Storage Wars: I Found Your New Guilty Pleasure

by on August 29th, 2010
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Does the thought of other people’s junk get your heart racing? Have you ever wanted to search through clutter, dust and neglected belongings in hopes of finding gold? Me either.

So why can’t I turn away from “Storage Wars,” and how come I was glued to the television when new episodes aired Nov. 15?
The A & E show that gives us an in-depth view of storage unit auctions has become my newest guilty pleasure, and judging from Twitter, I am not alone.

Something that I noticed from both the show and the Twitterverse is that the characters on the show are really starting to embrace their celebrity status.

That’s not to say any of the featured storage unit buyers – “mogul” Dave Hester, “gambler” Darrell Sheets, “collector” Barry Weiss, or “young guns” Jarrod Schulz and wife Brandi Passante – are worthy of celebrity status in the classical Hollywood sense (although I, personally think Brandi is smoking hot). Brandi and Jarrod own a thrift store. Hester owns a consignment shop. Barry is retired and simply looking for rare collectible items that produce a big payday. Darrell, from what I have gathered, has been buying and selling storage units and their contents for decades.

But, according to The Wrap, “Storage Wars” is the most popular A &E show of all time. Now, let’s not kid ourselves and act like A & E has ever been on par with HBO or AMC when it comes to awing audiences with compelling series and interesting stars. Outside of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Criss Angel Mindfreak,” I cannot think of another celebrity whose fame was mostly due to A & E. So the stars of “Storage Wars” couldn’t possibly become full-blown celebrities, right?

Don’t tell that to the mogul Dave Hester, though. Hester has settled nicely into his role as the “Storage Wars” bully/villain, bidding on storage units that he doesn’t even care for just to make sure the other featured buyers have to break their banks a little to come away with the locker (“Storage Wars” slang for a storage unit). His patented call to bid, “Yuuuup,” is now embroidered on the backs of his baseball caps, and the Twitter hash tag #YUUUP could be seen on several tweets during the new episodes, as #StorageWars was a trending topic. A tweeter himself, Hester (@davethemogul) has also taken to trash talking via the social network. This, of course, garnered tweets from his arch enemy, Darrell Sheets (@DarrellGambler).

“This season Dave will be the mongrel I will be the mogul” read one of Sheets’ tweets. Those who follow the show, or have stopped on A & E during one of the “Storage Wars” marathons, which seem to occur every other day, undoubtedly would’ve noticed Sheets and Hester intentionally getting under each others’ skin. Darrell will bid, and Dave will often ask “Who’s bidding, Darrell?” Of course, auctioneers Dan Dotson and Laura Dotson (@auctionguydan, @paytheladylaura), the auctioneer in charge of all the transactions on the show, always answer “I can’t tell you that, sir.” But it doesn’t matter, he knows. Dave smirks and lets out a “Yuuup.”

When Dave is bidding on a unit, Darrell often returns the favor, even mimicking Hester with a “Who’s bidding, Dave?” directed toward Dotson, and then driving up the price.

The other featured players at the auctions are less adversarial. Jarrod (@Jarrodmschulz) and Brandi (@Brandipassante), to be honest, are more confrontational with one another than the other buyers. Their relationship is interesting in that it adds a “Husband and wife out shopping for junk” dynamic to the show. Neither one is ever confident in a locker the other wants to buy. They set spending limits for themselves and one another, as each has different tastes in what makes a unit attractive to them, but rarely stay within their fiscal boundaries. (Dave Hester is partially to blame). Usually, everything works out alright in the end, as long as the items in the unit are valued for a higher amount than the price paid. Jarrod has also started to work on branding, as Schulz is the co-founder of Outlaw Apparel, which he commonly wears on the show. Plus, did I mention Brandi is hot?

Ahh, and finally, we come to good old Barry Weiss (@barrycollector). I’m not sure really what Barry’s motivation is other than he likes cool old stuff. Although I don’t know exactly why he is on the show, as it seems he has nothing riding on his purchases, I am glad he is. Many of his buys don’t work out too well for him, but occasionally we get to see him get his hands on an extremely rare item, which equals an extremely large pay day. As a fan of Barry’s, it’s great to see the guy hit it big from time to time. He doubles as the comic relief for the show. Often as the credits roll at the end, we see Barry one-on-one with the camera, cracking jokes, even garnering some laughs from the show’s crew. One of his purchases, according to him, looked like a “broken hip.” One episode showed Barry with an elliptical machine on a furniture dolly, running on the machine and rolling through Venice Beach.

Believe it or not, it looked out of place, even for Venice Beach!

By now, after more than 800 words, if you haven’t watched the show, you may be thinking “Storage Wars” sounds rather lame and exploitative (the storage lockers, after all, are being auctioned because people haven’t paid rent on them for a certain amount of time). Or, there is something about what you just read that piqued your curiosity.

Obviously, I would have fallen into the latter group had I not seen the show. But why? What is the reason this show has hooked me and millions of others?

Personally, I believe it’s the allure of the unknown combined with the fascination of finding buried treasure – discovering a diamond in the rough. As children, many of us were much more patient, and much more willing to try to find beauty in a pile of rubble. We didn’t care if what we found in a bag of discarded toys, clothes or figurines was worth money. We just cared if it was neat.

The same thing happens on “Storage Wars.” Many of the big-money items, what Darrell Sheets calls “The Wow! factor,” are pieces that draw a reaction of “I’ve never seen something like this,” “I have no idea what this is,” or “Boy, that is cool” from the buyers. While the ultimate goal is to make money, the valuable lockers all seem to, at least for a split second, cause the buyers to have youthful excitement in what they have purchased. Until they make the buy, they don’t know what’s in there. In most cases, one solitary piece visible from outside the locker – a musical instrument, a piece of furniture, a box labeled “Elvis Stuff” – is all that they can identify, and all that leads them to bid on a unit.

The buyers, after making a purchase, rummage through boxes like children who find a chest in the attic that they never knew existed. They dump bags out and sift through the contents like they just finished trick-or-treating. Their items are taken to professionals to be identified/appraised, as the buyer hopes the item he or she now owns really is as cool and rare as they believe it to be.
And while all of this unfolds, we watch with anticipation. We tweet along with the show, hoping the scrolling Twitter bar across the top shows our tweet. We root for our favorite buyers.

Or against Dave Hester, in my case.

Dave Hester may call himself the mogul, but who is the “Storage Wars” king of Twitter? Or is the “Storage Wars” Twitterverse ruled by a queen? Below are the number of followers of each of the show’s players as of Nov. 16.

Brandi Passante: 26,388 Darrell Sheets: 21,140 Dave Hester: 19,395 Jarrod Schulz: 17,740 Barry Weiss: 9,655 Dan Dotson: 9,269 Laura Dotson: 4,317

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