One Man’s Trash…
Would you pay $500+ for a roomful of someone’s abandoned crap? No? Well…would you like to watch a show about people who do?
Format: Half hour televisions show
Premise: In California, when the rent on a storage unit lapses for 3 months, the contents of the locker are sold in an auction setting. Storage Wars follows five habitual auction-goers as they bid on units and uncover buried treasure…and sometimes, trash.
Original Broadcast Channel: A&E
Off the Wire Location: Netflix (season 1); most recently aired episode available on the A&E website (season 2) along with bonus scenes.
I’ve always been iffy on A&E programming, mostly because the majority of it walks the line between exploring a niche group of people that live lives you never thought existed, and simply exploiting people in weird and unfortunate circumstances (Hoarders and Intervention specifically come to mind).
I did, for a brief period, watch Gene Simmons Family Jewels, but I stopped after one season. It was just too sad.
In a way, Storage Wars does capitalize on misfortune in so much as the stuff left behind most likely belonged to people who fell on hard times. If you can get past that aspect of it, the show is very entertaining and thoroughly addictive.
The format of the show is split into 2 parts: the auction and the appraisals.
1) The Auction
For the first third of the show, the location is introduced (these auctions take place in various towns all over California), the lockers are surveyed and then sold. Unlike a regular auction, where you know exactly what you’re buying and what it’s worth, these bidders are only allowed to stand at the entrance of the unit and look in, without entering or touching anything in the unit.
Because 4 of the 5 main characters make their livings reselling the items they buy, bidding is more about intuition and luck than about blindly throwing money around–since they have to resell the stuff for a profit, it’s essential that they spend as little as possible.
Given these restrictions, the auctions can get pretty competitive, particularly when Dave Hester (consignment store owner and most established of the quintet) decides to bid on units not because he wants them, but just to drive the price up. This is particularly irksome to independent reseller Darrell Sheets, and very troubling for couple Jarrod and Brandi Schulz, who own a smaller thrift store and can’t afford to pay so much most of the time.
The fifth man in the game, Barry, is a senior oddball new to the storage locker auction world who’s really just their to find that one awesome collectible, which makes him less aggressive and therefore the most fun. After all, this is the guy that has brought a little person on stilts with night vision goggles and psychics to the auctions to help him score the right locker.
2) The Appraisal
After the auction is over, everyone who bought a locker digs through their piles of empty plastic bags and IKEA furniture hoping to find the big score. Sometimes they make their money back, and sometimes they don’t, but it’s the truly unexpected discoveries that make the show worth watching. Some of the best finds include:
- A painting with thousands in $20 bills taped behind it
- A cache of vintage flare guns
- A box of bones
- A wardrobe full of suits that once belonged to rap producer Suge Knight.
At the end of the show, the profits for each person are tallied and a winner is declared. It’s a small thing, but it provides a nice sense of closure and at times, justice. Not to point out anyone in particular (Dave), but it’s disturbingly satisfying to see people lose money if they’ve been acting like a jerk.
Storage Wars is an interesting look at a part of American commerce that you would otherwise never know about. The speed of the auction makes it more exciting than other appraisal programs (Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, etc) but the real draw of the show (and the draw to the life of a Storage Warrior in general) is the dream of finding hidden treasure and reaching a big fat payday simply by showing up, yelling really loud, and digging through a little bit of garbage.
Hmmm….that sounds a lot like what hobos do. Except they don’t have to pay for the privilege.
One word of caution: The theme song is really cool, but also SUPER catchy and it will be in your head for days after you hear it. Proceed with caution.