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Teri L. Lanza,
Vice President

Tony Jones,
Contributing Editor/Store Manager

Amy Campbell,

Self-Storage TV: Living With the Fallout

By Teri Lanza Comments

At the close of the 70s, video killed the radio star. This year, it may have killed the already struggling public image of the self-storage industry. We’ll see.

We’re all plumb sick of reality TV shows “Storage Wars” and “Auction Hunters,” and yet as self-storage professionals, we’re living with the consequences of these programs every day. Not only have they created dangerous misconceptions about our business, they’ve made lien sales a more precarious enterprise.

Here’s what facility owners and managers have had to say about the effect of these TV shows: On the positive side, many are seeing increased auction attendance and heightened bidding activity. Many also report increased phone calls from people inquiring about sale opportunities. Also, customers seem a bit keener to the consequences of defaulting on self-storage space.

But more buyers doesn’t necessarily mean good buyers. People flocking to self-storage auctions because of something they saw on television have their heads filled with all kinds of nonsense about how sales work and what’s inside these units. Some managers have reported issues with crowd control and parking. Still others say they’ve experienced a higher break-in rate since the programs have aired.

In a thread titled “Storage Wars” on Self-Storage Talk, some members say there’s a correlation between the reality show and crime at storage sites. Member dwilson2946 says, “I know that ‘Storage Wars’ is helping to increase our auction sales, but I think it is also helping to increase our break-ins. Our area is experiencing more storage break-ins than we had in the past.”

There have also been instances of auction scam in which a “customer” and storage operator conspire to secure a high bid price on a unit that, in reality, contains rubbish. The fake tenant “defaults” on a unit he fills with enticingly labeled boxes. To the unsuspecting bidder, the unit whispers promise. The buyer overpays and walks away with virtually nothing. Meanwhile, the operator and his partner in crime split the profit from the fraudulent sale.

Beyond these challenges, some storage operators have gone a little wild over the increased auction activity and made imprudent changes to the way they execute their sales. Curious to know if you fall into this camp? Want to learn more about unhealthy changes that have developed around lien sales and the liability they potentially create? I encourage you to attend the upcoming Legal Learning webinar with industry expert Jeffrey Greenberger.

On July 19, 11:30 p.m. EST. Jeff will present “What’s Wrong With Your Self-Storage Lien Sales Since the Advent of Reality TV?” He’ll talk about the detrimental effects of TV shows on our industry, how operators have responded to the new auction climate, and how to avoid legal repercussions around sales. The webinar is free to ISS Manager Plus and Owner Advantage members; all others can register for the 2011 three-part Legal Learning series for only $45. To learn more about the complete series, see the ISS Webinars page.

‘Storage Wars’ may come and go (though the show is about to begin its second season), but the fallout from this and similar programs may be with us for a long time. The perception of the American viewing public and the U.S. justice system is being shaped by information presented “on the box,” which is liable to mean more harm than good for the self-storage industry. Be prepared to deal with lien-sale liability, and let your state self-storage laws rather than star-struck ambitions be your guide.

How has reality TV impacted business at your self-storage site? Have an auction experience to share? Please post it to the blog.


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