When rent is not paid on a storage locker for three months in California, the contents can be sold by an auctioneer as a single lot of items in the form of a cash-only auction. The show follows professional buyers who purchase the contents based only on a five-minute inspection of what they can see from the door when it is open. The goal is to turn a profit on the merchandise.
Season one of Storage Wars consisted of 19 episodes, 17 of which were filmed at various self-storage facilities throughout Southern California. The show has enjoyed ratings success, and its second season premiere attracted 5.1 million total viewers, making it the most-watched program in A&E's history to that point.
Storage Wars was recommissioned for another 26-episode season in January 2012, with the season officially premiering on June 5, 2012. Only 20 of the 26 episodes were aired however, with six of the episodes being held back for broadcast during the second half of the show's 3rd season which began airing on December 4, 2012. In March 2013, four early, special season 4 episodes aired prior to the official launch of Season 4, which premiered on April 16, 2013. The show began airing its 5th season in March 2014.
Jarrod Schulz (left) and Brandi Passante (middle) with interviewer
Jarrod Schulz and Brandi Passante - "The Young Guns" (Season 1-present): Schulz and Passante own and operate the "Now and Then" thrift store in Orange, California. In Season 4, they opened a second location in Long Beach, California, but in the premiere of Season 5, it's revealed that the Long Beach store hadn't made a single profit since opening day, putting them in financial jeopardy. The Long Beach store was shown to have closed as seen during the opening segment of the episode aired on April 8, 2014. On April 24, A&E premiered the special Brandi & Jarrod: Married to the Job, which focuses on the two balancing running their business and raising their two children. Though identified on screen as husband and wife in some episodes, Schulz and Passante have never actually married.
Darrell Sheets - "The Gambler" (Season 1-present): Sheets, a storage auction veteran from San Diego, appears alongside his son, Brandon. His catchphrase is "This is the WOW factor!" and he makes the occasional malapropism. He makes his living by selling items from his purchased lockers at his weekly swap meet, and through his online store. In an interview, Sheets indicated that some of his biggest finds in lockers included a sizable comic book collection, four drawings by Pablo Picasso, and a letter written by Abraham Lincoln that sold for over US$15,000. In Unlocked: Sell High, Darrell revealed that he once found a plastic-wrapped human corpse in a storage locker. It was determined that the previous owner of the locker had murdered his wife and left her in the unit. In the season 3 finale, Darrell bought a locker for $3,600 (U.S.) which was discovered to have contained many pieces of original artwork by Frank Gutierrez. The artwork wound up being appraised for approximately $300,000 (U.S.), resulting in the biggest profit in the show's history.
Rene and Casey Nezhoda (Season 4-present): The husband-and-wife team joined the show during season four, and became main buyers in season five. A native of Germany, Rene owns the Bargain Hunters thrift store in Poway, California (near San Diego).
Dave Hester - "The Mogul" (Season 1-3): At the start of the series, Hester owned Newport Consignment Gallery in Costa Mesa, California and the Rags to Riches thrift store, but closed them in June 2011. He now operates his own auction house, Dave Hester Auctions. Hester has had confrontations with the other main buyers, especially Darrell and Brandon Sheets, and is known to raise bids whenever somebody wants to buy the unit. Hester's son Dave Jr. occasionally appeared on the show with him. Hester's signature catchword is a loud "YUUUP!" when making a bid. He has this word imprinted on his trucks, t-shirts, and hats. Hester revealed on Anderson Live that his call originated from him being a bid-catcher in auction facilities, helping auctioneers spot bidders in a crowd. In December 2012, Hester was fired from the show, and sued the show's producers for wrongful termination; part of his lawsuit was tossed out in March 2013 (see "Lawsuit" section below).[dated info] Hester departed the show after Season 3.
Barry Weiss - "The Collector" (Seasons 1-4): Weiss and his brother owned a successful produce company, until he retired. While Weiss is a lifelong antiques collector, he had never bought a storage unit until his friend and Storage Wars executive producer and narrator Thom Beers suggested he join the show. On June 25, 2013, it was reported that Weiss will not return to the show for the fifth season. In February 2014, A&E announced that Weiss would be starring in his own spin-off series, titled Barry'd Treasure.
Promo for Storage Wars
Mark Balelo (Seasons 2-4): Balelo owned a liquidation, wholesale, and distribution company, and an auction house, and also used to own a gaming store called "The Game Exchange" from 2009-2012. He was known for bringing large sums of money to auctions, as much as US$50,000 at a time. He also earned the name "Rico Suave" for his tendency to dress in fancy clothes at storage auctions. He appeared three times during the second season, five times in the third season and three times in the fourth season, filmed shortly before his death.
Recurring featured buyers
Nabila Haniss (Seasons 2-4): Haniss received attention for purchasing a storage unit that contained items belonging to socialite Paris Hilton.
