When people think of fun and excitement, storage lockers probably aren't the first things to come to mind. Most people associate them with mindless chores that they have to do on the weekends when they would rather be doing anything else. A reality show about auctioning off storage lockers probably seemed like a silly idea when Storage Wars premiered in 2010, but nine years and eleven seasons later, who's laughing now? The show's stars and their competitive (and often humorous) personalities have won them fans across the nation and across the globe, and the show's premise proved to be surprisingly appealing.
It combines the sort of pop culture ephemera that fans of Pawn Stars and American Pickers love with one of the oldest and most popular tropes of game shows: the ability to make money fast. Why spend months trying to earn a living through a conventional job or investments when you could make money in a few hours by buying a stack of newspapers about Elvis Presley? While the show feels a touch chaotic at times, there are numerous rules that Dave, Darrell, and company are supposed to follow to keep the show stable. However, it would be false to say that the cast members that we all know and love always do what the show's producers want them to do. After all, what would a successful television show be without some interesting backstage drama for fans to get invested in? With that in mind, we are counting down 15 Rules The Cast Of Storage Wars Have To Follow (And 5 They Love To Break).
20 Follow: Deal With The Producers Playing Favorites
On any show, certain people or characters are inevitably going to connect with audiences more than others. On a sitcom, this might result in writers rethinking how they script the show and trying to give popular characters more prominence. On Storage Wars, the show's producers would play favorites with cast members and would plant valuable items in the lockers bought by people that they liked, namely, everyone on the show except Dave Hester. It's no wonder why Hester left the show for a season and sued its producers.
Through his lawsuit, Hester revealed that the show's producers would play favorites. Since Hester's return to the program, there's been no word as to whether or not its producers still refuse to rig the lockers of people they dislike.
19 Follow: Roll With The Punches
Now, let's take a moment to discuss the side of Dave Hester, that is, dare I say, inspiring. When he was convicted of a minor crime in 2005, Hester had to perform community service at a local Goodwill Store. This experience convinced him that thrift stores could be very lucrative and he then transformed the furniture store that he owned into a thrift shop.
The risk paid off handsomely, and Hester renamed his store Rags to Riches. He now employs over a dozen people and owns the largest company out of all the show's cast members. Through hard work, Hester is now at a point where he sells works of art for over $150,000.
18 Follow: Get Objects Appraised
Before an episode of Storage Wars is filmed, Hester alleges that the people behind the show have to have the items appraised. Obviously, no one would want to watch a show where people constantly buy items that are completely or nearly worthless. On the same token, perhaps the show's producers don't want items that are exceedingly valuable to be auctioned off when they could just sell them themselves!
Darrell's allegation raises an interesting question: are the people who appraise the items shown on Storage Wars aware that these items are going to be on the show? Or do the people behind the series try to maintain their anonymity? Perhaps the appraisers are full-time employees of the show. Regardless, a show documenting the making of Storage Wars would likely be fascinating.
17 Break: Don't Mention Lawsuits On The Show
A man named Hunter Moore once posted what was supposed to be a private video of Storage Wars cast member Brandi Passante on his website. After Passante began receiving messages about the video, which did not depict her, she attempted to sue Moore for $2.5 million, claiming that the release of the clip caused her to experience physical illness and mental distress, and she was particularly worried that members of her family would come across the video on the Internet.
A judge felt that the amount was too high, but decided that Moore should have to pay Passante's legal fees and an additional $750. He also decided that Moore should no longer be allowed to distribute the video due to the harm it was causing Passante.
16 Follow: Don't Discuss Your Past
Dave Hester isn't the only Storage Wars star who has had run-ins with the law in the past. In 1997, Jarrod Schulz was reportedly arrested for “felony possession of a controlled substance.” He also spent 16 months in the state prison for a series of trafficking charges.
This fact has never been mentioned a single time over the course of the show's 264 episodes. Perhaps that's because Schulz doesn't want to be reminded of this period in his life, and in all honesty, who can blame him? Schulz started to better himself after meeting Brandi Passante in 1999, and since then, Schulz has built his net worth to over $1.5 million, showing that anyone can turn their life around.
15 Follow: Don't Get Sentimental
While the show has never focused on this (for good reason), there is a sad underbelly to storage lockers. Every storage locker that gets put up for auction used to belong to someone who is now unable to pay rent for it, meaning that the show wouldn't exist if not for people who are dealing with financial difficulties.
