The Final Word on Storage Auction Shows: Our Q&A With Storage Operators

December 12, 2012 1
The Final Word on Storage Auction Shows: Our Q&A With Storage Operators

Over the past few months, we have written extensively on storage auctions and how they have impacted the self-storage industry. We’ve discussed how technology could help streamline the auction process, as well as how Storage Wars can help promote your facility. Our final post on storage auctions for this year focuses on you, the storage facility operators. We asked two storage experts, Robert Madsen of U-Lock Mini Storage in British Columbia and Lance Watkins, founder of Storage Treasures and Storage Outlet, their thoughts on how auction shows have impacted the industry.

How do real auctions compare to TV show auctions?

Robert: “There’s a long 90 day process in trying to chase down an individual, and while most people respond, there is always one unit where you can’t get in touch with them. That’s one thing the shows don’t really cover.”

Has attendance changed drastically with the popularity of auctions in pop culture?

Lance: “It definitely increased – it’s started to slow down, but it’s still stronger than it was before the show.”

Robert: “There’s no doubt – it started to air in 2010, and had immediate and distinct impact. The public was calling to ask when the next auction was. We never received calls like that before; no one really cared. People were asking to be put on lists or to get emails about auctions. There were also a lot more people at the auctions themselves, and bids increased in value, since more people were participating. We went from 40-50 to 150-200 people each auction.”

Why are storage auction shows so fascinating?

Lance: “The combination of unemployment and reality TV has sectored into transactional television, whether it’s buying cars or pawn stars. The shows are far more blue-collar and entrepreneurial – that’s the fad right now. It’s a mixture of unemployment and the public losing interest in the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Plus, it’s an inexpensive show for producers to make – everything that’s needed to make a story is there in a three-minute segment—the mystery, drama and resolve.”

Robert: “I think people love to see other people’s stuff – we have a genuine curiosity of digging through and seeing what others store, what they have for goods. Basically, we want to see what weird stuff is out there. Even some of our bidders who win lockers that aren’t ‘worth it,’ will be excited—they go through the unit and they’ll be ecstatic about it. It’s the excitement of discovering that hidden gem. Others just love treasure hunting and hoping for that big find. That’s a big part of it, I think: hope.”

Are storage TV shows good or bad for the industry?

Lance: “The shows have been good for the industry. We try to educate people to avoid scams from happening. The flip side is that the reality shows have educated the world that there’s an auction prospect. We’ve also been able to piggyback off the success of these shows and start Charity Storage, where we donate the proceeds raised from auctions to charities. Ultimately, there’s been more positive than negative, and a lot of the things that the industry feared never happened.”

Robert: “I would say they present an opportunity for storage operators to transform them into something good. The reality is: there are many people who despise the shows. But at the same time, it allows us to take that vehicle and really tell our stories. If someone gives you lemon, make lemonade of it. Fighting these shows is a monumental task – we might as well find a way to make it positive. Without Storage Wars, we couldn’t have the opportunity to talk about storage as we currently do. It created the conversation, the opportunity. There are definitely folks out there who fight against it, but overall it’s there and it’s big, so why not use it?”

At the end of the day, however, opinion is still divided over whether storage shows have positive or negative impact on the industry. There’s no denying the fact that Storage Wars may be bringing in larger, less experienced crowds with delusional expectations. Some facility operators have even cited auction shows for increased break-ins at their facilities. At the same time, however, operators like Robert and Lance have managed to take the popularity of Storage Wars and turn it into a positive for their own enterprises.

Which side do you fall on? Will you fight against auction shows, or incorporate them and coexist? As our focus on storage auctions wraps up, comment below with your thoughts on the future of storage after these shows.

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