Want Your Stuff in Self-Storage to Be Safe? Here’s What You Need to Ask

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Category: Self Storage

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Imagine you’re standing outside a self-storage facility. What do you see in front of you? Thick-walled buildings with metal doors bolted and locked up tight? Security cameras? Access code keypads? A tall fence with iron spikes? Heavy front gates and a sign warning would-be burglars about the 24-hour surveillance system?

All self-storage facilities have … some of this stuff. Some places have all of it and even more, providing maybe some peace of mind to anyone storing there.

That’s the idea anyway. But that’s not how it always works.

Colorado’s KDVR News tells us that a certain Denver-area self-storage facility has been burglarized at least fifteen times since January of 2017. That’s right, fifteen! (Which is exactly how many games the Cleveland Browns have won since January of 2013.) From the report,

“In many of the cases, the locks had been cut off and people renting the units weren’t aware their things had been stolen until Public Storage alerted them.

One renter told us he lost everything from leather chairs to sports equipment in February while another renter even lost her deceased parents ashes.

Another man lost $8,000 in items.”

The facility in question? They have iron gates that will not open without the required code. They have surveillance cameras in place. Some of the units are located along the interior corridors of the restricted-access building, providing an even extra layer of security.

So how does even one theft occur, let alone fifteen thefts?

For starters, in at least one instance the facility’s security cameras were, according to the police reports, “not plugged in.” In many instances, the locks on the doors to the burglarized units had been cut, which requires nothing more sophisticated than a stout pair of bolt cutters.

But come on … fifteen times?

We see two possible explanations. Someone who is renting a unit, and therefore has the necessary codes to get into the place, is going in at night (or maybe even the middle of the day) and popping other people’s locks. Assuming the facility’s management is interested in putting a stop to things, they would have checked their security footage and shared what they saw with the authorities.

In terms of that place in Denver, according to KDVR’s report, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Which leads us to our second possibility: the series of thefts could just be an inside job by anyone from a low paid employee to a corrupt head of the company.

No, we don’t have proof of either of these happening at the facility in question, and we aren’t making any direct accusations here. Maybe there are a couple of guys out there who are really good at hopping fences and slipping into locked buildings – and then slipping back out and hopping back over the fence carrying their loot which, in one of those cases, included leather chairs. I’m just saying.

So how can we protect our stored belongings when we don’t even know who we’re protecting it from?

The simple answer to how to best protect yourself is to eliminate as many potential culprits as humanly possible. Look for these things in mass in a self-storage facility:

  • Serious exterior security
  • High fences with iron spikes
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Code-controlled gates and doorways

But even these offer varying degrees of security. Questions to consider include: Do the cameras record grainy still-shots of moving objects or HD video resolution? Is the footage monitored in real time by a human being (who is not sleeping) or does it just get stored somewhere until a theft has already occurred? Are the codes for the gates and doorways changed regularly? Is each customer assigned a unique code to detail who has come and gone when?

You should even ask if a facility records the license plates of vehicles entering and exiting the premises, or whether they check photo IDs of people on their way in. Also, is there is a backup power supply for all those codes and cameras in case of an outage? Don’t be shy about asking such questions. These are things you are paying money for and need to know.

What else should I know?

Other important variables (which you don’t even have to ask about) include

  • If the facility is well-lit at night
  • If the facility is located in a higher-crime area
  • What the surrounding environment consists of, such as, does it stand in developed suburbia or out in a landscape of abandoned lots and industrial parks?

There are also things you can do yourself to decrease your chances of being victimized. Using a lock the facility provides may be convenient, but your better bet is to get your own lock. Law enforcement types and criminals alike will tell you that a padlock is no match for the well-equipped thief. A disc lock or a cylinder lock (if the facility can accommodate one) is much more difficult to cut.

While we don’t recommend it, if you must put certain valuable or irreplaceable items into storage, put them in the rear of your unit to make them less visible and thus less vulnerable. And for the protection of everything you are storing, be aware that while a self-storage provider may offer some kind of coverage against fire, flood or catastrophe, they are under no legal obligation to do so. What’s more, they will, by and large, refuse to be held accountable for any loss due to theft. Most facilities will require renters to have their own insurance policy for their belongings, but your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, even if it covers stored items, may not allow for reimbursement for items damaged by mold, mildew or infestation, regardless of who may be at fault.

And finally, do a little searching at home.

A quick Internet query may turn up some bad news about the self-storage facility that looked so good in person. Now, whether one incident at this or that place may not be grounds for outright rejection in your book. That’s your call. But fifteen thefts in ten months?

You might want to keep on searching.

Questions About Portable Self-Storage (That Customers Don’t Know to Ask)

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Category: Customer Service, Moving Containers

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It’s no secret that the portable self-storage business is booming. What might not be so well-known is how differently the many players out there operate.