The show's cast members never get sentimental about this, or even bother to mention it, as this would definitely make the show less pleasant to watch. This show's audience returns to the show again and again to help themselves unwind after a long day at work, not to hear sob stories. On top of that, it would be very difficult for entrepreneurs like Schulz and Hester to get ahead if they spent all day thinking about the people whom their business dealings would disadvantage.
14 Follow: Learn To Live With Paycheck Uncertainty
Getting to be on Storage Wars seems like a cool job. You get paid well, get a certain modicum of celebrity, and you get to purchase lots of interesting knickknacks. However, that does not mean that members of the show's cast are untouchable.
In fact, at one point, the A&E network planned to cut Darrell Sheets' pay in half – from approximately $30,000 per episode to $15,000 per episode. Sheets seriously considered leaving the series as he had received offers to be on other television shows. Whether or not Sheets had to take the pay cut has not been revealed to the public, but Sheets has never left the show at any point during its impressive run.
13 Break: Learn To Live With Staging (Unless You're Dave)
Let's face it: numerous reality shows are staged, at least to some degree. While that does call their claim to be representative of reality into question, it doesn't make them any less entertaining. After all, if people really wanted to experience reality, they wouldn't watch TV, which is at least a tiny bit less real than day-to-day life.
Of course, A&E could rid Storage Wars of any staged elements, but that would result in a show where people bought lots of empty or boring lockers. Most of the cast of Storage Wars learned to live with the show's staged elements and chose to keep quiet about it, save for Dave Hester, who was let go from the show before revealing that it was largely staged. Hester returned to the the show's cast in season five, and his statements about Storage Wars were unsuccessful in hindering the show's success.
12 Follow: Don't Tell People You're New
On the show, a fan-favorite buyer named Barry Weiss says that one of the unwritten rules of the auctions is that you should never tell anyone that you're new. Weiss is perhaps the show's most iconic cast member due to his cool-guy, seen-it-all demeanor and good sense of humor.
Numerous fans of the show say he reminds them of the Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson. The issue with this piece of advice is that it would be wise if the show weren't staged. At the end of the day, the outcome of each and every auction on the show is determined by people at the network, not by any buyers' skills.
11 Follow: Don't Infringe On Other People's Catchphrases
Some fans love it, others find it annoying. Either way, Dave Hester's catchphrase, “YUUP!,” has become one of the most well-known TV catchphrases of this decade. The only problem with the catchphrase is that someone else had a claim to it.
Rapper and singer Trey Songz uses a similar catchphrase in his music (though it's pronounced more like “YEEE-UUP!”) and his lawyers sent Hester a cease and desist letter for his supposed appropriation of the word. Hester tried to copyright the word on multiple occasions while Songz had been selling it on t-shirts before the show ever aired. Hester even threatened to sue Songz, but ultimately, the two settled the issue out of court.
10 Follow: Don't Discuss Tragedies
While the show does highlight fascinating women (here's to you, Brandi!), it has a tough guy veneer. Everyone on the show is trying to come across like they're cooler than each other and the opening theme sounds a bit like the music you would hear in a Clint Eastwood Western. As such, personal tragedies don't really gel with the show's brand.
That's why no one on the show ever discussed the fact that one of the show's auctioneers, Dan Dotson, experienced two brain aneurysms in 2014. Nearly miraculously, Dotson managed to survive with the help of his wife Laura, also a series regular. The two never had to leave the show and most Storage Wars fans didn't even know that anything bad had happened to Dan.
9 Break: Look Your Best No Matter What
Here's where Hester's lawsuit gets a little uncomfortable. Hester claimed, in his attempt to show that nothing on Storage Wars is organic, that popular series cast member Brandi Passante was required by A&E to get plastic surgery prior to the show's filming.
Supposedly, the surgery was done to make her more appealing to audiences and was paid for by the network. If this is true, Passante may not have wanted her cosmetic procedures to be public knowledge. More significantly, there's no reason to believe that A&E ever required any of the show's male cast members to undergo similar procedures. Anyway, most fans of the show like Passante because of her fiery personality and repertoire with her husband, not because of her assets.
8 Follow: Keep Pay Settlements Private
Dave Hester's lawsuit against the show's producers could have destroyed Storage Wars because it revealed more about the show than anyone else who worked on it wanted it to be released. However, don't think that Hester is completely opposed to privacy.
When he finally decided to come back to the show following the lawsuit, he kept quiet about how much money the folks at A&E paid him to drop the suit, possibly because A&E didn't want to encourage others to sue them, and possibly because Hester wanted to save face because it was a smaller amount of money than he wanted. Either way, A&E managed to keep the show going and get Hester back on board, which may prove that the show's producers are better at negotiating prices than Hester is.
