In a perfect world, every episode of Storage Wars would open with a Cops-esque title screen relaying an important disclaimer. The words would echo in a solemn voice-over as they appeared on-screen: “Most bidders do not strike it rich at storage auctions. Results depicted are not average.”
It might go on to say, “Storage facility revenues recovered via auctions often cover less than what defaulting tenants actually owe in rent.” That’s if 60% of respondents to a recent Self Storage Association survey had their way. But a whopping 77% of self-storage operators surveyed agreed that at least some disclaimer should outline the revenue recovery process that facilities undergo during a tenant default. This could help set viewer expectations and illustrate how tenant defaults are not good for business.
To label these Storage Wars and its spin-off auction shows “reality” television is a bit of stretch. Like all TV programming, Storage Wars has been constructed to be as entertaining as possible. The bulk of the footage lands on the editing room floor, the majority of the defaulting tenants don’t have valuable or interesting items in their storage units. Evidently, this isn’t apparent to the millions of TV viewers who believe they can find treasures at storage auctions. Half of the SSA survey respondents admitted shows like Storage Wars have resulted in increased auction attendance.
This doesn’t mean most self-storage facility operators dislike these shows. According to the survey, 46% of managers enjoy shows like Storage Wars, while 38% do not. Interestingly, there are some geographic variations. More than 50% of operators in the mid-Atlantic and southern states said they like the shows, whereas less than 33% of managers in the west said they were fans. I am not sure what, if anything, these geographic differences can be attributed to. However, one thing is for certain— Storage Wars and its successors are not an accurate depiction of reality, and most operators believe these shows warrant disclaimers.