Is Storage Wars Fake, Staged or For Real?

Dec 20, 11 Is Storage Wars Fake, Staged or For Real?

You’d be surpised how often people ask whether or not Storage Wars is fake or for real – is it staged? Do people stuff the units beforehand to allow the pickers to find all the best loot?

Just who are these auction unit buying weirdos we see each episode and is this whole thing legit or not? Yes and No – yes the storage auctions themselves are real and not staged, and NO, you will not have the same experience as these auction hunters when you go out to start buying delinquent lockers near you.

The secret behind Storage Wars is volume. An insane level of volume. The amount of storage auctions the crew is filming at any given point is staggering and most casual or amateur storage auction hunters just won’t be able to keep up the same pace due to job and family related time contraints.

Dan Dotson and his wife on the set of storage wars filming

Meanwhile, we’ve seen plenty of claims on youtube and storage auction blogs that its possible to prove storage wars is all a sham if you just carefully watch the editing.

I think the truth behind Storage Wars is that there’s a little bit of everything going on. Yes, the show is highly stylized and designed to get folks excited about these sales.

No, you’re not going to find a vintage coca-cola machine in the next locker you buy that’s worth 40K on eBay. Yes, the show is going out of its way to provide exciting storage buying entertainment by filling the episodes with vibrant and interesting characters like Jarrod Schulz, Brandi Passante and Dave the Mogul.

Storage War's Brandi Passante

Yes, Storage Wars is intentionally overselling the possible, but rare, sweet loot that can be found in public storage auctions.

So, perhaps the best answer to the question of whether or not Storage Wars is staged is “Yes and No”. Yes, there is some indirect deception going on here in the name of good entertainment.

But let’s face it. If Storage Wars showed you the true real-life frequency with which you find great scores in storage lockers up for sale, we probably wouldn’t want to tune in as much. At the end of the day, it makes for great TV, which is why it’s so successful.

In the meantime, would be auction buyers are cautioned to carry more realistic expectations into their own local storage buying efforts. You definitely can make money doing this, and you definitely could find some of the sweet loot they come across, but you’re not going to find something to scream about in each and every unit.

Now, there are plenty of people on Yahoo Answers that are convinced storage wars totally fake – that every united is pre-loaded with goodies and all the action is scripted. There are also reports that visitors to storage wars filming sites have seen unit tampering go down and that attendees have been coached by the crew to do certain things to up the show value such as arguing over a unit.

On the flipside of the coin, having heard from some of the managers that oversee properties featured on the show, it’s not that simple of an open and shut case. The fact of the matter is that truly delinquent and legally repossessed storage lockers cannot be tampered with in most states unless the facility, its managers and their parent company all want to open themselves up for a big nasty lawsuit.

Of course, it’s not impossible to conceive of crafty film crews borrowing an open locker at a facility to prep up with the latest goods from Costco, but it’s just not as simple to mess around with legitimate storage units as everyone assumes. If Storage Wars were to be a total fabrication, they would be prepping and then later opening entirely free and clear storage lockers borrowed from facilities just for that purpose.

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49 Comments

  1. MaskedMarvyl /

    It would be extremly simple to set up a staged unit that would still comply with state law, and your article gave me the idea of how they could (and probably are) doing it.
    The show itself has employees rent a storage locker. They then fill the locker with “stuff”. It can even be bought from other storage auctions. They then place a choice collectible item in the unit, and lock it up. Then they allow it to go deliquent. The storage facility then files a lein against it, seals it, and then it is opened later and filmed by the show.

    No laws are broken, no units are tampered with, as they have rented the space beforehand. Voila! Every episode is guaranteed an interesting find, legally.
    The rest of us are just deceived.
    Especially the poor bidders who blow their money thinking they will find the same things….

  2. Zack Proser /

    Very interesting point, although that does sound like a regular pain in the ass to get an episode’s worth of lockers going – anyone else want to chime in on this?

  3. All they have to do is win the auction for a legitimate locker and then plant a valuable item in it before they film the bidder going through it. iam sure thats what they are doing.

  4. I am quite convinced it’s fake; everything is just too convenient. Plus, the clincher for me is that there are no other bidders for these auctions despite the folks standing around. It is still fun to watch though.

