Storage Wars: A Manager’s Perspective on Reality TV’s Depiction of Self-Storage Auctions
Any PR is good PR as the proverbial saying goes, but those of us in the trenches know this isn’t always the case. Occasionally, we wish we could see just how overwhelming some PR might be.
A burst of reality TV shows, including the newest on A&E, “Storage Wars,” along with segments on “Auction Hunters” and “American Pickers” are showcasing the self-storage industry's auction process. They use the term “reality TV,” and for those of us watching (especially in California), it appears lien laws are being tossed by the wayside.
Self-Storage Talk member Airport Super Storage had an episode filmed, which has yet to air, at her location. Paula, the site manager shared many insights as to what parts were staged for filming and assured everyone that despite what aired on the show, all laws were followed to the letter.
So, the facilities that had film crews on site did what they were supposed to do, the show producers manufactured what they wanted to portray, and so far it appears there has been no harm done. Now let’s get down to the real reality of it all.
The newbie auction buyers are flowing out of the woodwork like termites chewing through a home. It feels like an infestation. The chain reaction of events occurring across our industry is hard enough to keep up with at times. With the legal changes we all must keep up with, now we have to add in dealing with all the people who think they can become rich buying “junk” from storage units. I don’t know about you, but on the SST forum our members have seen a dramatic increase in phone calls and attendees at auctions across the board. Even reading their posts, I still had no idea what massive proportions this increase in storage auctions would do to our daily ops.
Just this past week we had an auction scheduled, which we canceled a few days prior to the sale date. Our phones rang so much, and at times all four lines were ringing. One person couldn’t keep up, and I should know, I was that one person the day before the scheduled date. Had I a clue that our auction sale would garner so much publicity, I would have staffed up for the day to deal with the influx of potential bidders that came through our doors, and to help handle the massive number of phone calls we received.
You can’t, or maybe I should say you shouldn’t, be curt with your auction bidders; they’re an integral part of operations. I handled each call as if it were a prized, potential new customer calling to rent a unit. I was gracious, friendly and as helpful in answering all the questions as I possibly could. By the time our auction day rolled around the following morning, I was exhausted from smiling into the telephone.
On auction day, the phones continued to ring, and vehicles of all shapes and sizes showed up in droves. Sometimes it was laughable as people piled out of such small vehicles, like a bunch of circus clowns. I had to wonder, where they could put even the contents of a 5-by-5 unit, much less something larger? Thirty minutes after the auction was slated to begin we still had vehicles pulling in full of wanna-be, get-rich-quick newbies showing up to make their fortunes.
By now, we were incredulous at the response, and it was almost getting to the point of being ridiculous. As we informed people of the rescheduled date and time we also advised that they needed to be on time or even early as we don’t mess around on auction day. We normally see anywhere between three to four dozen bidders, but had we had the auction I dare say we would have numbered between 75 and 100 people on site that day.
February 2 should be a really interesting day in our neck of the woods if all the calls and vehicles are any indication of what’s to come. To top it off, we now will have a vehicle included in the sale, which our auctioneer service will heavily promote. So if you perchance happen to be in the central coast area of California about that time, pop on in. It should be a very interesting day. Mosh pit anyone?