This Is War! Storage War!
My husband’s new obsession with the A&E show, Storage Wars has spilled over onto me and I’m now completely hooked as well. If you are unfamiliar, the show follows around a group of buyers who go to various storage facilities and bid on units that have been abandoned, either through forgetfulness or failing to pay the bill. Dan and Laura Dotson serve as the upbeat and fast talking auctioneers who host all auctions. There is a core group of buyers that the show focuses on, but crowds of anywhere from 20 to 50 people will show up to bid. Buyers are given five minutes to check out the unit without entering, touching, or opening anything. Winning units are sorted by the buyer and usually the valuables are taken to experts for appraisal and hopefully given a big price tag.
Barry Weiss is my favorite buyer hands down, with his quirky behavior and the fact that his motivation for purchasing is purely lighthearted and fun; he has a net worth of over seven million and is always in search of a great new collectible for his personal enjoyment. Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz, a married couple with a small thrift store, make me laugh because many of their interactions remind me of how my husband and I act; there’s a lot of teasing back and forth that is often similar to how my husband and I carry on. Darrell Sheets, dubbed “The Gambler,” is a big risk taker and a good looking guy if you enjoy hairy shoulders. And finally, there is Dave Hester, an irritating man with a big ego, a wallet to match, and motivation in all the wrong places; one who will bid on a unit simply to drive the price up for the person who is actually interested in what lies within.
If there was a Storage Wars Connecticut version, I have no doubt that my unit would have been featured as it was auctioned off; my antique furniture, coin collection, signed sports memorabilia, and electronics no doubt made someone very happy. The show has shown the buyers rewarded with many great finds, such as vintage toys and celebrity left-behinds, but also highlights the risky part of this business when buyers overspend only to receive nothing more than old clothes and broken furniture. Barry, Jarrod, and Brandi are my core group who I constantly root for; Barry for his carefree attitude and generally good luck at finding something rare and unusual, Jarrod and Brandi for the hopeful success of their thrift store. I’m a bit indifferent to Darrell and his son Brandon; it’s fun to see what they find but they strike me as somewhat irresponsible in their bidding. And then there is Dave. Dave antagonizes his fellow buyers and will often only bid on units if a rival is interested in order to make them overpay. He grossly overprices items he finds as he sorts through his units and comes off very lazy, leaving the work of sorting and loading to his massive team.
Last night, my husband and I watched as Jarrod went head to head with a gentleman who had never bid on a unit before and planned to quit his job to make bidding and reselling into his business. $2,600 later, the rookie won his unit and possibly found enough to make his money back, assuming he found the right buyers. The show does make it look fairly easy to make money off of units; Brandi and Jarrod often mention needing to pay the bills but overall they always seem to have cash in hand and be all right, especially during appraisal when they are told they made their money back and then some. The thing is, the appraisers rarely buy the items they price; they are simply offering their expert opinion on what the item could be worth to a potential buyer. The only time I’ve seen someone struggle with selling their newly obtained items is when Barry had trouble unloading some heavily used power tools. The rest of the time, the items are priced, buyers are ranked in order of who profited the most and who lost out, and the episode wraps.
I have no doubt that a significant amount of money can be made from purchasing storage units and selling off the valuables hidden within, but it’s not as easy as it looks. The rookie from last night got some advice from Jarrod on what was of value, but he was otherwise running blind. He and his wife don’t have the small thrift shop like Brandi and Jarrod, so he lacks the ease in selling off small miscellaneous items. He doesn’t have a large store (now auction house) like Dave and will find it harder to find buyers for high end items. He lacks the experience resources of Darrell and definitely can’t match Barry’s bank account. I suspect the show provides a bit of assistance on finding appraisers and no doubt the free publicity makes experts more willing to give their opinion on items; this is a luxury that this rookie and any of us will not be afforded. The buyers are also paid per episode, and while the exact amount isn’t known to me, it’s safe to say that it’s significant enough to give the buyers something extra to bid with and to pay their bills.
I would absolutely love to get into storage unit bidding and I think it would be fun to sell off various items for a huge profit or to keep some special ones for myself. I’d love to have my own business or at least be able to buy and sell independently well enough to self employ myself in that fashion. I also know there would be no way in hell I could do this right now or any time in the near future.
My husband and I collectively make a very nice chunk of cash annually and we both independently manage our own money (separate bank accounts, assigned bills for each of us, etc.) and even so, I imagine being very upset at him spending a grand of his money on a unit that he was unable to profit from. Likewise, I’d be kicking myself if I overpaid; even if I found a payoff in the unit, I would still have to sell it and wait for my money to be replenished. It’s a gamble and a risk and I’d have to have a million on standby solely for bidding purposes in order for me to be comfortable in doing it. Maybe not quite a million dollars, but it would have to be totally disposable and extra income separate from what I earn at my job. I actually got the idea last night while watching House that I should enter the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes to win a million a year for life so that we can go bid on units. I never claimed to be rational while tired.
Though it will probably never happen, it’s fun to think about and it’s one of those “what ifs” that keep my life interesting, along with my restaurant I’ll never open and the movie I’ll never make. I put off watching Storage Wars because the concept seemed silly to me, but I do have to admit that it’s one of the better reality shows floating around out there right now. It’s interesting to see so many lives exposed and secrets uncovered from doing nothing more than cutting a lock and opening up some boxes. It makes me wonder what the person who got my unit thought about my life and how much cash they ended up making. If you have some free time, I recommend giving at least one episode a shot. If you’re in California, you may be able to go to one of the auctions yourself and get on TV; there’s a Texas version as well and a New York version in talks. If nothing else, you’ll get a kick out of Barry. Also, pay your damn storage bill.