    • actually, the other people do bid however they rarely have enough money to compete

  5. Zack Proser /

    Good points – but it’s also possible that many of the folks standing around are intimidated by the full-scale film crew – or simply don’t want their mugs on primetime.

  6. Well I’ve noticed that the auctioneers often say there are 5 or 6 lockers auctioned off each episode, but we only see about 3 or 4. Maybe these other lockers are bought up by people that A&E doesn’t have on contract, and therefore can’t film. Also, couldn’t it be argued that these characters could be under contract to have one item appraised from each locker they buy? That way, there is suspense, but a character doesn’t always strike it big.

  7. Fake? Yes. These are(supposidly) public autions. Having the exact same bidders every show is…fake. These auctions have to be advertised to the public. Now, if 800 people respond to an auction only to be told it is only for Screen Actors Guild card holders, what are they supposed to do? They can’t just keep letting in the same people. It’s public. It’s …fake. Same bidders assaulting each other every episode and no cops is…fake (law enforcement would be all over this/these auctions after the first t.v. viewing) One storage is planted with a “booby trap”. They raise the door to Hollywood pyrotectnics. If someone is going to booby trap a bin, it’s gonna hurt somebody, not make flashes and smoke…fake. This and all the “towing” shows are…fake. I would much rather watch actual storage auctions. I would be more entertained by someone paying $500 for a room full of warped Tupperware than a couple paying $500 for a room with 2 Harleys worth $40,000. Why? ‘Cause that’s…fake!

    • randell /

      a room full of tupperware is a good find. tupperware is expensive
      p.s it isnt actually staged thats a fact these individuals are on a mailing list with the company that runs the auctions they get letters and emails and probabily phones calls thats why they all show up at the same auctions

    • matt /

      HAHA now that is the truth. good man!!

  8. Basically, they film 100 auctions, and they find something interesting in one of them. So that’s the one they show on TV. The other 99 go in the s**tcan. Is that fake? No, but it’s manipulating reality, making it seem like there’s something interesting/valuable in every locker. People who own thrift stores can make a sparse living doing this, but nobody else can.

    • Zack Proser /

      Good point, Mike. However, I can speak from experience and say that some folks who do not have any retail store to speak of can turn a healthy profit doing this. But it’s definitely not as easy as the shows make it look.

  9. these are about as real as repo man…

    only the actors win the sheds, and always make profit or break even..

    also the show is sponsored by storage one

  10. CASEY /

    ALMOST ALL STORAGE AUCTIONS ARE STAGED. THIS SHOW IS NO DIFFERENT. When a unit becomes delinquent the facility manager goes into the unit and takes inventory. They rearrange items putting what they deem valuable into plain sight to ensure maximum return on back rent. The locks are always cut weeks in advance and you are NEVER allowed to go through the unit until you pay for the unit after the auction has ended. Go to some auctions and watch the manager grin ear to ear after the sale because they know exactly what is in every unit that sells. Most units that are sold AREN’T delinquent they are known as “company” units, where tenants take trash from their unit and dump it into an empty unit. The buyers on the show seem to be legitimate flea marketers with the exception of Barry. I have been going to auctions for 20 years and this show has destroyed the business for buyers.

  11. Will /

    I feel like they do many more auctions than the show shows. They don’t find all the great stuff in every locker and probably buy lockers for much less than $300 to find only $400 worth of smaller merchandise in it. A&E only bothers to sort through film of the auctions that actually had stuff in it.

  12. This show is a TON more authentic than Auction Hunters who find guns in every locker they find

  13. Frank /

    I have actually attended these events regularly for over 8 years. This includes 3 Storage Wars recordings.

    I can say this much:

    A) You can make a healthy living storage hunting, if you have the time, ability to travel, and a pocket deep enough to absorb the 95% chance of buying a “lemon”.

    B) At the 3 recordings I have attended, they auctions were advertised publicly. I was actually unaware of the recordings for 2 of the 3 I was present for.

    C) There are other bidders present. And I have seen plenty of taping that included them. However, most times, many regular hunters will not bother at a Storage Wars event simply due to the likelihood of it being a fruitless attempt.

    Let’s face it, most attendee’s are locals. Most will go to an auctions with a few hundred dollars or less in their pockets.

    These Storage War’s “actors” on the other hand generally come with a few thousand dollars.

