Monday, June 25, 2012
If you haven’t seen Storage Wars, let me give you a recap. The show follows a group of people who make a living (at least in part) from buying the contents of abandoned storage lockers and reselling them. The contents are sold in public auctions after the potential buyers have had a brief look inside the locker (they’re not allowed beyond the door).
The show follows pretty much the same sequence every week. The bidders arrive at the auction and mutter about each other. Darrell, probably the worst father ever, makes some fairly clueless remarks about his teenage son and helper. Barry, who looks a bit like an aging Rat Pack member, bemoans his luck and expresses his determination to find a treasure. Dave, the “mogul” who owns used furniture stores, makes derogatory remarks about the other bidders. And Brandi and Jarrod, the only married couple, bicker about money. Some or all of these people buy lockers. The bidders go through the contents of the lockers. Treasures are located. Or not.
The whole process is oddly fascinating. Amid the boxes of used clothes and knick-knacks, some of the buyers manage to find some odd or unusual items that often turn out to be valuable. They tote up the money they expect to make from the locker’s contents, and at the end of the show, the totals are compared to the amount they paid for the locker. Some of the buyers win and some, inevitably, lose.
Now I know for a fact that these locker auctions do take place—a coworker of my hubs has participated in them here in Denver. But questions have been raised about the reality of the process on Storage Wars, and it’s easy to see why. The buyers are the ones who decide how much money they expect to make from the collection of old furniture and appliances they find in the lockers, and there’s no follow-up. Thus it’s impossible to verify that they actually did make back the amount invested in the original purchase. Moreover, it’s a stretch to believe that every auction produces lockers with hidden treasures, which gives some credence to the claim that the producers either locate the interesting lockers in advance or salt the lockers with interesting finds.
But frankly, I don’t care about that. Storage Wars is all about the delight of finding buried treasure. It’s a formula that goes back hundreds of years and shows up in everything from Treasure Island to Raiders Of the Lost Ark. Just when the searchers seem to have lost their way, they find a treasure that everyone else has overlooked. In the case of Storage Wars, lockers full of old furniture and eighties detritus yield jewelry and odd collectibles worth thousands “to the right collector.”
The show works very much like Antiques Road Show, another favorite of mine. What looks like junk turns out to be priceless. The unwitting owners are rewarded for their minor investments. The buried treasure is found.
And yes, I understand why some people who see Storage Wars become convinced that they can make a fortune buying the contents of lockers. I’m sure other people see Antiques Road Show and become convinced that they can find priceless whatnots by haunting junk stores. People buy lottery tickets for the same reasons—somebody else won, so why not me? It’s a seductive formula, but it’s not the show’s fault if some viewers are seduced. Reality shows are not “reality.” Like every television show, they’re structured entertainment, and in this case they play into one of our oldest fantasies—finding the overlooked treasure under several pounds of dreck.
So bring it on, Storage Wars. Let me see those fantastic finds. And yeah, like everybody else, I really wish that Dave would shut the hell up.
Okay Storage Wars fans, what’s your take? Real or not real? And what makes it fun?
Posted by Meg Benjamin at 4:00 AM