A storage industry expert’s view of “Storage Wars”

By Tom Comi

There’s no question that Storage Wars has been a huge hit for A&E, but we were curious about just how much reality is really involved in this reality TV show.

After all, can a program about storage units really be as exciting as depicted on television? Do people really flock to facilities throughout the United States to bid on unseen property with the hopes of striking it rich?

With season 2 of Storage Wars (pictured) premiering tonight (10pm ET), we decided to go straight to the source. The Self Storage Association is a non-profit group based on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., and its sole purpose is to represent the interests of the more than 50,000 facilities across the country. We caught up with Tim Dietz, the SSA’s senior vice president of communications, to get his feelings on the show.

Channel Guide Magazine: What is your impression of the A&E show “Storage Wars?
Tim Dietz: I think it’s entertainment produced very well, but it is not an accurate reflection of what the self storage industry is.

Channel Guide Magazine: What do you think is not accurate about it?
Tim Dietz: Perhaps it is an accurate portrayal of the auction industry, but it’s not an accurate portrayal of self storage. Less than one percent of self storage units end up in that situation, so to call it “storage wars” is a bit misleading. Our operators are in the business of renting space, not selling people’s stored items.

Channel Guide Magazine: It’s said there is no such thing as bad publicity, so what positives can the storage industry take from the show?
Tim Dietz: Well it certainly has produced a few more bidders at some auctions. This is the only way storage operators recoup lost rent from unpaid units. But they are lucky to get 30 cents on the dollar owed, so the more bidders does help in that regard.

Channel Guide Magazine: Why do think “Storage Wars” is so popular with TV viewers?
Tim Dietz: It’s a treasure hunt. People are excited to see what’s behind door number 1, even if it’s just old furniture. It’s certainly interesting and a well produced show. But it’s an auction show, not a storage show.

Channel Guide Magazine: If you were a consultant, what would you change to make it represent the industry better?
Tim Dietz: It’s not the job of those reality producers to represent our industry. They can develop whatever spin they want. If they didn’t edit out the boring stuff, nobody would watch. I don’t think you could do a reality show on what really happens in self storage and expect great ratings. Typically what you see is three guys helping a buddy move his parents’ old dining room set into a unit.

Channel Guide Magazine: Would you ever make a cameo appearance on “Storage Wars” if asked?
Tim Dietz: I don’t think that would make that show any sexier.


© 2011 Stuart Pettican/A&E