get a little thin at an existing store, the owner and one of our maintenance guys would go out and hit storage unit auctions. They were always on the lookout for furniture, electronics, tools, appliances and some types of housewares. More often than not, in a ten unit auction, they'd only find one or two units worth buying and they typically got them for $50 to $100. After the show started to air, they had to get even pickier because what they paid $50-100 for before now went for double those amounts.

      Sometimes, when a unit got to the $200 range, unless it was filled with good quality furniture, or higher end tools in good condition, we had no real hopes of making our money back at resale. The guys on the show seem to be pretty lucky and a little bit good but, rumor has it, some of that stuff is seeded too to make for better television.

    • Rusty Quill profile image

      Rusty Quill 3 years ago

      I have to admit I love watching those shows, the allure of finding interesting treasures is fascinating. One of the shows mentioned that 80% of the storage rooms they buy they lose money on - but it is those lucky ones that make all the difference. It would be interesting to find out how well these people are actually doing vs time and money spent.

      Interesting to hear your first hand perspective on them.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 3 years ago from Washington KS

      I really enjoyed your article because it's well written and an interesting take on an unusual topic. I always wondered why people would pay to rent a unit and store junk in it, such as those old rotten tires you mentioned.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Television and Hollywood almost always blow things out of proportion and distort the real truth. I agree that it is sad when these people lose their items because of nonpayment. Thanks for raising awareness.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      So true that reality shows don't have anything on reality.

    • DChance2 profile image

      DChance 3 years ago

      I watched the show and everyone seems so happy. I think some of them are stretching the truth about the prices.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Thanks for informing us. I don't watch the show, because I find it boring, plus it doesn't make sense; anyone rich enough to keep antiques in storage is rich enough to keep them in their mansion.

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image

      TedWritesStuff 3 years ago

      Love the way you related this tale... and yes "reality" is far, far away from what actually happens... ;-)

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 3 years ago

      Reality TV always sensationalizes the situations it depicts. I find it tedious.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 3 years ago from the South

      This was really interesting. I have never watched the show...just seen ads for it, but I know from other reality shows what a bunch of bull most of them are. It is sad what people are interested in watching these days. Great hub!

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I think it's endemic of all "reality TV", from Jerry Springer to "The Ultimate Fighter." Sure, there are somewhat legit moments, but 99% of it is pure entertainment and creative editing.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 3 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Reality TV to me is nothing but a big fake. I watched it one time for about 20 minutes and almost vomited. What depths has our society sunk to. Disgusting. Good insight in your hub.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Very interesting. I have never been to one of these but I used to attend auctions in my local city occasionally. I saw a small chest of drawers that I thought would be useful for storing clothes (I still have it) but it was full of old sheet music. Some of it was local history and I found a local historian to take it. The rest I sold on Ebay, because it was from the first and second world war. There was also a wedding photograph and I managed to find a home for that too. :-)

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I am glad that you told it like it is. I had suspected that this was so. Most people don't put their valuables in storage units. However, a former co-worker told me that when she moved to this city, her friend offered to store her things until she needed them. The friend didn't keep up the payments, and my coworker lost all her gold and silver jewelry from childhood up. Somebody made a haul from her. Voted you up++

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 3 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Interesting story TheHoleStory. I agree with you it's a business that can be a lot of headaches. But people that are involved with auctions can find rare treasures at times. It is a time consuming business and requires patience, luck and a knack for dealing and wheeling.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 3 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      The callousness of that man dumping the remains of another individual is disturbing. I've never been to one of these auctions and now I don't think I could without thinking about those who suffered for it to happen. TV can make anything look glamorous. This was a really interesting angle to approach this subject from that I don't think I've seen anywhere.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

      I use to be an auctioneer so I can attest to the fact that the TV show is a far cry from reality. In reality, the auctioneer is really the most entertainment people see at an auction. I enjoyed reading about your experience with storage unit auctions (except, obviously, for that little bit about the cremation remains). Some people are just strange.

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 3 years ago from PA

      I think you made a point here for all reality TV: it's nothing like reality.