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The Latest Reality TV Star: Self Storage Units?

by Amy Belasen
 When A&E debuted Storage Wars on December 1, 2010, it was      hard to imagine the treasure the creators had stumbled upon. With  two million viewers tuning into the series premiere (Nielsen Fast    Nationals, posted on the Futon Critic),Storage Wars became A&E’s  top-rated Real Life series of 2010, thrusting the Self Storage industry into the limelight. The show, which A&E calls a “modern-day treasure hunt on the self-storage battleground,” hinges on a standard policy: If a tenant abandons a storage unit by non-payment, the unit will be repossessed and the contents of the unit auctioned off.
Wondering how this might affect your business?
Until recently, the instinct of Self Storage owners was to downplay auctions. Publicizing delinquent customers and selling their belongings by auction aren’t exactly proud moments. But keeping auctions hush-hush meant limited buyers. Enter A&E’s new spin on Self Storage auctions. Instead of focusing on the maligned tenant, the show puts the spotlight on the auction, letting the details of non-payment fall into the background.
Rules are laid out for anyone who has never witnessed an auction; transactions are cash only and all sales are final. Then the auctioneer reveals the fine print – the crux of the show – buyers will have five minutes to look at the covered contents of the storage unit. Units may be filled with treasure or trash; it’s up to the buyer to bid based on a gut-feeling.
Despite some real fear that a show might negatively impact the Self Storage industry, we’re not seeing much fallout. Awareness of the Self Storage industry and storage unit auctions have only increased as a result of the show. In fact, some of our Self Storage clients have shared that the show’s popularity is helping them attract a broader group of buyers to auctions – bringing them closer to minimizing losses from unpaid units.
Unfortunately, the show fails to mention one important fact. By law, Self Storage owners are required to return any profit made from auction (after losses) to the delinquent tenant.
Storage Wars is a television show based on the reality Self Storage companies face on a regular basis: clients abandoning their units. Garnering two million viewers, Storage Warshas successfully found an angle to position the Self Storage industry as TV’s hottest reality star. So far, that kind of exposure hasn’t been bad for business.
How do you think the show stacks up to reality? Do you think it’s affecting your business? We would love to hear from you.
Haven’t tuned into the hit show? Watch a sneak peek.