The Dark Side Of Storage Wars
I am a pretty big fan of reality based TV shows, which is a good thing these days because that is pretty much all of what is getting shoveled at us by the networks. A&E in particular has really gotten on a roll with reality based programming, and one of their huge successes has been Storage Wars.
For those who don’t know, Storage Wars involves what happens to abandoned or unpaided for storage lockers at those U Store Stuff style places. Almost every town in America has one or has one nearby, they are a growing business it seems. When these lockers go unpaid, they get auctioned to the highest bidder, and Storage Wars shows us the interest stuff that they find in these lockers, and reveals how much many of these seemingly innocent items are worth.
As a concept, at least on the surface, it’s really quite cool. You have the fast paced, adversarial action of the auction, and then the digging out of the lockers and the discovery of treasures. This sort of gives me a feeling of sort of an Antiques Roadshow with more dust and less class. It’s been a winning combination, with A&E adding a second Storage Wars Texas series, and Spike TV also doing very well with their Auction Hunters take on the subject.
However, you only have to sit back a very short distance to realize that all of this excitement and discovery is built on a lot of misery. Basically, these lockers have been unpaid for, a sign of the times in America with high unemployment and people losing their homes and so on. According to a USA Today article, “Storage Wars deliberately keeps away from the back stories behind each abandoned storage locker. “All you see is misery there, and I didn’t want to trade on that,” says executive producer Thom Beers”. There in lies the barely hidden misery of this show.
What for me is painful is seeing articles that are clearly worth more than any amount of late storage fees, being pulled out and sold for cash. The original owner apparently couldn’t bring themselves to part with them, or didn’t understand the value, and as a result they lose much more than they bargained for. It seems odd to try to figure out how people got into that position. It’s particularly odd when the material is something that is clearly salable (like coins, comic books, or other obvious collectables), and that people seem to have just given up. That is quite the sad part of all of this, and something that the shows clearly don’t want to touch.
So while they shows are somewhat addictive, the characters amusing, and the shows overall enjoyable, I am always stuck on the sad parts, the sign of the times. Storage Wars is just another way of showing how society is more than willing to eat itself to keep the wheels spinning.