Jeff Jarred (Season 3): Jarred is the owner of the "It's New To You" antique and thrift store, that he runs with his daughter in Burbank, California. In the past, he has often fought with Dan Dotson, after accusing him of using sneaky tactics at auctions in order to allow regular bidders to win units. However, he and Dotson decided to make peace in the third season. He appeared six times during the third season.[dead link]
Herb Brown and Mike Karlinger (Seasons 3-4): They have appeared three times in the third season, in the episodes "Portrait of the Gambler", "Nobody's Vault but Mine" and "Still Nobody's Vault but Mine", and three times in season four, in the episodes "Old Tricks, New Treats", "Orange You Glad Dan Sold It Again?" and "That's My Jerry!". Brown and Karlinger first pranked Dave Hester as the tank top twins in the episode "Jurassic Bark", their first appearance on the show.
The Harris Brothers (Mark and Matt) (Seasons 3-4): The Harris Brothers, who are identical twins, first appeared in "May the Vaults be with You" as an appraiser for Barry when he found a "Revenge of the Jedi" (sic) jacket in a locker. Since then, they have bid with the rest of the cast. The Harris Brothers first bid with the rest of the cast in the episode "The Kook, The Chief, His Son, and The Brothers". The self-proclaimed "Kings of Swag", the Harris brothers specialize in Hollywood memorabilia. They have a company called WOW! Creations, which specializes in celebrity gift bags. They have appeared one episode in season three, "The Kook, The Chief, His Son, and The Brothers", and five times in season four in the episodes "Oysters on the Half Plate", "The Shrining", "The French Job", "There's No Place Like Homeland", and "Total Wine Domination".
Other cast members
Dan and Laura Dotson (Season 1-present): The husband and wife auctioneer team run American Auctioneers, and administer the storage auctions. Dan has been a professional auctioneer since 1974. He is the primary auctioneer, occasionally giving the reins to Laura. Laura's famous catchphrase is (end of the auction) "...Don't Forget To Pay The Lady!". Dan's grandfather was apprenticed as an auctioneer by Detmen Mitchell in 1945.
Earl and Johan Graham (Season 4): A father-daughter auctioneer team, they appeared in six episodes in season four as fill-in auctioneers: "The Monster Hash", "The Shrining", "Barry's Angels", "That's My Jerry!", "Total Wine Domination" and "Fear and Loathing in Placentia".
Thom Beers: The executive producer and narrator of the show, Beers provides a quick explanation of the show's premise at the beginning, and does a recap of the featured buyers' profits or losses at the end of each episode. He has stated that the series avoids delving into back stories of the lockers' original owners because; "All you see is misery there, and I didn't want to trade on that".
Critical response was mixed, with Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times calling Storage Wars "a strangely uplifting show — hope being one of the many things one can apparently find in an abandoned storage unit," and Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times called the series "an especially entertaining addition to the genre." Brian Lowry of Variety said that "'Wars' should have been left in storage, indefinitely." Writing for Slate, Troy Patterson gave a mixed review, referring to the series as "trash TV" as well as "trivial and magnetic." Ellen Gray of the Philadelphia Daily News suggested "if there's an acquisitive bone in your body, you should probably steer clear".
The first season premiere episode drew 2.1 million viewers and the show was A&E's top-rated non-fiction show for 2010, with an average of 2.4 million viewers. The season two premiere consisted of back-to-back new episodes of the show; the second show drew 5.1 million total viewers and was the highest rating for an episode of a series in A&E history. The combined season premiere outperformed competing original episodes of NBCLove in the Wild and ABC's Primetime Nightline.
Concerns about authenticity
While some have speculated that some of the units have been stocked by producers, an A&E publicist said: "There is no staging involved. The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show". Executive producer Thom Beers has stated that the vast majority of the storage lockers investigated during production contain nothing of interest and therefore do not appear in the final show.
In December 2012, Dave Hester filed a lawsuit against A&E and Original Productions, claiming that the producers staged entire units, planted items in lockers after having them appraised weeks in advance, and funneled cash to weaker teams to buy lockers they could not have otherwise afforded. The suit claims that Hester and other cast members met with network officials to express concerns that those actions were in violation of federal law intended to prevent viewers from being deceived when watching a show involving intellectual skills.
In January 2013, rather than deny the accusations, A&E responded by stating that its composition of the show is covered by the First Amendment, and that Hester's claims do not apply; the network also said the Communications Act of 1934 is inapplicable to cable television, which did not exist in 1934, and that the format of Storage Wars involves no "chance", "intellectual knowledge" or "intellectual skill" and so is not a game show. A&E also stated that there are "notable inconsistencies in [Hester's] exaggerated self-portrait", referring to his claims of value on the items he finds in lockers.
In March 2013, A&E won a partial victory in the suit when a federal judge tossed out Hester's claim of unfair business practices, calling the show "expressive free speech", and stated that his claim of wrongful termination was not specific enough. Hester was ordered to pay the legal fees for A&E.
On September 3, 2013, Hester had one of his claims approved by Los Angeles Superior Court judge Michael Johnson. The court ruled that Hester "can move forward with the wrongful termination portion of his wide-ranging lawsuit against A&E and the producers of Storage Wars."