7 Follow: Don't Discuss Unsavory Family Members
Taking a surprising cue from the CSI franchise, Storage Wars has a spin-off titled Storage Wars: Miami. One of the show's stars, Kevin Pew, held a Storage Wars: Miami viewing party at his home in 2015. According to witnesses, Pew's son, Hashim Saeed, took the life of a friend during the party.
While this incident has all the necessary ingredients for an episode of CSI: Miami or Cold Case, it was never discussed on a single episode of Storage Wars. Pew's motive remains unclear and he was later found incompetent to stand trial by a pair of doctors who were asked to evaluate him. While buyers from the Storage Wars franchise occasionally bring their children on the show, Hashim Saeed Pew will probably not be invited on the show anytime soon.
6 Follow: Avoid Gossip (Unless You're Brandon)
Speaking of the children of Storage Wars stars, Darrell Sheets' son Brandon was a regular on the show for a while. When Brandon was let go from the show's cast due to a budget cut, he didn't remain silent.
On Twitter, he said he had “bigger plans for [himself] than to be degraded by a show and people who simply [did] not care about others and their quality of life.” He later clarified that he was grateful to have been on the show but wishes he “was treated more like a person.” Unlike his father, who had a far more fraught relationship with the show's producers, Brandon Sheets was never invited on the show again, and the rest of the Storage Wars cast has wisely avoided any sort of gossip.
5 Break: Don't Physically Fight
Fighting, whether it's over a storage locker or Jarrod Schulz and Brandi Passante's endless bickering, is part of Storage Wars' DNA, but physical violence is not, even though a brawl once broke out on set.
A particularly heated moment between Dave Hester and Laura Dotson saw Hester get scratched and Dotson ending up on the ground. Dotson screamed profanities and said that Hester shouldn't have gotten into such an altercation with a woman. Hester was reportedly asked to leave the show's set and went to get a tetanus shot due to his injury. The show's producers prudently decided not to air this footage and no similar incidents have been reported since.
4 Follow: Don't Begin On Borrowed Money
In William Shakespeare's timeless classic, Hamlet, Polonius utters the immortal words, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Fan-favorite buyer, Barry Weiss, may have remembered that famous quote from his middle school English class because he says that participants on the show should never begin using borrowed money.
Never use borrowed money unless you absolutely need it is a good tactic for people on the show and just about everyone else. Since A&E has admitted that the show is staged, one wonders how much of his own money Weiss and his fellow cast members actually use to bid on storage lockers. There's a decent chance that they all use borrowed money that they have to return to their producers after each episode.
3 Follow: Learn What's Trash And What's Treasure
As the old saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. In the world of antique dealing and collectibles, however, one shouldn't take that saying too seriously as certain collectibles are simply worth more than others. The people behind the show need to know what items are potentially valuable so that they don't produce a dull show centered on worthless items, but that's somewhat more difficult than it appears.
For example, one positive, well-remembered episode of the show included a locker filled with numerous newspapers announcing the tragic and untimely passing of Elvis Presley. Many people would assume that there's not much money to be made off of forty-year-old newspapers, but the newspapers were ultimately valued at an impressive $90,000.
2 Follow: Don't Anger The Auctioneer
If you are trying to buy something from someone, it's best not to make them angry. Auctions, with the sole exception of silent auctions, are inherently competitive, so one might get tempted to get aggressive with an auctioneer, particularly if a sale isn't going their way.
Seasoned buyer Barry Weiss cautions viewers and his fellow cast members from ever angering an auctioneer. Although it's sound advice, it's unclear if anyone needs to follow it on Storage Wars, where the auctioneers don't have the power that auctioneers usually do since the network decides who gets to buy which item, not anyone in front of the camera. Maybe Weiss just doesn't want to anger auctioneers because he doesn't want to create anymore behind-the-scenes drama. After all, Storage Wars had had more than its fair share of that.
1 1. Break: Don't Reveal Too Much About The Show's Inner Workings
Reality shows became a staple of television in the early 2000's partially because of the massive success of shows like Survivor and American Idol, and that producers realized that such programs didn't require them to hire screenwriters or special effects artists.
The people behind Storage Wars, for whatever reason, didn't get the memo. In his infamous lawsuit against A&E, Dave Hester revealed that not only do its producers plant items in lockers and play favorites with cast members, they also pay people to script every interaction that the show's cast has with the camera. To save face, the television studio said that the show is covered under free speech laws and therefore, does not have to truly depict reality.
What other rules do the cast of Storage Wars break/follow? Let us know in the comments!