Some (if not many) of your container-renting customers will already have their container, their box or their cube already lined up when they call you for help loading it up. If not, they may need some help choosing the right company for their situation. In this spirit, we offer some answers to the questions they may or may not know to ask.

If a meteor pulverizes a PODS container, who is liable for the damage? Will the customer be reimbursed?

It depends. Regardless whether it was a meteor or something less drastic, if you didn’t purchase coverage (sometimes incorrectly called “insurance”), you may not be covered for anything – and that includes the container. You might think that a meteor qualifies as an Act of God and is one of those things you’ll be covered for no matter what. But tell that to the couple from Houston who found out a little too late that the portable storage company they used didn’t offer flood insurance.

It is critical that your customer ask their portable storage provider about coverage against loss and damage. They may have to purchase coverage for both their stuff and for the container itself if they don’t want things left to the whim of floods. Or meteors.

Can the customer arrange to keep their storage container on their property until they are able to load it up?

PODS, like many companies, will tell you that you can keep it there on the driveway as long as the customer wants, as long as they pay. The municipal authorities, however, might not be so accommodating. So make sure they double-check. 

Are portable storage containers weatherproof?

PODS containers aren’t, though they will say their containers are weather-resistant. Barring a Harvey-sized flood, however, they might hold up. On the other hand, Packrat and ABF (with their ReloCube) claim their containers are weatherproof. (Anyone who has owned both water-resistant and waterproof boots will understand that the distinction is important to make.)

Whether containers are fireproof or fire-resistant is another point the customer should ask about. Especially if they live in fire country. Many containers are made of galvanized steel, though some can be aluminum or even plastic. As for SmartBox, they incorporate wood into the interior.

Can a portable storage container be locked?

Of course. It sounds like a silly question – BUT – the customer may have to provide their own padlock. So checking beforehand is anything but silly.

Are portable storage container facilities climate controlled?

It depends. PODS says “many” of their storage facilities are climate controlled. U-Haul says climate-controlled storage is available. Some companies may store their containers outdoors, so tell them to call and make sure! American Portable Mini Storage is one company that offers climate-controlled portable storage containers as a mainstay feature.

Can the customer access their container while it is in storage?

Once again, it depends. PODS says yes, but an appointment is necessary. U-Haul offers 24-hour access to their storage facilities.

Finally, there are a few solid bets a customer will likely know to inquire about before deciding on a portable storage company: size of their containers, delivery window, and price are the most obvious. But our customers aren’t usually moving experts. Mention the above points and you’ll be helping your customer out with more than just the heavy lifting.

Changing Your Locks Is Way Easier Than You Think

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Category: Home Improvement

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It’s true, changing your own locks is far easier than you may think! So many of us are quick to call the locksmith right when we move into a new place, but we are here to tell you that this is a job that you can definitely do yourself.

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Piecing Together Your Alarm System Is Cheaper (and Better) Than Buying a Security System

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Installing high-quality home security is an important part of being a responsible and safe homeowner. If you’ve done any research in this area, you may have realized that most pre-made security bundles are expensive and clunky—and when you unpack them, confusing.

That latter reason is the most significant reason to just avoid these systems altogether.

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Burglaries Inside Storage Units Are Becoming Common, but Can Be Avoided

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Category: Operations

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[Synopsis: In developing business relationships, quality is just as important as quantity.]

In our very first HireAHelper newsletter (Anyone out there remember?) we raised the idea of making friends with the folks at your local self-storage facility to develop a mutually beneficial business relationship. At any time of the year (and particularly during the busy season when so many people are coming and going) having a solid working situation with your industry colleagues can pay huge dividends.

But it also pays to know who you are shaking hands with. In any industry and profession, you are going to run across some bad eggs. The moving industry is certainly no exception. And neither is the self-storage sector.

Recent events in Independence, MO and Santa Cruz, CA remind us of this.

There in Independence, multiple break-ins of storage units left several customers feeling shaken and unsure of the industry.

“I always thought that if you put your things in something like that you are trusting those people to have security and watch over your stuff,” Hall said. “They just don’t.”

The situation repeated itself in Santa Cruz, CA. Dozens of customers had their valuables rummaged through and stolen, and multiple people were found living inside the storage units. That storage unit was eventually inspected by the city Planning Department and declared a public nuisance, but not before plenty of people got burned.

disclockTips such as not storing more than $5,000 in goods, purchasing insurance and using disc locks are offered when people get victimized. But the onus should ultimately fall on us within the industry for referring quality and safe services, as opposed to consistently pushing for maximum quantity. The latter is how we destroy our brand as an industry.

Business is all about relationships. And success in business is all about successful relationships. Successful relationships, in turn, require integrity and clarity from both sides of that handshake. If you hear there have been issues with a storage area, if you are dubious of your local storage units after seeing them, or if you are simply cramming as many customers into one place of business as possible, consider finding more alternatives.

As we continue down the roads of our own success, picking up people along the way, it’s important to remember to choose our friends – and our allies and business associates – wisely.

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