What Storage Wars Always Avoids Telling You About Those Lockers

One of the most popular reality based television shows over the last decade was none other than A&E's Storage Wars. Debuting in 2010, the concept for the show was simple enough. Building on the success of previous shows like PBS's Antiques Roadshow, Storage Wars followed a group of professional buyers that would purchase personal lockers from storage facilities that were past due in payment (via IMDb). The formula followed the popularity of the "hidden treasure" genre; the thrill of finding the diamond in the rough, per Looper. And, of course, making a killing on said diamond later on.

What partly drives the show is, of course, the unpaid unit. Typically, most storage facilities have a three-month no pay policy. After the third month of nonpayment from the renter, the storage facility confiscates the unit. The contents inside are then put up for auction, which for Storage Wars is done by the show's long time auctioneers, husband and wife team Dan and Laura Dotson. The participants of the auction, the other part that drives the show, are the charming folks that make up the professional buyers. Each buyer gets a couple of minutes before the auction to inspect the contents of the unit from the doorway. Buyers are not permitted at any time to enter the locker or touch any of the items. Because that's the fun of it, right?

The ugly side of reality (shows)

What the show never focused on, and rightly so, was why the lockers were up for auction in the first place. For every safe found in a forfeited storage containing $7.5 million (via Insider), there's a person who's out $7.5 million. Sure, according to the storage facilities' contract, the renter of the unit forfeited the rights to the contents of the locker after three months of nonpayment. But, questions linger that don't necessarily get answers. Why did the lockers go unpaid for three months? What happened to the renter of the locker? And what of their belongings? This is the point in Storage Wars where things can get a little hairy.

Take for instance the story of Patricia London of Queens, New York. According to The City, London lost access to her storage unit after getting behind on her ballooning payments. After three years of fighting with the storage company, London was only able to retrieve a family heirloom in the form of a bible from 1895. Because of rising rates and past due payments, London lost access to many heirlooms, including "her grandmother's furs and china, an old sewing machine, a record player, [and] the dark wood table her granddaughter pulled at while learning to walk," per The City. The storage facility sold off her things, and to add insult to injury, left her with a $1,000 collection notice.

So, the next time one of these professional storage unit buyers finds a priceless antique in the back of some unknown storage locker, keep in mind someone's family heirloom is about to end up on the auction block, going to the highest bidder.