    It does not take long before the reality sets in that when they are filming, with these guys/gals present, the average local does not stand a chance. As such, they simply do not bother, and the few that do, usually just want a few seconds of TV time.

    Of course the network only shows auctions with an a tad of entertainment involved. You can not make money from boring media. And face it, Storage War’s is a business. If the money is not there, neither are the shows.

    In short, from my experience, yes it is manipulated. But no, it is not fake. Welcome to the world of business.

    • matt /

      You work either for A&E or are a fool. Either way you are a liar. These are so fake a 5 year old could figure it out. Not real not actual not by a longshot!!

  14. If you believe any part of storage wars is real I got a bridge for sell you, Sadly I believe I will have a lot of interest in it.

  15. My opinion is that the lockers are all normal in every way.
    Except…
    The items which are usually found in two of them are planted by the show crew.
    However, the “actors” aren’t aware where they’re going to find the special item, or which lockers the actual treasures are in and which ones only contain the trash.
    I also think the money for this comes from their own pockets, and that’s why they all get extremely frustrated when they don’t strike it big, except for Barry, who is a multi-millionaire on the side.

  16. Hoser /

    What I dont understand is if they have to go through so many auctions to get only a few minutes of good material, why does it seem that at each location 3 of the four people are making a profit? I would think that there are merchandise that is planted. I mean if Dave finds something good in one storage facility it does not mean that the others are going to find something good in the same facility, but that happens every show.

  17. mark /

    It is fake !! why do most the items work and have good batteries and be full of fuel?

  18. Joe /

    Im personally done with the show….

    • I’ve been watching a marathon of Storage Wars Texas, and I am done with the show, it is SO FAKE. Why is there always one obscure treasure that they find hidden behind something – a cliffhanger before they go to commercial. Just one random thing, that really has nothing to do with the rest of the storage unit, and not even dusty. Items are planted definitely every show. Come on, the viewers aren’t that dumb. I wouldn’t mind the planting of objects because it makes the show more fun, but it is so obvious it’s become lame.

  19. timothy /

    for all of you very very ignorant people out there who think this is all of a sham the reason someone usually hits big on this show is because its not like they are filming every auction they go to they ONLY show the rare ones for all of you idiots out there….

  20. Matt /

    That’s the beauty of reality TV: you don’t know what’s real and what’s not. True, Storage Wars could easily be staged, but it could easily be real as well.

    What the producers could have done is point out that they ARE going to lots and lots of auctions and “these are some of the findings” that came along. The show gives the impression that every 4th unit you find will make you money. IF that’d be the case, what are WE waiting for?!

    Nah, the reality of situation is, most likely every 20th unit might make you money and every 40-50th unit might have some valuables in them.

    Oh well. The show might be fake, might be real.
    It IS a damn shame some editing mistakes have ruined the fun from some viewers.

  21. Sorry to dispute you, but a friend of mine on a ranch in SoCal got a visit from the Storage Wars team wanting to buy “tresures” to SEED the storage units.

  22. Jake /

    It’s not real people !!!

    A&E do NOT film hundreds of auctions and just air the ones with decent ‘finds’. Can you imagine the time and cost involved to have video / sound / lighting guys film auction after auction in the hope of stumbling across something interesting / valuable ?

    Everyone involved knows in advance what’s in the units and who is going to ‘win’ the auction. It’s carefully constructed for your entertainment and to attract advertisers.

  23. Moira /

    Hey guys, you guys do know that this is problably real? They show real stores, and other people. And if you want to say that no one bids against them, making it fake, then you are wrong. They cut out many of the auctions, mainly the ones that no one on the show wins or is just point blank uninteresting. plus, the same thing occurs when they don’t find loot. The cut it out so that they don’t loose viewers. They do add drama, and problably chose those people because they were dramatic, but still chose those people because they reoccure in different auctions. Oh yeah and, if it were staged, then why does everyone keeps loosing money? Why does Jarrod and Brandi’s store loose so much?

    • matt /

      You are a fool. When it is fake they can do what they want. It is sad that people like you are allowed to reproduce.

      • Clayton /

        Settle down, man. It really isn’t a big deal. Get a life and quit trolling.

  24. Mary /

    I am guessing here, totally guessing. But , could they win 3 or so lockers. Have the crew pack all the stuff up and move it to one auction, where that is staged ( you will win the locker with your stuff in it). I am sure that not everyone at every auction will win a locker.That way the wont know what is in the locker till the sort if, but they have honestly bid and won the other lockers. To many of the lockers are stuffed.

  25. As someone pointed out in a prior post, the most likely scenario is this:
    1. A&E buys a locker, stuffs it with something interesting.
    2. 3 months pass. Locker goes delinquent.
    3. Film crew shows up with its star bidders.
    4. Voila!

    • Easier to fake it and no risk of losing those amazing A&E treasures to the never bidding 50 people standing around. Also no risk of having it stolen. There are 69 episodes. 69 X 5 units. That’s over 300 units. A&E is going to ruin their credit rating of the full time employee with the sole purpose of renting until when it would be easier to fake it.

  26. They are fake for many reasons. The main fakes that make baffling anyone believing in the reality of the show are this:
    1. Many of the objects are valued at least at 2-3 times their actual value. We have many flee markets in my country and even if I do not usually buy much I like to stroll trough them and I can tell you they overprice findings.
    2. The chances that anyone would leave in a locker something that values more than the fee for colecting the stuff are rather slim in my opinion, but most people are dumb so this might account for some findings.
    3. Some findings are impossible. For instance the jeans finding seems impossible to me. Also the poker chip one. Really? You would leave your earnings in a vault.
    4. Another point someone else noticed was that in reality the ones doing the aunction always knows what is in the storage and always line the good stuff in front. In most cases they empty the locker , evaluate the stuff and aunction per item.
    5. The bidding goes way to high. If you have that much money to spend there are many easier and faster way to make money.

    Sorry , but in my opinion this is all staged to increase profits for some aunctioneers and to increase profit for some pawn shops. The reality is if you go to any shop with that merchandise most likely you will get squat.

  27. Staged for the viewers benefit. People, it is a TV show. It’s entertainment. My retired mom manages a storage facility that they have filmed at. The crew spends a day setting up, then the next day, the stars show up and film the show. They use extra’s as fill for the crowd. The “items” are designed to intrigue the viewers and the trips to the appraisers are also staged in exchange for promo time. Facility employee’s have to sign non-disclosure (gag-orders) in an attempt by the producers to help keep “secrets” from getting out. Bottom line- it’s entertainment folk’s!

  28. Sorry guys… it’s a TV SHOW! I knew it was totally fake when DAVE HESTER dropped the supposed priceless porcelain box and acted all upset! Any hack that knows anything about antiques or collectibles knows what a made in Japan mark look like! It had the double crossed arrows on the bottom. It was proably worth 5 bucks!!!! When I saw that crap… that was it! I never watched the stupid show again!

  29. These auctions are fake. Dave Hester has filed a lawsuit against A&E for millions of dollars in personal damages. He states the show was fake. info is hosted on this website http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/storage-wars-fake-lawsuit_n_2279176.html
    Need more proof? Read the information this man has found about the authenticity hosted here http://www.storagewarsisfake.com/
    There is a lot of proof that the show is fake compared to the amount of “proof” the show is real.
    There is a law that states if someone purposely plans on “Bidding up” an auction price whether successful or nor he shall be fined of up to $1,000,000 and no more than 10 years in prison – The Sherman Act of 1890.
    Do you guys really think that these people will purposely announce on nationwide TV that they will bid up a unit and be sued for 1mil and 10 years lock up? They ask a storage facility to rent there property (parking lot, and pathway), and 2-4 units for 1-2 days time for the filming purpose of fliming. These people were being paid 12,000 dollars a show for the first 6 shows. They are receiving nearly 10X that now. Whether you believe the show is real or not is you opinion, but the facts don’t lie!

  30. Hey Cody… while Im not going to argue the recent findings brought forward by Dave (and mostly Im sad to say common sense debunking the show), you may want to brush up on your law school findings, as wikipedia is not a reliable source. The anti-trust law does not apply to auctions, as broken down and explained at the website http://www.stolaf.edu/people/becker/antitrust/statutes/sherman.html. There is not stated fine of $100,000 either, nor a 10 year sentence. As stated from the website “Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.” I enjoy seeing the cool stuff featured on the show, but yes you’re not going to go out and find expensive items each time, and yes the value of the item is grossly exaggerated.

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